Sarah Susanka is one of those people whose ideas are so huge and powerful that they transform entire industries. She championed the idea of designing homes that focused on quality over size, and published the seminal book The Not So Big House in 1998.

We often turn to Sarah’s work to help ground our home layouts in good design principles, so we thought we’d share three nuggets of wisdom that we’ve learned from her.

“Instead of thinking about the quality of the spaces we live in, we tend to focus on quantity.”

Kitchens are a Gathering Place

One key insight from Sarah’s work is the central role of the kitchen in our lives. “Today we love to be in the kitchen,” she points out, “and no matter how tiny the space, this is where friends and family congregate.

Every Living Zenith home is designed to accommodate how human beings naturally tend to live, so the kitchen is always a key part of the home. By embracing this truth, we design kitchens in the heart of the home’s flow, that incorporate the views to outside spaces, that can be seen and accessed easily.

People are going to gather in the kitchen no matter what, so we make it a space where gathering is easy and organic. This means bringing in the sunlight, connecting it with a great room, and creating built-ins like a window-seat, banquette, cubbies, bar or island.

Public vs. Private Space

Spaces within your home are either public or private. In thinking about these two types of spaces, it helps to consider how big and how visible a space is. Susan gives this advice on the topic:

“How public or private a space is depends on both its scale and its visibility. If a place is to be used, people need to be able to see it. A space that’s visible from as many places as possible automatically becomes a public area. If a space is to be private, remove it from sight and locate it away from the main traffic areas–or put a door at its entrance.”

Double-Duty Dining

If you are like me, you grew up in a home with a formal dining room, and you only used it once or twice a year.

Susan’s research has found that most people who have a formal dining room (or formal living room) rarely use that space. So she encourages people to think about how to make one dining space work for both formal and informal occasions.

In one example from her book, Sarah points out how one home design uses sliding doors/panels to separate the dining area when it needs to have a more formal atmosphere.
Note: These three insights only scratch the surface of Sarah’s insights. For a deep-dive into her philosophies and teachings about home design you can check out her book, The Not So Big House.

Remodeling Considerations

If you’re planning on renovating your home, you may want to include some of Sarah’s design principles. If you want some in-depth guidance, then we offer renovation consulting through Redfish Builders.

Redfish can help you with any step of the process from planning to building, and we incorporate Sarah’s design principles into our work. You can reach Redfish Builders at or by calling 385.404.1293.