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Sarah Susanka books?

Posted by mrsfireman (My Page) on
Thu, May 9, 13 at 17:44

Has anyone read any of her books? If so, did you find them to be valuable when designing your home? She seems to have great reviews, thought id check here before buying though.

Thank you for any input.


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RE: Sarah Susanka books?

Only you can decide if they work for you. While she embraces the classic rules of good architectural design (light, approach, siting, etc), she also has some unique views on how to live in a small house. For me personally, they didn't work on many levels. Good reading for broadening my bases, and for gaining a few pointers, but overall, I'm not a fan. Although many many other people are. To each his own.

My suggestion would be to find a copy at your local library or through the interlibrary loan, and spend some time reading and browsing before you buy. That said, I own quite a few of her books. They do come in handy sometimes, but I am not using them to primarily design our house. YMMV.


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RE: Sarah Susanka books?

We read and loved all her books. We made use of a lot of the design principles she discussed. Her style was too spare for me (I need fabric and window treatments) but we found her books to be most valuable. The other book we enjoyed a lot was "What Not to Build" as it gave us a lot of understanding of exterior design, massing and balance.

I agree though that the library is a good place to start if you're not sure you want to buy.


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RE: Sarah Susanka books?

I like her books, and her philosophy, but they aren't the books I'd recommend first for a couple reasons. First, she is primarily trying to convince people who would otherwise build a large fairly high end home to build a smaller more detailed home. If you are like me and cutting the size of the house you intend to build by 20% isn't practical, much of her advice is hard to apply. Second, she has a very specific style, and while most of her advice could be applied to any style of home, she doesn't explain how to do that.

Her basic advice about making a smaller floor plan work :
1) Instead of having a formal and informal eating area and a formal and informal gathering space (eg living room and family room), have one of each that can be dressed up for formal occasions.

2) Along with a fairly open plan, include an "away space" that can be acoustically isolated from the open part of the house.

3) Make the family entrance to the house nice. Don't have a fancy foyer for guests and a messy utility space for you. Perhaps have a single foyer for both the family and guests.

3) Think about sight lines (this is part of house design 101, actually). What will you see as you walk in the front door? What will you see when you're preparing dinner? What will you see when you're sitting at the table?

4) Keep the scale of the house comfortable-- no two story great rooms or foyers, especially if the dimensions of the rooms don't support a very high ceiling. Prioritize making the house comfortable for you over making something impressive for guests.

5) Look for ways to add functions you only need occasionally to rooms you'll use regularly. Design your "away room" so it can be a guest room, etc...

(I'm hoping I haven't misrepresented her in any major way, if I have, please correct me, GardenWeb!)

If that advice sounds like it's in line with your style, it might be worth getting her books from the library to see what you think. The book I would recommend first is "Designing your perfect house" by William J Hirsch.

Also I'd recommend thinking about rooms that you've loved and what qualities those rooms share.


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RE: Sarah Susanka books?

We appreciated Susanka's books and found them a but repetitive, but helpful. The base book for us was "A Pattern Language". While it's a bit of a wade, the house section helped us name the "why" behind why we like certain things in certain homes. That freed us to think how to apply those principles to our site, rather than simply copying house parts.


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RE: Sarah Susanka books?

Zone4newby covered Susanka's books well. Ironically, the houses she designed, either in her books or online, are not small--around 3,000 and up, if I recall correctly.

A Pattern Language seemed to me, an amateur, to not be terribly useful. A couple of interesting ideas, but some--like that houses should have very thick walls for aesthetic purposes--seemed like they came from someone who spent a lot of time thinking about houses but knew nothing about how they were actually built. Maybe I completely missed the point.

This post was edited by CamG on Fri, May 10, 13 at 22:46


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