Friday, September 18, 2009

not so big remodeling

Many years ago, my good friend Sarah introduced me to the book the not so big house: a blueprint for the way we really live by Sarah Susanka. Since then, I've occasionally perused the various books by Susanka. The pictures are beautiful, and it gave me ideas of what to look for in a house.

I found her newest book on the shelf in the library last week, and I cannot tell you how excited I was to check it out! not so big remodeling: Tailoring Your Home for the Way You Really Live is a gem. This one I read, cover to cover. The pictures are beautiful, and Susanka does a great job of teaching basic composition and architectural principles to those of us who lack a good 'eye.'

One thing I love about not so big remodeling is that Susanka assumes that all her readers will be operating on a budget, and some a very small one. She starts the book by describing her own remodeling project in her own house - separating remodeling projects into different categories: immediate changes to make the house more livable, improvements to the character of the house, house changes made because of life changes and what would be nice someday, but may not ever get done.

I enjoyed seeing the before and after pictures of Susanka's own house. The rest of the book is full of wonderful pictures - including before and after pictures and floor plans - of other remodels. Susanka deals with different parts of our house - the exterior, kitchens, bathrooms, bedrooms, offices, etc. She ends with whole house transformations - which she acknowledges is out of the question for most of us, but is necessary for some poorly planned homes.

It inspired me to pull out the tape measure and measure out our kitchen and dining/family room. It's layout is not working for our family, so I drew it to scale on graph paper, made copies, and tried out some ideas. I'm not a detail person, so I'm not sure I got the measurements exactly right, nor am I sure I know the clearance needed for pulling out chairs, etc. To do it right, I'd need to enlist the help of an expert. But it was fun to dream.

After dreaming for a little, I pulled out the Sunday paper to read it. On the front of the Homes section, was a huge article about a $6.5 million mansion in northwest Illinois for sale - over 18,000 (yes, that's thousand) square feet. The couple decided they wanted to sell after their son moved out. I gawked at the pictures of the entry way, the living room, the indoor pool, and saw the contrast between a showpiece and a not so big house advocated by Sarah Susanka.

Even if I had the money, hands down I'd prefer a not so big house.

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