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Sarah Susanka

Sarah Susanka

“I was inspired to write the series because I knew that people wanted something different. I always loved writing, and I started to put that message down in printed form.”

Talking with Sarah Susanka

Architect Sarah Susanka began the Not So Big House series nine years ago when she introduced her revolutionary book, THE NOT SO BIG HOUSE. Building on the concept that bigger is not necessarily better, Susanka embraced the idea of customizing personal space without getting caught up in building to impress others. At the time she began writing this series, Susanka had been a residential architect for about 20 years. “I was inspired to write the series because I knew that people wanted something different. I always loved writing, and I started to put that message down in printed form.”

Now Susanka has expanded the philosophy found in the Not So Big House series into her newest book, THE NOT SO BIG LIFE. “The core point of THE NOT SO BIG LIFE is starting to live your full potential.” She has certainly followed her own advice—this successful architect and author can also add narrator to her resume as she provided the narration for the audio release. “My biggest concern in narrating the book was how we were going to cut almost 50,000 words.” She seems pleased with her venture into the world of audio recording. “It turned out to be just wonderful. It is a different animal, yet it has this wonderful succinctness and clarity to it.”

While THE NOT SO BIG LIFE is different from Susanka’s earlier series, it is also a companion to her previous books. “It’s two-fold. I never would have written the Not So Big House series if I hadn’t been living the ‘not so big life.’ Both are about living more fully. One is about built form; the other is about the live form.”

Though many people aspire to build large elaborate homes, Susanka’s philosophy advocates that people simplify their lives by more wisely using their space and enjoying every aspect of their lives more fully. “When you love something, you’re completely engaged in it. That’s the most important thing of all.” Sustainability is an important issue in all of Susanka’s books, especially her latest release. “We’re living at a pretty unsustainable pace. This book brings that back into balance. The things that you’re passionate about are actually the most sustainable things you can do.”

Susanka also believes that THE NOT SO BIG LIFE will make a big impact on the lives of those who read it. “When people think about what they’d like to be doing with their lives—this book brings it right into today. The amazing part is that you don’t actually have to change your routine. You just have to learn how to do it differently.”

Having found quality in her own life, Susanka hopes that her books will impact the future of home design and life changes. “This is about livability. It’s about how you inhabit your world. How you inhabit your house and your life are the same thing. These books are about how to find greater quality of life.”

When queried, as an architect, what she would do if a client came to her and asked her to build a “McMansion,” Susanka chuckles. “I’d say I’m the wrong person.”—Sheri Melnick

© AudioFile 2007, Portland, Maine

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Photo by Taylor Johnson

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