"Right now mainstream America is starting to think about these issues that I was writing about 10 years ago. There are a lot more people today who will be interested," she says. The release of both the first edition and the second edition have been perfectly timed, according to Susanka, coinciding with periods when the American public has been focused on the home and on issues that affect the home.
Timing has played an important role in the success of her books and the swelling interest in Not So Big. Several of her peers remember the period around the release of her first edition as one of growing dissatisfaction with the cavernous, generic McMansions that had become prevalent. "I think it was the right message at the right time," says Eric Odor, AIA, a principal at SALA Architects, Minneapolis, a firm Susanka helped to found. "I think that housing was beginning to get more expensive, and also that we were at the apex of builders building huge houses with no detail at all."
The Not So Big House offered attractive and engaging alternatives to the prevailing idea of the house as a commodity, according to Ross Chapin, AIA, of Ross Chapin Architects, Langley, Wash. "She's not saying 'No, you can't have this,'" he says. "She's saying 'Small is beautiful, small is alive.' She draws rather than guilts them in."
The release of the second edition of The Not So Big House comes at a time when most Americans are focused on finding ways to reduce spending on energy and when green home building is poised for a major move into the mainstream. Not So Big dovetails nicely with the values of the green home building movement.
"One of the core messages in The Not So Big House, woven into the story, is that sustainability and energy efficiency need to be integral to a well-designed house," Susanka explains. "Over the course of the past 10 years, sustainability has become more understood; today people totally grasp that's what they want their house to be."
Susanka's books build on many of the principles of Christopher Alexander's A Pattern Language: Towns, Buildings, Construction (Oxford University Press, 1977), as well as on the ideas explored by other architect writers who preceded her. The difference is that she didn't write a book for her peers; she wrote in an accessible language the average person could easily grasp and picked concrete examples of good design that fostered a deeper understanding of residential architecture.