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August 12, 2016 3:03 PM   Subscribe

Worst of the McMansions If you love to hate the ugly houses that became ubiquitous before the bubble burst (1980s-2009) you've come to the right place. Highlights include: McMansions 101: What Makes a McMansion Bad?, and this brief opinionated history of the garage.
posted by dis_integration (176 comments total) 114 users marked this as a favorite
 
According to a roofer friend of mine, McMansions are crazy expensive to re-roof, owing to the multitudes of odd angles and valleys. A McMansion can often be roughly double the cost to re-roof compared to a more standard home of the same sq. footage or footprint.
posted by Thorzdad at 3:11 PM on August 12, 2016 [7 favorites]


Huh, this is deeper than I was expecting. Pleasantly so. As a side note, I like some of the horror that's been cropping up over the past few years that's set in McMansions and their accompanying sub-divisions: namely the Adult Swim infomercials of Unedited Footage of a Bear and This House Has People in It, as well as their accompanying ARGs. McMansion Gothic? Anyway, this is a great link that I'm looking forward to reading through.
posted by codacorolla at 3:14 PM on August 12, 2016 [5 favorites]


McMansions are crazy expensive to re-roof

What is it with the multiple roofline fetish on these houses? It makes them look messy and excessively mechanically complex, plus it seems like a waste of construction materials and money.
posted by GuyZero at 3:20 PM on August 12, 2016 [12 favorites]


Curse this Tumblr for making me see that which cannot be unseen!
posted by blue_beetle at 3:22 PM on August 12, 2016 [4 favorites]


Explains nicely why McMansions are so fuckin' ugly. Also, most of them (in my community, anyway) have this obnoxious, jutting maw in the front that overwhelms the house itself – you know, the temple where the car goes. It's easily 1/3rd the size of the living space.
posted by Klaxon Aoooogah at 3:26 PM on August 12, 2016 [19 favorites]


I lost it at the $2.25M house where the real estate photographer couldn't be bothered to move the plug-in space heater out of the frame when shooting the bedroom.
posted by zachlipton at 3:27 PM on August 12, 2016 [8 favorites]


OMG I think I've found my soul mate.
posted by Eyebrows McGee at 3:29 PM on August 12, 2016 [7 favorites]


It is nearly impossible to make a very large house look pretty. Edith Wharton, designing her own home, to be found in the Berkshires, somehow manages to do it.
Garages: sad to say but for young folks looking to locate in condos or apts in cities, you will be paying a fairly hefty fee just to park a car, more for two, and a fee just to park in an open lot abutting the place.A three door garage is a sign of affluence. It is also nice if you have three cars.
posted by Postroad at 3:30 PM on August 12, 2016 [1 favorite]


This post speaks to my soul. When we were house shopping 10 years ago I told our realtor we were not interested in a "garage with house".

We ended up with a house that is two story with a drive under garage on the basement level, due to sloping terrain. It has its issues but at least our house isn't defined by a huge garage door as its primary architectural feature.
posted by Fleebnork at 3:37 PM on August 12, 2016 [15 favorites]


My wife and I call (probably after Kunstler) the McMansions where the giant jutting garage obscures the actual people entrance "snout houses." it's just so satisfyingly pithy. And dead accurate for these horrible shitboxes.
posted by Emperor SnooKloze at 3:37 PM on August 12, 2016 [10 favorites]


I found this article about a "Dutch mansion" funny as it's 2,700 square feet which barely registers as a big house in the US, much less a mansion.
posted by GuyZero at 3:38 PM on August 12, 2016 [4 favorites]


My favorite thing with McMansions is the back wall that you can't see from the curb but can see from other streets. It is entirely siding, interrupted in irregular, asymmetric, and ugly ways by a handful of mismatched, seemingly randomly-placed windows.
posted by Pope Guilty at 3:39 PM on August 12, 2016 [74 favorites]


Ooh, I love educated snark about a topic with which I'm unfamiliar. I can learn something and feel superior at the same time!
(Note: This is not sarcasm; I now love this blog and I enjoy feeling superior)
posted by ejs at 3:39 PM on August 12, 2016 [52 favorites]


Gables! Cathedral ceilings! huge Palladian Windows! You'll never have to heat or cool the house right?
posted by The Whelk at 3:42 PM on August 12, 2016 [19 favorites]


We ended up with a house that is two story with a drive under garage on the basement level, due to sloping terrain.

