Newest trend: smaller, more efficient homes
Big homes are nice, but Not So Big homes can be even better. Just ask John McLinden and Sarah Susanka.
McLinden created the new School Street development in downtown Libertyville, where smaller, cleverly designed, energy-efficient homes offer an alternative to larger, more traditional suburban homes.
The project has been remarkably successful in a recessionary market, as the 26-home first phase of the development has nearly sold out in but nine months.
The 1,800- to 3,200-square-foot, semi-custom homes range from the $500,000s to $700,000s, with diverse, bungalow-inspired styles offered. A condo loft component begins soon, with fifteen 750-3,000-square-foot, one-to-three bedroom units being created inside the historic red-brick school building which inspired the street development's name. Prices there range from $175,000-$900,000.
It's equally remarkable that visionary American architect Sarah Susanka endorsed the project with her participation. Renowned for her best-selling book, The Not So Big House, and other titles, Susanka will create her first-ever public showhouse at School Street. That house, already sold, begins construction soon and opens for public tours this fall.
Susanka, who lives in North Carolina, said McLinden brought his development to her attention last summer, as she was researching national locations for her showhouse.
"John was so clear-headed in his approach, and had such a good understanding of what I see as a new and better home product," Susanka said. "When I came to Libertyville, studied his plans and saw this new neighborhood emerging just steps from downtown, I felt it was ideal."
Two weeks ago, Susanka and McLinden spoke to more than 300 people from throughout Chicagoland -- the crowd convening in Libertyville with a week's public notice. They came to learn about School Street and Not So Big-styled homes throughout the country. McLinden plans more in the Chicago area.
Susanka sees similarly intense public interest wherever she goes now.
"It's amazing to see how many people today are aspiring to have houses like these. It spans across generations and many different segments. It's a change in culture and attitudes."
She continued, "Now home's not a place you buy to sell. Now it's a place to stay and live. There's a shift toward character and quality over size."
In her own work, Susanka says clients often start out thinking they need a third more house than they do. When they detail how they really live, she typically finds 1,800 to 3,000 square feet of smartly designed space works just right.
Using similar principles, McLinden's design experts -- primary interior architect David MacKenzie of Chicago and Lake Forest architect Tim Archibald -- meet with buyers to design lifestyle-specific space and floor plans. Clients include families with one to four children, to empty-nesters.
McLinden concluded, "What makes people feel good about their homes is not square footage, but a kind of soulfulness that results when owners work together with experts to create authentic personalized spaces."
For details, visit www.schoolstreetlibertyville.com and notsobighouse.com.
Julie Morse is a licensed Realtor.
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