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The Log Cabin, Boxcar Dream

That’s a line from an old poem of mine.  It’s about the desire—begun in childhood and still going strong—for a hide-out, den, fort, or tree house: some small, cozy, rustic space in nature that facilitates dreams.

(A lot like what the Indianapolis Island residents are going to experience in the IMA’s 100 Acres: Virginia B. Fairbanks Art & Nature Park).

There’s an architect who’s long advocated for the domestic pleasures and greater sustainability possible with smaller, well-crafted homes: Sarah Susanka, author of the Not So Big House series of books.  She speaks at The Toby this Thursday, May 20 at 7 pm, as part of the IMA’s Planet Indy speaker series.

In advance of her Indy visit, I asked Sarah a few questions about her ideas:

What is the relationship between good design and sustainability?

In my books, they go hand in hand.  I believe that anything that is well-designed will stand the test of time and will sustain the inhabitant.  The wise use of both energy and monetary resources is a core element of good design.

How do you create desire for small instead of big?

I talk to people and work with people at all ends of the spectrum–people who want 600 sq. ft. homes and those who want 6,000 sq ft.  I’ve tried to offer the tools they really need to evaluate their decision.  When people are focused on high square footages, there is usually some “keeping up with the Joneses” going on.  I tell these clients: “How about having the coolest house, not the biggest?”  I help people “right-size” their homes.

What about modular homes?

The pre-fab industry is learning how to make better a house than the typical modular home currently on the market.  But a small house doesn’t have to be a cheap house.  You don’t buy a Porsche because it’s big – the point is that it’s beautifully made.  I believe that if we could look into the future we would find that many houses are going to be made through a manufacturing process.  The art of the home will be greatly enhanced and tailored onsite, but basic form will be delivered.

Manufactured Housing

What projects are you working on now?  What trends do you see?

My latest book [published March 2010] is More Not So Big Solutions For Your Home, about doing more with less space.  And we’re developing a line of houses for the builder market, for the people who build suburbia.  Some of them are gung-ho about building smaller houses, but you can’t just shrink a big one and make it livable.  We need to take their simple-to-build houses and make them a whole lot more interesting to live in.

A longer version of this interview will appear in the June-July issue of Indiana Living Green magazine.

Filed under: Current Events, Education, Local, Public Programs, The Toby

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