If you recognize the phrase “not so big,” you already know about Sarah Susanka. If not, you’re bound to run into her name again on your way to a log home. She’s the architect whose 1998 book The Not So Big House: A Blueprint for the Way We Live inspired followers with its make-more-of-less take on home design. Eight books later, Not-So-Big has risen to a cottage faith. Susanka spreads the word through not just books, but also DVDs, a website and motivational talks.
Susanka points out right off the bat that not-so-big doesn’t mean small. Or cheap. “It’s fitting houses to the way people live,” she says. The way most people live, however, squanders space. Susanka suggests lopping 30 percent off any house plan you come up with. You won’t miss it, she bets, and you can use the money that 30 percent would’ve cost you instead to improve the remaining 70 percent.
For a planned 4,000-square-foot log home, that might mean swapping 1,200 feet of floor space for reclaimed antique flooring, a long-lasting metal roof, real-wood windows, maybe some dressy, even classy touches. Or solar panels. Making your living room cozier than cavernous (or eliminating it altogether) could fund more or bigger decks and porches to let you enjoy the outdoors.
Even better, if you can’t afford logs and have resigned yourself to settling for a 4,000-square-foot ordinary house, jettisoning 1,200 square feet of lumber and drywall could save you enough money to let you step up to logs.
Susanka also favors open layouts that let rooms do double duty and share light and views. Once you start thinking not-so-big, you start seeing ingenious space solutions everywhere. Just don’t get carried away, she cautions: “Design your home to live the way you do.”
Be realistic. If you prefer spending evenings watching videos and TV in your pajamas, question a home plan that devotes space to entertaining fancy-pants crowds nonstop. Lives rarely veer so abruptly, even when you move into a log home, so the space you're setting aside for soirees might wind up wasted.
Despite Susanka’s sensible space solutions, some showoffs still hog more than their fair share. That doesn’t mean you have to. “If enough isn’t enough,” teacher Ram Dass observes, “then more won’t be better.” A less pretentious but more treasured log abode offers worthy comfort, be it a cabin or something bigger — or rather something not-so-smaller.
Plan from both a personal and a planetary standpoint. Because you’re building from scratch, you have every opportunity to design a log home that expresses the best of enough. Do so, and you’ll be delighted to find that your not-so-big home can make your whole life feel ever-so-bigger.
Susanka’s The Not So Big House Expanded Edition includes a new introduction and an added chapter featuring homeowners whose ideas were inspired by the original book. The 219-page paperback is available from the Log & Timber Home Bookstore for $5 off the cover price. Order A0520.