WoodCentral's Book Reviews
Inside The Not So Big House

Inside The Not So Big House
by Sarah Susanka & Marc Vassallo

Taunton Press: 2005
Hardcover, 210 pp., $34.95
ISBN 1-56158-681-1

     Ms. Susanka turns her attention from architectural design to interior details in this lavishly photographed chronicle of home interiors. She is not discussing accessories or interior decorating, but the permanent interior features of a house that give it a unique character. "If you were to turn your house upside down and shake it," Susanka says, "these inside details are the ones that wouldn't come off."
     The author shows how the repetition of paint colors can unite several rooms, and how the low ceiling in a hallway will seem to open up space leading to a higher ceiling in a master bedroom. A large picture window can be more impressive when set in contrast to a smaller window alongside it, allowing only a teasing glimpse of the view. Room dividers with open spaces can allow long views and cross ventilation. A combination of low half-walls and alcoves can define distinct areas for eating, sitting and desk work, avoiding the cavernous feel of a great room all in one.
     Ms. Susanka uses examples in many styles, from Craftsman to Tuscan to Cottages. She shows how surfaces can be a stage for light, with plaster or stone walls in contrast to glossy wood floors. She shows the effect of using artificial lighting to subtly mark out distinct areas within a room.
     There are ideas here for roof overhangs that extend an interior space and connect inside to outside. Ceiling-hung kitchen cabinets serve as a room divider, with glass doors on both sides allowing window light off a far wall to penetrate deep into the house, visually enlarging a small floor plan.
     Many of Susanka's ideas and discussions are about illusion and how to lead the viewer's eye through designed spaces by the use of finely crafted detail. The rooms she shows are inviting and pleasant. After that first impression, it is fascinating to read how the planned details have led to stunning visual effects in unique, individualized living spaces.

. . . Barb Siddiqui