My house is built into a hill, so the garage is on top of the hill in the back of the house. People freak out when they come in the front door, walk up the stairs, and go out the back door into the garage on the second floor.

Ok, freak out is not accurate, but it's fun to see the puzzled looks.
posted by Huck500 at 3:44 PM on August 12, 2016 [4 favorites]


My personal bugaboo: the Victorian-style leaded glass oval window front door without regard to the style [sic] of the rest of the house.
posted by TWinbrook8 at 3:47 PM on August 12, 2016 [10 favorites]


One of my friends in NJ lived in one those monstrosities. Thing was built like an enormous cardboard box with crap insulation.

Huge open areas that were hell to heat, you could hear noises from the second floor in the basement and everything was flimsy.

I feel badly for people who are in those as they start to fall apart from trash construction.
posted by Ferreous at 3:49 PM on August 12, 2016 [8 favorites]


God the shitty, shitty construction. Yes you have a formal dining room you never use but all the shitty brass plated door handles come off in your hand when you turn them
posted by The Whelk at 3:52 PM on August 12, 2016 [23 favorites]


Every single door was hollow core trash. The whole schtick of these thing, especially in NJ was like a veneer of "class" over what was essentially framework that would be embarrassing on a treefort.

Also I don't know if this is universal, but in NJ there was a 90% chance that if you went into a mcmansion, the owners would have one of those italian butler statues, and those nasty bottles of olive oil with spices in them that were never ever consumed in them.
posted by Ferreous at 3:57 PM on August 12, 2016 [42 favorites]


The writing style of this Tumblr strongly reminds me of dontdrinkbeer.
posted by stannate at 4:02 PM on August 12, 2016 [1 favorite]


Do they have space for entertaining? That's paramount.
posted by davebush at 4:07 PM on August 12, 2016 [5 favorites]


It's like the PT Cruiser post below, these aren't houses, they are cartoons, a simplified abstract symbol of the actual thing. They're so flimsy they can't really be said to exist at all except in the fantasies of the buyers.
posted by The Whelk at 4:12 PM on August 12, 2016 [11 favorites]


Wow those are some ugly ass houses.

It is nearly impossible to make a very large house look pretty.

I've been playing the Sims lately (and its attendant minigame, cheat-to-get-a-million-dollars-and-go-wild-with-the-build-tools; never been one much for build-a-pool-and-take-away-the-ladder, myself) and this is surprisingly true even there.

Ugly ass-houses
posted by quaking fajita at 4:14 PM on August 12, 2016 [6 favorites]


Quite different to Australian McMansions, which tend to be boxier and more modernist.

Here's a writeup from Things Bogans Like.
posted by UbuRoivas at 4:14 PM on August 12, 2016 [8 favorites]


secret postmodernism boner

User name! Get your architecturally-dubious user name!
posted by GenjiandProust at 4:16 PM on August 12, 2016 [22 favorites]


Finally, if rants about architecture personally offend you, may I remind you that you are not a building.

Words to live by, my friends
posted by GenjiandProust at 4:30 PM on August 12, 2016 [36 favorites]


Every time I see an article like this I'm like "oh interesting, I will understand something about who some people really hate these houses" but nope, once again, I don't quite get it. There's a rule? About primary and secondary masses? That they break? But I still don't get any feeling for why I should care about this rule any more than I should care about a rectangle obeying the golden ratio or an infinitive not being split.

On the other hand, I can sort of relate in a meta-way: the way I feel when reading this article is the way people who don't care about whether books are well-written presumably feel when I hate on a book for not being well-written. They are like, "I liked it, it had a good story, you are complaining that the sentences are ugly but who cares? Not me and not the millions of people who were into this novel."

