33_Sarah Susanka

Take a Not-So-Big Step

“The Not-So-Big House is not just a house–it’s a way of living. People can reject the showy, materialistic displays of status of ‘trophy homes’ in favor of personalized, sustainable homes with the charm of a previous era, designed for today’s lifestyles.”


Sarah Susanka
Architect, Susanka Studios
Raleigh, North Carolina


What is the big idea?
Susanka is leading a revolutionary movement that bucks the trend of urban sprawl and the visionless building of “McMansions,” by favoring quality over quantity of space. In 1998, she wrote her first bestselling book, The Not So Big House (Taunton Press), which launched her into the national dialogue on house size. Her Not So Big movement presents an alternative vision of what home can be–about a third smaller than you thought you needed, but better designed and tailored to the way you really live, rather than based on a floor plan better suited to 100 years ago.

What was your creative spark?
Susanka’s English upbringing influenced her dramatically. She grew up in a small village, in a not very big house. Her family moved to Los Angeles. This culture shock provided a pivotal comparison of how American families live in homes. Her family ate all meals at the dining room table while her friends lived less formally, rarely using the formal rooms. Later, as a young architect, she worked with hundreds of clients who were dissatisfied with the standard housing options. She realized people were hungry for substance and beauty in their homes, but didn’t know how to achieve these qualities.

Why is the idea so compelling?
Not So Big is not just about houses–it’s a way of living. Susanka has struck a significant chord with a group of people (50 million strong) dubbed Cultural Creatives by a researcher examining changing American values. The majority of Cultural Creatives have removed themselves from the new home market. They reject the materialistic, showy displays of status in “trophy homes”–common in new construction. Instead, they seek personalized, sustainable homes built with the charm and craftsmanship of a previous era, and designed for today’s lifestyles. They’ve found a voice in the resounding principles of Not So Big.

How or why did the idea spread?
Susanka’s first book sold over 300,000 copies. Her second, Creating the Not Sot Big House, hit the New York Times bestseller list one month after publication. The books provide the seed of the Not So Big idea. provides the trunk and branches–the infrastructure to expand and manifest the idea. Her Web community offers links for people seeking information on all aspects of building Not So Big, from the practical to the spiritual. Over 1000 architects and builders have joined this movement via her Web site, enabling thousands to find the professionals to realize their Not So Big dreams.