Goldilocks Houses: Not Too Big, Not Too Small

By Jennifer Karmon

Not So Big Principle: Double-Duty the everyday dining area in a spot you'll love to sit in. Make it comfortable for everyday purposes, but use a table suitable for entertaining also...

Her book changed my life.

I'll bet Sarah Susanka hears that all the time. She's the architect who wrote "The Not So Big House," which inadvertently helped make the small-house movement possible -- even though her philosophy of "right-sizing" doesn't advocate tiny or even particularly small houses. But her rebellion against McMansions ("so big with so little soul") resonated with a lot of people as the 1990s gave way to the new millennium. The editor in chief of, Dan Gregory, calls her “the J. K. Rowling of home design: She brings a brand of practical magic to the way she designs and talks about homes, inspiring us all to think about the elements that really matter."

Her ideas aren't radical. Boiled down to their essence, they're simply this: Quality over quantity. But that seems to be a tough concept when we're talking about living space. Bigger has to be better, doesn't it? Not necessarily, she argues. Maybe more space is the right solution, but maybe you'd benefit more from carving out an alcove -- or just moving furniture -- to create an intimate escape within an existing space.

Though her designs tend to be 2,000 square feet or more, her book's principles gave me the courage to believe that our family of four could live happily and well in a 600-square-foot, one-bedroom, one-bathroom house on less than 4,000 square feet of land. It also gave me the foundation to convince my husband and our twin sons, now almost 10, that we could do it. We've been there for a year now, and we love it. It cost less than half what our previous house did, which gave us the financial and emotional freedom to make this house perfect. Perfect for us. We're splurging in some places -- landscaping, Murphy beds -- and economizing in others. (I'll be writing more about our little house on Yahoo Homes in the coming months, so watch stay tuned, and feel free to ask questions in the comments or by email at

In the meantime, I'm thrilled to say that Sarah has agreed to write a couple of pieces for Yahoo Homes, talking about how her Not So Big approach can maximize the space in any home, including yours. Sarah Susanka's book changed my life. And my husband's. And our sons'. I think she'll speak to you, too.

Click here to go to a slideshow of her secrets. 

Click here to see all of Sarah's signature designs at

Also on Yahoo Homes:• Sarah Susanka's new Not So Big Bungalow
• Gallery: Sarah Susanka's new Not So Big Bungalow

Originally Published in Yahoo Homes

Thu Feb 13 00:00:00 PST 2014