And I definitely think of myself as being right about novels, so I guess this person is probably right about houses.
posted by escabeche at 4:31 PM on August 12, 2016 [33 favorites]


Anyway, everyone I met in NJ who had one of thesehouses made most of their money from exploiting or deceiving people. That they'd buy a complete con job of a house feels like cosmic justice.
posted by The Whelk at 4:31 PM on August 12, 2016 [36 favorites]


The village I live in makes a point of preserving its nineteenth- and early-twentieth-century homes (there are several antebellum houses, even), so it's mostly free of architecture that looks like this. There are a few McMansions in my 1950s/60s-era tract, but nowhere near as many as where my parents are living in Southern CA: people buy these WWII era houses (two bedroom boxes with tiny porches), knock 'em down, and then build...these things...which will presumably topple over the next time there's a major earthquake. I'm glad that my own mid-century house, which is a center-split, meets the blogger's criteria for balanced garage--the garage is on one side, the identically-sized living room on the other--even though the stairs have driven contractors to barely- or not-at-all-concealed frustration.

The blogger's exasperation with misused space was great. My almost-sole criterion for a house is "can I get my books in here," and even though many of those houses looked like they had 3000+ sq ft worth of space, the answer to that question for most of them is nope: too many oddly-angled walls, too many knee walls, too many mouldings in annoying positions, too many windows (who the ?#(@! is going to clean all those windows?), too many niches, etc.

Victorians are awesome, as long as somebody else has done all the modernization. And as long as you don't want to replace interior doors, vent grilles, or windows.
posted by thomas j wise at 4:32 PM on August 12, 2016 [6 favorites]


Are these basically tear-downs in a couple more decades? Is it possible to structurally renovate/update this type of construction with all the tricky rooflines?

Also, it's sad to see all those granite countertops. When that trend finally withers away (years overdue now) all those counters are going to be ripped out and thrown in a dumpster. But you know, they're not making any new granite. We're depleting the earth's granite supply, for what?
posted by TWinbrook8 at 4:34 PM on August 12, 2016 [10 favorites]


Here in Southern California, many newly-built larger houses in far-flung suburbs are inhabited by multi-generational families, very often from places other than the US, and who are quite proud of their homes.
posted by Ideefixe at 4:34 PM on August 12, 2016 [12 favorites]


Are these basically tear-downs in a couple more decades? Is it possible to structurally renovate/update this type of construction with all the tricky rooflines?

Aren't they basically made of cardboard?
posted by Automocar at 4:37 PM on August 12, 2016 [1 favorite]


Someone I know was going to a housewarming party in this new McMansion development that I'd just watched go up almost instantly, and I told him to be careful that none of the doorknobs fell off in his hand.

It wasn't him, and it was a faucet. I still count it as a win, though.

I was under the vague and possibly totally inaccurate impression that the multi-leveled roofs and things were supposed to look like older, built up developments. There was a growing awareness and appreciation of urban building styles (stuff like from How Buildings Learn) which led to a focus on new urbanism, which was, of course, weirdly misappropriated in a totally superficial way in a lot of big new developments like these. They were designing new buildings to look like multi-use urban buildings, where different parts of the building were built at different times by different people.
posted by ernielundquist at 4:38 PM on August 12, 2016 [9 favorites]


The ones built at the start of the MMansion boom are allready falling apart, nevermind the ones that sat empty since 08.
posted by The Whelk at 4:39 PM on August 12, 2016 [3 favorites]


My folks live in and have lived in this style of home for many years now. It's honestly all that's available in areas of suburban Houston (where they moved in the mid-90s). Yep, they're ugly and yep, they're built like crap. Their current house isn't too bad - the garage is detached and set back from the facade of the house, and it's a single story because it was their downsizing house after the kids all left for college and moved out for good. But man, their first Houston house was so bad. Rain would pour in from under the front door during torrential rains (which, btw, happens a lot in Houston.)

I can't really talk, though, because I'm currently living in a pre-recession condo boom building that has all the same awful features: poorly built, no architectural balance, all surface flash and no substance or usefulness. In a strange mirroring of my folks' former house, rain pours in from under our bedroom patio doors during torrential rains.

