How Not So Big Got So Big
That same year, Susanka divorced and relocated to Raleigh, where she eventually remarried and continued her career as a writer and a lecturer. Though her schedule leaves little time to design houses for clients, Susanka continues to develop prototypical dwellings that reflect her Not-So-Big philosophy. The latest model home, unveiled in January at the International Builders Show in Las Vegas, was built in the parking lot of the Stardust Hotel.
These days, Susanka is starting a new venture with a timber-frame company in Boone, N.C., to produce house plans and kits of parts to build them.
"I want to find a solution that's between hiring an architect and just buying a plan," she said.
Meanwhile, her books continue to attract believers, such as environmental policy analyst Tracy Stanton, 42, and her husband, Carlos Cuevas, 57, an economist, who decided to scale back the renovation of their three-bedroom Bethesda rambler after reading "The Not So Big House."
"We could have put on a whole second story," says Stanton, "but we knew we didn't need that much square footage."
Instead, she handed Susanka's book to architect Tom Flanagan "with a lot of stickies on the pictures we liked." Flanagan responded by expanding the kitchen, adding a study on the second floor and boosting curb appeal with an Arts-and-Crafts-style exterior.
True to the Not-So-Big spirit, the main room of house functions as a family-living-dining area: "We do not have a formal dining room," says Stanton. "We achieved flowing space and a lot of openness, and the book focuses on that."
Other Susanka advice, however, was not so great for the pocketbook. "A lot of things that she suggests are really expensive," said Stanton. "Like using the space underneath the stairway for storage with pull-out drawers. So we didn't do that."
Alexandria architect Charles Moore, who specializes in residential design, says about a third of his clientele suggests ideas from the Not So Big series.
"The reality is that most people can only afford to build a house that's 3,000 square feet or smaller, which is pretty modest compared to the monster houses in our area."
Susanka intends to keep appealing to those homeowners by making her message ever so much bigger. Scheduled for publication in 2005 is "Inside the Not So Big House," which will show architectural details such as moldings and trim. That will be followed in the spring of 2006 with "Outside the Not So Big House," co-written with Boston landscape designer Julie Moir Messervy.
"I have a healthy disdain for too many books," said Susanka. "But on the other hand, there's definitely a need for helping people understand what architecture is all about."
When asked about a final book in the series, she laughed. "It's 'Chicken Soup for the Not So Big House.' "
© 2004 The Washington Post Company