Sarah Susanka Sets A New Standard For Housing With The Opening Of The Not So Big Showhouse On Nov. 19

Share Article

The Not So Big Showhouse redefines the single family home with smart, energy efficient design that lives large in less space, allows homeowners to age in place and connects to the community.

The Not So Big Showhouse at SchoolStreet is architect Sarah Susanka’s three-dimensional thesis on what homebuyers are looking for in the new market reality.

In today’s market, the Not So Big principles offer a new vision for the home of the future – not too big and not too small, but just right for this more budget-conscious era,” said Sarah Susanka, architect and author of "The Not So Big House" series.

The wait is finally over! On Saturday, Nov. 19, Sarah Susanka, acclaimed architect and author of the best-selling "Not So Big House" series, along with SchoolStreet Homes will host the public grand opening of her Not So Big Showhouse at 138 School Street in Libertyville, Ill. The Not So Big Showhouse at SchoolStreet is Susanka’s three-dimensional thesis on what homebuyers are looking for in the new market reality.

The Showhouse and SchoolStreet Homes development are solitary bright spots in the nation’s dismal housing industry. With this Showhouse, Susanka raises the bar for the future of residential design. The space is perfectly tailored to human scale and features all the elements today’s home buyers desire: smart design that lives large in less space without sacrificing beauty or comfort; a wide range of energy efficient features; multiple rooms and spaces that do double duty; and, a modifiable floor plan that lets homeowners age in place.

“In today’s market, the Not So Big principles offer a new vision for the home of the future – not too big and not too small, but just right for this more budget-conscious era,” said Susanka. “This Showhouse brings to life all the elements presented in my books like never before. By pairing my ‘build better, not bigger’ approach with SchoolStreet’s innovative urban infill model and the vibrant Libertyville community, we’re creating a lifestyle experience that is far greater than the sum of its parts.”

Not So Big Design for Today and the Future
The opening of Susanka’s Showhouse comes at a critical moment for housing. For the second straight year, the average size of a single family home has decreased – from 2,438 square feet in 2009 to 2,392 square feet in 2010 (1). Yet smaller houses alone do not meet homebuyer’s demands – Americans are seeking houses specifically designed for their more informal lifestyles, filled with detail, character and energy efficient features.

“The struggles in today’s market demand a new approach and Sarah has really knocked it out of the park with this Showhouse design. She is a true visionary when it comes to understanding what home buyers are looking for,” stated John McLinden, developer, SchoolStreet Homes. “We’re already receiving an incredible response – and the Showhouse isn’t even open for tours yet. We can’t wait for the public to experience this amazing home.”

Living Spaces Designed for Today’s Lifestyles
The Showhouse epitomizes the Not So Big hallmarks of quality and character, comfort and beauty, energy efficiency and sustainability. Visitors will discover how unused formal rooms can be replaced by spaces that do double duty to create a home that feels spacious in less square footage.