Sometimes you take what you can get; we can't all afford craftsman masterpieces in the places where there are jobs and that have the space we want/need. At least I'm just renting and will be getting out of here next year.
posted by misskaz at 4:44 PM on August 12, 2016 [10 favorites]


I am glad someone pointed out Schloss Neuschwanstein, which I have always found annoying in the exact same way. That round fucking turret on top of that square fucking tower, I swear to god.
posted by notquitemaryann at 4:45 PM on August 12, 2016 [18 favorites]


Living space is at a premium in my city, so I know someone who calls garages "bedrooms for cars."
posted by aniola at 4:49 PM on August 12, 2016 [4 favorites]


I do want to say, though, that one of my favorite things about my house is that from the road, the garage is pretty much the only thing you can see. The house part is almost fully obscured in the front.

I've got giant picture windows along the back side facing out into the back, so we get tons of light, but from the front, it's pretty much like the entrance to the Bat Cave. Move along, nothing to see here.

I was sitting out in the front a few weeks ago, and some guy walking by with his family stopped to hold court about how much my enormous blue spruces sucked because you couldn't even see the house and they didn't leave any room for a lawn, and I'm just sitting there, listening to his speech from behind the trees, and wondering why I should want either of those things to happen to me.
posted by ernielundquist at 4:54 PM on August 12, 2016 [41 favorites]


Here in the Bay Area, there is an infamous place full of these at the intersection of Page Mill Road and Interstate 280 (just down the road from the more bizarre and definitely not McMansion Flintstone House.) The story goes that an architecture professor at UC Berkeley used to take a bus load of first year architecture students to this place, where he would point at the houses and say, "Don't do that!"
posted by njohnson23 at 4:54 PM on August 12, 2016 [9 favorites]


This post speaks to my soul. When we were house shopping 10 years ago I told our realtor we were not interested in a "garage with house".
posted by Fleebnork at 3:37 PM on August 12 [4 favorites −] Favorite added! [!]


Here in Vancouver - my friend and mefite, keithtalent, coined a great term for these garage dominated homes. Garage-Mahals. I leave him to defend the slightly racist undertones of the term. Ha!
posted by helmutdog at 4:59 PM on August 12, 2016 [18 favorites]


Some of the blog is interesting, and some of it is just bitching about other peoples' taste in stuff, which is arsey and not particularly funny. There are very good reasons for the shittiness of McMansions, but dude doesn't know shit about the people living in these houses and should leave them alone. Maybe they rent. Maybe they're on a fixed income. Maybe all their stuff was given to them by their tasteless grandma and they're waiting until she's not around to replace it. Who the hell knows?
posted by oneirodynia at 4:59 PM on August 12, 2016 [14 favorites]


"Are these basically tear-downs in a couple more decades? "

They're crazy tear-downs. The postwar bedroom suburb I grew up in has gone McMansion due to the excellent public schools; people buy and tear down little late-50s bungalows and put up McMansions, and then in 15 years the next buyer tears down the McMansion and puts up a new McMansion. It's $200,000 of house construction on a $900,000 lot. The house is pretty fucking incidental to being in the "right" school district, so people buy the desirable LOT and put up whatever freaking house they want, which for reasons I fail to understand is always "the ugliest possible one."

My sister and I have a game where we walk around the worst-blighted neighborhoods and quiz each other based on what the McMansions look like -- "Miss Minchin's Select Seminary for Young Ladies, or a single-family home?" "Medieval starter castle that can't survive a siege, or a single-family home?" "Indoor tennis club for the upwardly mobile and pretentious, or a single-family home?"

Where I live, land is cheap, so it's $200,000 of house on a $50,000 lot, which is fine, it's an ugly house but it's a house with an actual master bathroom which is weirdly hard to find around here in older housing stock -- but they're so, so flimsy and they are constantly getting flooded by normal thunderstorms. If you live in an older neighborhood you've got no master bath (but definitely a basement tradesman's bathroom!), but the houses are way way sturdier and need less maintenance. (But have no effing closets.)

