Here are my ten tips for designing a “Not So Big” home.
- “Not So Big” doesn’t have to be small
There is no one correct size or budget for a Not So Big house. A Not So Big house focuses on the qualities of the space, rather than sheer quantity of square footage, to meet the dreams and aspirations of the homeowners. Susanka provides a rule of thumb – “It’s about one third smaller than you thought you needed, with dollars reappointed from square footage to characteristics that turn house into home.”
- Make it personal
A Not So Big house appeals first and foremost to its homeowners. It is like a custom shirt, tailored to fIt the homeowners and to provide them with a sense of livability and comfort they never before thought possible.
- Design for sustainable living
A Not So Big house is more than the sum of its parts. It is designed and built to last for generations and made in an energy efficient and sustainable way. But most important of all, it is beautiful to look at and to live in, one of the frequently overlooked characteristics of a truly sustainable structure; we take care of those items we fInd beautiful. A Not So Big house is a reflection of its homeowners, allowing more time and energy to be focused on those things that give their lives meaning, rather than impressing others.
- A good neighbor
A Not So Big house fIts into its setting by respecting the views from the adjacent homes and fitting into the existing streetscape in scale and character.
- A better floor plan for today
In a Not So Big house, all the space is used every day. Many of the rooms do double duty and are used for several of different activities over the course of the day. Spaces that are rarely used are eliminated. With a more open floor plan, adjacent spaces benefIt from the presence of each other to give the house greater flexibility and spaciousness without the appearance of excess square footage.
- Interior views
A Not So Big house features long, diagonal views through adjacent spaces to extend the perceived scale of the house. A strategically placed window or lighted focal point at the end of a view furough the house draws the eye towards the farthest point and accentuates the sense of spaciousness.
- Varying ceiling heights
We typically think in terms of a floor plan, which shows imgth and width only, but the third dimension of height is an equally useful tool. It shapes our experience of a space and can help to make less feel like more. Lower ceiling heights over smaller, less dominant activity areas contrast with the heights of the now taller, more important spaces, creating a hierarchy of places, from sheltered and intimate to open and expansive.
- Sense of shelter
A Not So Big house uses a variety of visual cues to provide a degree of separation between open spaces without resorting to a solid wall to accomplish the task. Sheltering devices, such as a raised counter, rug, floating ceiling section or beam indicate where one space stops and the next begins, to provide a sense of shelter around the activity taking place.
- Pleasingly proportioned
A Not So Big house features rooms of appropriate proportioning for our human scale that are designed to feel both spacious and intimate. Variations in ceiling height and other architectural elements create rooms that are suitable for groups of people, while still being comfortable for just one or two.
- Attention to detail
No matter where you look in a house, everything should be thought through and designed to perfectly support the needs of the homeowners who live there. Comfort and functionality are qualities designed into a Not So Big house to make it both inspiring to live in and a perfectly crafted container for everyday living.
Learn more about Sarah Susanka’s work on her website,
Not So Big House