Book Review
Title: "More Not So Big Solutions for Your Home"
Author: Sarah Susanka
Publisher: The Taunton Press, 2010; 160 pages; $22.95

Bigness, that staple of American values and culture, is, in the words of Heidi Klum, "Out." (Note the capital "O.") Mega, ultra, super, jumbo stuff has generally declined in popularity over this recent recession, first motivated by cost-cutting and, later, by the realization that life smells just as sweet (or even sweeter) without all the "extra" our bodies and budgets are perfectly capable of doing without.

In early 2009, the story broke that American homes were trending down in size for the first year in many. Authorities from the National Association of Home Builders, the American Institute of Architects and even groups of real estate professionals started noticing homeowners at all income levels beginning to express a preference for smaller, better built homes — some even before the recession. And they project that the trend will continue when the recession is just a memory.

Enter Sarah Susanka, an architect and advocate of homes that are smaller, practically and efficiently designed, yet still beautiful and comfortable. With her first book a decade back, "The Not So Big House," Susanka likely felt like the lone voice of reason crying out against excessively large homes in the wilderness of rapidly multiplying McMansions that was the American new-home market at the time.

With the release of her latest title, "More Not So Big Solutions for Your Home," Susanka’s masterful authority on efficient, smaller home design is in laser-beam precise alignment with the wants and needs of today’s homebuyers and builders.

My keyword for "More Not So Big Solutions for Your Home" is "solutions." The challenges of creating a space for everything in close quarters, organizing a family’s belongings and activities in a comfortable, space-efficient way, and still maximizing aesthetic appeal are many, and this book provides solution after solution for resolving them.

While Susanka repeatedly refers to her approach as "commonsense," I strongly disagree — many of her strategies and ideas are quite creative and reflect a uniquely uncommon skill for manipulating spaces to suit the lives of the people who live in them. In fact, the common approach was to just supersize the space!

Susanka’s practicality is evident in the widely varying knowledge sources she draws on throughout "More Not So Big Solutions for Your Home" in formulating and supporting her cases for various design elements. …CONTINUED

In Chapter 1, "By Design," she looks specifically at the physiological dimensions of the human form to generate recommendations for lowering windowsill heights and making other design decisions to suit "our human scale," and discusses open plans, lighting and garage placement.

The next chapter, "Room by Room," covers the kitchen as this generation’s center of the home, and proposes a number of "rethinks," including rethinking eating, dining and living areas, before moving on to solutions for designing a retreat or guest room.

In Chapter 3, "Attention to Detail," Susanka turns her efficient eye to the finishing touches that don’t even occur to the average homebuyer but make a huge difference in the experience of a home, including column proportion, trims, ceiling heights, and finding unobtrusive locations for smoke detectors and security sensors.

The last half of the book tackles the topics of Making It Personal, using porches, nooks and colors; Practical Matters, including creative space and design solutions for TVs, kitchen islands, bath and laundry; and Living in the Real World, which touches on real-life dilemmas faced by homebuyers and homeowners, like privacy and accommodating extended family members.

Whether you’ve got an old home you’d like to redesign for your current lifestyle, newer construction you’d like to "de-McMansion-ize," or are having plans drawn for a custom build, "More Not So Big Solutions for Your Home" is truly a must-read resource.

Even if you are not intentionally approaching your build or remodel project as one of downscaling or downsizing, in this book you will find a ton of tricks for smartly and attractively ensuring that "no spaces are sitting idle too much of the time or are decorated in a way that makes them unworkable for the functions they’re intended for."

If you like the idea of having a place for everything and everything in its place, grab a copy of "More Not So Big Solutions for Your Home" — you’ll get a potent little toolkit for creating a home where you can live the way you want to live in every square inch.

Tara-Nicholle Nelson is author of "The Savvy Woman’s Homebuying Handbook" and "Trillion Dollar Women: Use Your Power to Make Buying and Remodeling Decisions." Ask her a real estate question online or visit her Web site,


What’s your opinion? Leave your comments below or send a letter to the editor. To contact the writer, click the byline at the top of the story.

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