Life architect comes to CSU

Feb 102010
Authors: K.C. Fleming

For Sarah Susanka, the perfect life is not unlike the perfect house: unique, personalized.

The architect and bestselling author shared her unique blend of design and life advice with more than 250 students and Fort Collins residents in the Lory Student Center Theater Wednesday as the keynote speaker of the university’s Connect Mind, Body, Spirit fair.

“I was always interested in simplicity and elegance, in anything, whether it’s in design, whether it’s in my life, whether it’s the kind of music I listen to,” Susanka said.

“There’s a flavor to things I am interested in, so as I began to notice how my life was out of balance, it was an automatic reflex to take the same notions that I brought to house design and translate it into life design,” she said.

As an architect, Susanka railed against the “McMansions” of American suburbia, feeling that the mind was uncomfortable with the “empty space” and “clutter” of the oversized homes.

“In house deign, build about a third smaller than you thought you needed but at the same price … so you take the money out of volume and reapportioning that into quality and character,” she said.

In the same vein, Susanka advised her audience to focus on those elements of their lives they deemed most important.
“Pay attention to what makes you tick, what brings you alive,” she said.

Susanka conceded that her message was directed at the older members of her audience. College students, she said, are more honed on their passions and goals than their elders –– she cautioned that this focus dims over time.

“I think a lot of people have a kind of clarity coming out of college,” she said. “The problem is, when you get into the work world, it kind of beats that out of you.”

Susanka’s audience was in keeping with her message. At one point during her speech, she asked those students in the crowd to raise their hands. Only about a third of the hands went up.

After the speech, Susanka signed copies of her book, “The Not-So-Big Life: Making Room For What Really Matters,” which the CSU bookstore sold at the event for $15.

Susanka’s unique approach to mental and spiritual health made her an excellent choice for the keynote speaker of the fair, said Tamar Stoh, organizer and Fitness Assistant Director of Campus Recreation.

“We felt that she was a great speaker because she is coming yet from another realm,” Stoh said. “… We know her most of all as an architect, but she is perceiving the whole person and how the whole person fits into architecture or whatever other subject.”

Susanka is the author of eight books including: “The Not So Big House,” “Home By Design,” “The Not So Big Life: Making Room for What Really Matters” and last year she published “Not So Big Remodeling.”

She has been recognized across the country by numerous organizations including Newsweek, which selected her as a “top newsmaker” in 2000. And she has appeared on the “Oprah Winfrey Show.”

Staff reporter K.C. Fleming can be reached at

Meet Ssarah Susanka

Experience: World-renowned author, architect and motivational figure

Ideas: Treat life like a design: focus on the most important elements and prize quality over quantity.

Accomplishments: Newsweek “top newsmaker” selection in 2000 Guest on the “Oprah Winfrey Show”

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