I have a friend who lives in a McMansion tract house neighborhood, all the same beige-y McMansions right in a row, giant garages facing the street and swallowing the neighborhood, built by a developer all at once as a complete neighborhood, and I am 24/7 trying to convince her to paint her garage door purple so her house is a) easier to find and b) cheerful! (I have been going there 10 years and can't tell her house from the surrounding ones without checking the ANNOYINGLY TINY house numbers.) She thinks the neighbors would disapprove but her next door neighbor was literally busted for cooking meth in the basement, so what on earth does she care what the neighbors think?
posted by Eyebrows McGee at 4:59 PM on August 12, 2016 [33 favorites]


I like this blog and I find a lot of his points are highly applicable to my job too (web site design). Which speaking of which while we're talking about good useful design. Before one's news feed was the only way to consume content old fashioned websites in days of yore had multiple pages with different types of information on each page. It would be nice if a content creator like this, publishing lots of examples of 2 different types of content, would embrace that old fashioned design principle. Questions and responses on one page, articles on another.
posted by bleep at 5:00 PM on August 12, 2016 [10 favorites]


all those counters are going to be ripped out and thrown in a dumpster. But you know, they're not making any new granite. We're depleting the earth's granite supply, for what?

Oh, the huge granite spree!
posted by UbuRoivas at 5:01 PM on August 12, 2016 [54 favorites]


Agreeing with eyebrows on the allure for these things when they're the only option besides old hosues. I've lived in a bunch of super solidly built homes in the midwest that were built anywhere from 1920-1860 and they're great, BUUUUUUT no closests, one bathroom, a master bedroom that's basically a tiny U of floor around a queen bedframe, no modern amenities in the kitchen, no AC.

They're great for being solid and low maintenance, but if you've lived in them all your life you get so excited about the concept of having a master bathroom and a dishwasher you can get blinders with regards to the structural defects of new build.
posted by Ferreous at 5:04 PM on August 12, 2016 [12 favorites]


...also, because I love to hate this shit: open-fucking-concept...can we please stop? I live in open-fucking-Canada and have been to more than a few of these homes that feel like a drafty fucking barn. It's hilarious because there is no privacy and in the "o-c" homes I've been to, the actual 'living' happens in a small TV room or in the finished basement where there's some privacy and coziness. It's so goddamned stupid. What a waste of space and resources.
posted by Klaxon Aoooogah at 5:09 PM on August 12, 2016 [28 favorites]


But you know, they're not making any new granite.

I still can't tell if your comment is sarcasm (as usual on the Internet), but the Earth is in fact making new granite all the time...
posted by thefoxgod at 5:13 PM on August 12, 2016 [25 favorites]


I enjoyed the article a lot and felt I learned a little about architecture. It also helped explain the dislike I have for McMansions, that I didn't fully understand until now. Thanks for posting!

At the same time, I'm wondering how much of primary/secondary masses, symmetry and balance are simple fashion. There are always people who think that the newest clothing style, car design, website design, and so on are ugly and that the "proper" way of doing things is how it was done in the past. I would not be surprised if we'll hear future architects enthuse about "the bold and intriguing asymmetry of early 2000s houses".

Meanwhile, I'm perfectly happy in my 1950 ranch-style house.
posted by Triplanetary at 5:17 PM on August 12, 2016 [6 favorites]


Yes to the death of open concept. I'm reminded of the house where two of my childhood friends lived, with a separate master bedroom on the first floor, all deceptively normal. The other three bedrooms were spaced along the balcony that overhung the family room-dining room-kitchen complex, and were built with double French doors with glass panes and zero soundproofing. They hung curtains on the doors, but still, it creeped me out as a kid.
posted by notquitemaryann at 5:18 PM on August 12, 2016 [3 favorites]


I find it odd that someone who openly likes Modernist and Brutalist architecture could possibly dislike McMansions, but it's entertaining to know that McMansions will be considered cool and architecturally interesting in 30 years. I respect the author for being open about their opinions, though.
posted by surlyben at 5:20 PM on August 12, 2016 [5 favorites]


I am glad someone pointed out Schloss Neuschwanstein, which I have always found annoying in the exact same way. That round fucking turret on top of that square fucking tower, I swear to god.

