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Architect Sarah Susanka's tips for building a "Not So Big House"


Architect Sarah Susanka has made a name for herself with her popular “Not So Big House” series of books, which emphasize designing, building and arranging homes to use space more effectively — not simply for more space. Recently, EcoHome magazine carried a piece that shares some of Susanka’s tips for designing homes that feels spacious but don’t waste space.

Those tips include:

Make it feel spacious. Walls make homes feel smaller but removing them  is not the only answer for creating a spacious feel. To avoid a large, amorphous area, differentiate ceiling and floor levels, and add a column, a beam, or an arch.

Ceilings are like commas in a sentence, she said. “The commas break up the phrases into segments so you can understand the meaning; a lot of times architects will use ceiling height in the same way.”

A lower ceiling over a bed adds charm and character and a heightened one in the center of a living room makes the space feel larger.  But don’t make it too high: “A 40-foot-high ceiling is wonderful for a state capital but it’s not exactly what you want in the evenings in which to watch television,” she notes.

Remodel it small. Instead of adding a standard 20-foot-by-30-foot addition out back, “you may well be able to solve the problems of your existing house by staying within the footprint,” says Susanka. Look for places to redistribute space, remove a wall, or alter traffic flow.

If eliminating obstacles in the original design does not solve the problem, build a small bump-out to accommodate a necessary space, such as a shelf for shoes instead of entire mud room. And if there’s no way around it, build the smallest addition possible and make every square foot count.

Read the full story at EcoHome for more tips from Susanka. You can follow Susanka on Twitter or check out her website for more information.