  • Smart Design: In this home’s innovative layout, the kitchen is located at the front of the house, connected to the front porch. In most houses, this is where the formal living room is placed. Since most formal living rooms are rarely – if ever – used, this keeps the porch out of sight and so also out of mind. According to Susanka, “Most people spend the majority of their time at home in the kitchen and informal eating area. Connecting these key spaces to the front porch encourages the homeowners to use the porch more often, which in turn helps create the sense of community that is so desirable in a Front Porch Revival community like SchoolStreet.”
  • Spaces That Do Double Duty: There are three areas in the Showhouse that illustrate how spaces can do double duty: the library alcove, the ‘away’ room and the upstairs laundry room.
  • Library alcove converts to formal dining area. On the few occasions where a formal dining space is needed, the library alcove transforms simply by relocating the table from the informal eating area to this room. If necessary, the table can also extend into the living room to accommodate larger gatherings.
  • ‘Away room’ accommodates four functions in one compact space. The ‘away’ room is primarily designed as an in-home office and kids’ gaming room, but also converts easily into a guest bedroom. It features a wall unit that shifts from sofa to queen-sized bed in one smooth move, offering the unique ability to make room for guests without the need for stashing excess furniture. The room can also become a full-time main level bedroom should it be necessary for the homeowners to live on one level as they age.
  • Laundry room triples as hobby room and additional in-home office. Susanka conveniently located the laundry room upstairs to make it easily accessible from the upstairs bedrooms. The space offers ample counter and storage space for desk work, hobbies and crafts, creating a place where parents can work while kids play. It’s designed to be an all-purpose space where it’s okay to make a mess.
  • Aging in Place: One of the primary objectives of the Showhouse is to allow homeowners to stay in the home even as their needs change. Its floor plan has been designed to adapt easily should mobility become an issue. If one-level living becomes a necessity, the ‘away room’ offers the option to double as a main level bedroom. The mud room, which is located across the hall from the ‘away room’, features a full bath and can be modified to create additional closet space for more main level clothing storage. The house is also designed to accommodate a ramp from the alley to the back door that can be added if necessary. The relatively flat terrain of SchoolStreet, combined with its proximity to Libertyville’s main street makes it an ideal location for homeowners to stay put as they age.
  • Energy Efficiency: The Showhouse has been designed and certified to meet the more stringent standards of Energy Star 3.0, which the EPA has scheduled to go into effect by the middle of next year. To meet these advanced standards and provide lasting comfort and durability, the home employs a number of efficiency features rarely found in homes today. It is fully insulated with a spray foam air barrier system that not only seals walls, floors and ceiling cavities, but also the spaces around electrical outlets and light fixtures. The home has also undergone a state-of-the-art air duct sealing process which guarantees even air distribution throughout the entire home to attain maximum comfort and superior indoor air quality. It features a heat recovery ventilation system, as well as furnace and air conditioning units that exceed current efficiency standards, and is pre-wired for the addition of photovoltaic solar panels and other renewable energy generation.
  • Thoughtful Design Touches: Visitors will marvel at the simple, yet thoughtful elements present throughout the Showhouse that profoundly improve the home’s comfort and character. In the bathroom, a cleverly concealed drawer provides access to extra toilet paper within reach of the toilet. Windows positioned at the top of the central stairwell let natural light pool down from above, creating a bright and airy feeling in the main living space. The windows can also be opened to provide a natural passive cooling system, drawing hot air out of the house like a chimney. Susanka also added small, glass block windows in the corners of the away room and upstairs laundry room, to provide the homeowners with a clear view of the front and rear of the house.

Visit the Showhouse on Nov. 19
The Showhouse Grand Opening event with tours and the opportunity to meet Susanka will be held at the Showhouse on Nov. 19 from 9 a.m. until 4 p.m. Following the grand opening, the Showhouse will be open for public tours on weekends for six months.

“I’ve spent the past twelve years writing about Not So Big House design. Now it’s time for the live demo. For years, I’ve wanted to give my fans the opportunity to experience all these design principles first hand,” continued Susanka. “By keeping the Showhouse open to the public for six months, people will be able to ‘kick the tires’ for themselves, and feel first hand what’s so big about ‘Not So Big’.”

The Not So Big Showhouse is approximately 2,450 square feet in size. It will be released for sale in early 2012. In addition, three other versions of Susanka’s design for SchoolStreet are available to interested buyers, each featuring a unique exterior street elevation. Floor plans and perspective drawings are available at

About SchoolStreet Homes
With their American Craftsman and Bungalow design character, SchoolStreet’s Front Porch Revival homes blend seamlessly with the historic turn-of-the-century homes in the neighborhood. A key factor in “cracking the code for housing success” is SchoolStreet’s process for customizing each of the homes through an architect-guided design process while keeping in strict adherence to its cost-control model. With a team of leading service and product suppliers providing a wide range of selections for the purchaser, SchoolStreet features 26 homes along with a historic school that will be transformed into 15 urban lofts. The development is located one block from Libertyville’s vibrant downtown, blocks from a commuter rail train station and approximately 30 miles from downtown Chicago. Homes start at $525,000 and lofts start at $175,000.

About Sarah Susanka, FAIA,
Susanka is the best-selling author of nine books that collectively weave together home and lifestyle, revealing that a Not So Big attitude serves not only architectural aims, but life goals as well. Her books have sold well over 1.2 million copies and have established Susanka as a sought-after resource for her insights into how we inhabit our homes, our planet and even our day-to-day lives. Susanka is a member of the College of Fellows of the American Institute of Architects and a Senior Fellow of the Design Futures Council. "Builder Magazine" recognizes Susanka as one of the 30 most notable innovators in the housing industry over the past 30 years. Susanka was presented the 2007 Anne Morrow Lindbergh Award by the Lindbergh Foundation for outstanding individual achievement in making positive contributions to our world. She was born in Kent, England, and lives in North Carolina.

EDITOR’S NOTE: For downloadable images, visit For interviews, contact Suzanne Fedoruk Herrick at 612-861-7807 or

(1) U.S. Census Bureau. (June 11, 2011). Characteristics of New Housing for 2010. U.S. Census Bureau.


Share article on social media or email:

View article via:

Pdf Print

Contact Author

Suzanne Fedoruk Herrick
Fedoruk & Associates, Inc.
(612) 861-7807
Email >
Visit website