I realize I'm not a building, so I shouldn't be offended by comments about architecture. But when I read that linked question, I almost fell out of my chair:
Have you considered: Schloss Neuschwanstein, considered most beautiful castle in the world, violates basically all the rules of architecture you posted in the 101
"considered most beautiful castle in the world?" I mean, I guess it's considered that by people who have never seen other, more beautiful castles. The setting is certainly breathtaking. But the castle itself? I mean come on.
posted by The World Famous at 5:21 PM on August 12, 2016 [6 favorites]


I don't even have a garage! You can call home and ask my wife.
posted by staggering termagant at 5:24 PM on August 12, 2016 [13 favorites]


The other three bedrooms were spaced along the balcony that overhung the family room-dining room-kitchen complex, and were built with double French doors with glass panes and zero soundproofing. They hung curtains on the doors, but still, it creeped me out as a kid.

Yeah, it's friggin' unnatural.

McMansions and open concept™ are the millennial trend equivalent of 80s big hair and extreme shoulder pads.
posted by Klaxon Aoooogah at 5:26 PM on August 12, 2016 [1 favorite]


I mean, I don't think that the matter of masses and rules of three and so on gets at why these houses are so bad. They violate those rules, yes, but it's the ugliness and obvious cheapness of the material that makes them look terrible. You can find rather nice-looking, rambling English country houses with a wing here in one style and the original house there and then another wing and so on. Rambly, oddly-proportioned houses in nice materials with nice detailing could look perfectly appealing - just like that huge columned bed in the one house looks god-awful, but one could have a huge italianate antique bed in nice materials that would look odd and attractive.

The vast expanses of light beige-y brick, the absence of any detailing, the way all the materials look extruded rather than natural, the chintziness of how the windows are set - that's what is so horrendous.

My parents lived in a McDuplex for a few years - it was halfway between their respective jobs. The quality was actually okay and half the house was nice - the kitchen/dining room/tiny sitting room area was perfect for them (and for me when I stayed there for a couple of months between work and school), there was an upstairs area that was perfect for them to watch movies together and their bedroom was nice. But the giant two story living room, the little parlor off the living room and the two front bedrooms they simply never used - it was like they had half a house. Also the front bedrooms were teeny, boiling in summer and freezing in winter. You needed a space heater in them.

They moved somewhere far away and much cheaper when my mother's health got bad and she had to go on disability - a rather undistinguished-looking house that is not midcentury but sort of on midcentury lines - and while it's nothing to look at, the design works.

But I live in a crumbly old Victorian with a million problems and I have to say - the old fashioned "living space and kitchen downstairs, bedrooms with proper privacy upstairs" house design is much the best.
posted by Frowner at 5:37 PM on August 12, 2016 [25 favorites]


McMansions will make nice conversions to office space and apartments. The first step is to subvert the HOA.
posted by b1tr0t at 5:37 PM on August 12, 2016 [2 favorites]


The extremes of open concept are awful, but having recently moved from a hundred year old row house with a tiny kitchen way in the back and a full time dining room I used a few times a year to a new apartment with one cooking/eating/living space, I'm much happier with this. I can cook without being banished away from everyone else in the house.
posted by Bulgaroktonos at 5:39 PM on August 12, 2016 [12 favorites]


A studio/bachelor/one room type apartment is what it is and I have lived in similar myself. It's the large homes with huge cathedral ceilings – which are impossible to heat, and which nobody really hangs out in, in my experience – that I have a beef with in an era when we should be cutting down on wasting resources, especially in Canada where we rely on indoor heating 7 months of the year.
posted by Klaxon Aoooogah at 5:50 PM on August 12, 2016 [1 favorite]


Oh, the huge granite spree!

Some day, you'll regret having taken it for granite.
posted by GenjiandProust at 5:59 PM on August 12, 2016 [21 favorites]


This made me love little ranchers with carports and breezeways even more.
posted by sonascope at 6:02 PM on August 12, 2016 [7 favorites]


UbuRoivas: "Quite different to Australian McMansions, which tend to be boxier and more modernist.

