What is McMansion
"A modern house built on a large and imposing scale, but regarded as ostentatious and lacking architectural integrity" - Oxford English Dictionary
"McMansion is a pejorative term for a particular style of housing of that, as its name suggests, is both large like a mansion and relatively cheap and ubiquitous like McDonald's fast food restaurants. McMansion is used as a pejorative term because they are seen to be characterized by traditional features without an understanding of those styles' underlying logic and purpose..." - Wikipedia
What we now call
McMansion came about in the 90’s when builders struck on a winning
formula – give the buyer at an affordable price, the biggest possible house reminiscent of old-world mansion archetypes (English manor, French
Italian villa). Essentially bringing elitism to the
The formula has been a
big hit ever since. Practically every new suburb is a
McPlantation. More Americans than ever get to feel they’re
upper-class. And why not, happy home owners make for better communities.
This type of house,
however, is problematic when built in a neighborhood of smaller older
where the levels of customization and craft (which used to be less expensive) are higher than today's builders can economically match.
What's economical today is building larger since building materials are less expensive thanks to mass production/global trade, and to use mostly ready-made products with little if any custom fabrication (that's why custom homes these days often look mass produced and their architectural components don't go exactly well together).
So instead of being grand and inspiring like the true blue mansions of old, the mansion-sized yet poorly detailed new McMansions seem grandiose on the cheap among older homes, like a grand declaration of status that went awry.
Instead of adding to the
collective charm and character of the older houses, McMansions
detract from them. No wonder communities are upset (Google 'McMansion'
But to be fair, not every big new house built in an older neighborhood is a dreaded McMansion. A well-designed and well-built big house can just as well be a welcomed addition. Nothing wrong with bigness when it's done right.
If you have the budget, go for it, buy a big lot, hire really good architects and craftsmen to build you a bona fide mansion, something you and the neighborhood can be proud of.
If you don’t, instead of trying to impress, try to delight. Forgo the mansion-ish grand house styles that require more land and money to do correctly. Build a welcoming, friendly house restrained in size. Choose understated elegance over grandiosity to add to the streetscape instead of overtaking it in a bad way.
Building with restraint and modesty was easier in the old days when conspicuous consumption was frowned upon. It takes will power to do it today when bling is in. But we should do it still to save the character of the older neighborhoods; and more importantly, not having to wonder down the line "is my house too fat?" :-).
McMansion proofing University Park.
If you plan to build in
my neck of the woods, University Park, here are some suggestions to
avoid building yet another UP McMansion: