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Susanka Showhouse Featured Home Plan

Natural Home Magazine
November / December Issue, 2004

"Natural Home" is collaborating with Architectural House Plans (formerly Healthy Home Designs) to offer home plans that enable readers to build a healthy, environmentally responsible home from the ground up. Architectural House Plans has been providing detailed construction drawings for healthy and green homes since 1994. In each issue we’ll feature a different plan, created by an award-winning architect, available for purchase at


Sarah Susanka's Showhouse

Designed by architect Sarah Susanka, a cultural visionary and best-selling author of The Not So Big House (Taunton Press, 1998), this contemporary Prairie-style home was designed for a Minnesota couple returning to their Vermont childhood roots. Thirty years ago they purchased a turn-of-the-century masterpiece designed by George Elmslie, one of the most notable architects of his day. When it came time to move, they wanted a home just as wonderful as the one they were leaving…and that’s exactly what they got! This exceptional home incorporates the design principles Susanka sees as the keys to making a house a true home.

“Good design is every bit as important as good nutrition,” writes Susanka in her latest book, Home By Design (Taunton Press, 2004), which describes the essential vitamins for design that nourish both physical and spiritual well-being. Her design principles, organized around the themes of space, light, and order, make comfort, beauty, quality, and livability easily available to homeowners and designers.

These principles are vividly reflected in the floor plan of this showcase home. For example, every space is in use every day – there’s no formal dining room. Creative architectural details include the roofline’s playful eyebrow curve and continuation of the blue slate flooring from interior to exterior, which blurs the seam between inner and outer realms. Prairie Style “headbands” – small bands of wood trim near the ceiling – visually separate the ceiling and wall and provide continuity throughout the home, while well-placed windows draw the eye toward light.

At 3,200 square feet, the house is not small, but the experience of being in it feels quite intimate. There’s extraordinary focus on detail and quality craftsmanship throughout, creating an incomparable home of both remarkable comfort and timeless character.

What Makes This Home Healthy?

In addition to beautiful architecture and well-planned spaces that nurture the spirit, this home also attends to its residents’ physical health. Below are a few healthy design elements and nontoxic finishes that encourage safe, clean indoor air.


Meet the Architect
Sarah Susanka, AIA
Susanka Studios
Raliegh, North Carolina

Sarah Susanka has emerged as the leader of a movement that’s redefining the American home. Author of the best-selling Not So Big House book series and, recently Home By Design, her approach to residential architecture has been enthusiastically embraced by homeowners, architects, and builders across the country. She has shared her insights with The Oprah Winfrey Show, USA Today, Boston Globe Magazine, and National Public Radio.

What as unique about this home design project?
My clients had collected extraordinary sacred objects from around the world over the course of their life together, including oriental rugs, statues, and other treasured objects, and they wanted to integrate them into their home design. The home unfolded as a place for these to be exhibited and enjoyed every day. In the process, the home also became a place to nurture and celebrate the lives of the couple it now sheltered.

What are your favorite features?

I particularly enjoy the serenity that you feel when you walk into the home- it unfolds around you as you move through it. Another wonderful aspect is that you can always see where you’re going throughout the home, so you always have your bearings. The views engage you –you feel very received and comfortable. This is a home that is truly calming.