Here's a writeup from Things Bogans Like.
"

Yeah, something like that would be a hard sell in most US suburbs. People would be afraid of the resale value of a "modern" design like that and I'm pretty sure that a lot of neighborhoods don't allow anything but "traditional" designs.
posted by octothorpe at 6:03 PM on August 12, 2016


Meanwhile someone should start a tumbler devoted to the current trend of putting up cheaply built boxy apartments.
posted by psycho-alchemy at 6:07 PM on August 12, 2016 [6 favorites]


I don't get what's so wrong about having a big obstructing garage. I don't want to brush snow off my car (my partner too!) and I want some privacy. I'll take it!
I don't mind the design of these ugly beasts. If the construction is poor though, that's a no go. Re heating: um have you tried heating an old victorian? That sucks too.
posted by bobobox at 6:09 PM on August 12, 2016 [3 favorites]


Oh lord, Northern Virginia is the absolute mecca of McMansions. Do you need 5 beds, 6 baths and a 4 car garage? You're in luck!

But the worst has to be in fill McMansions. My parents-in-law live in a beautiful 1950s development that predates granite countertops and personal wine cellars, but several properties over the last few years were sold only to demolish the reasonably sized 1950s existing home, and rebuild an infill monstrosity completely out of character with the rest of the houses. We're talking a 0.5 acre lot now covered with 0.45 acres of house, completely erasing what used to be a very usable sized yard and stripping out the 35+ year old trees that used be there. Luckily the city is considering an ordinance for minimum set back from the street, but it's a little too late.
posted by T.D. Strange at 6:15 PM on August 12, 2016 [4 favorites]


How can you own this house and not paint that giant arrow red? Come on!
posted by The Hamms Bear at 6:20 PM on August 12, 2016 [23 favorites]


Yeah, I don't share the blogger's objections to attached garages. I live in upstate NY. I don't just need a garage to stow my one car off the street; I need a garage to keep my car out from under the gigantic snowstorms that have the poor manners to blow through on occasion. And the heavy rain. Oh, and the hail. Separate garages are just unpleasant if you're trying to move yourself from car to house during any Weather Event of Note, even before you start moving your child, your pet, your groceries...
posted by thomas j wise at 6:22 PM on August 12, 2016 [6 favorites]


thomas j wise: "people buy these WWII era houses (two bedroom boxes with tiny porches), knock 'em down, and then build...these things...which will presumably topple over the next time there's a major earthquake."

A modern house built even half way legally is way more resistant to earthquakes than anything a 100 years old.

TWinbrook8: "Also, it's sad to see all those granite countertops. When that trend finally withers away (years overdue now) all those counters are going to be ripped out and thrown in a dumpster."

Here's hoping, they make great workshop surfaces.

TWinbrook8: "But you know, they're not making any new granite. We're depleting the earth's granite supply, for what?"

India alone has 50 billion cubic meters of granite reserves and granite reserves are broadly distributed around the world. This isn't really a concern.
posted by Mitheral at 6:22 PM on August 12, 2016 [11 favorites]


Man, I think I'd rather just stay in a nice, compact, space-efficient apartment for the rest of my natural life.
posted by SansPoint at 6:30 PM on August 12, 2016 [4 favorites]


It's like someone was lazy with the Photoshop fill tool, or maybe a glitched panorama shot where the house was moving.
posted by idiopath at 6:31 PM on August 12, 2016 [5 favorites]


Why are they all so crappily made? Surely if people are prepared to plonk down a couple of mil, they would demand something decent for their money?
posted by Jubey at 6:38 PM on August 12, 2016


um have you tried heating an old victorian? That sucks too. Yeah except old Victorians really weren't designed with the idea that it would be 75 degrees in every room all year around. That's why they had so many blankets and pullovers and flocked wallpaper and other heat retaining devices
posted by The Whelk at 6:38 PM on August 12, 2016 [11 favorites]


Oh, man, this is good. I've wanted to do something similar to the marked up photos with this place. Every time I look at I find something else stupid. It replaced a craftsman bungalow.

Yeah, I don't share the blogger's objections to attached garages.


I don't think the issue is attached garages per se so much as garages that take up the entire front of a house. Like you have a 3-car garage with a 20-foot deep driveway out front that you have to walk around to get to the front door in a wall section that's only 10 feet wide. But, you have to have a lot of land to do something else, or sacrifice a side yard to get to a garage in back, so it's not the worst thing, just an unfortunate aesthetic side effect of modernity.

My wife and I were house shopping a while back, and one of the places we asked our realtor to look at was a huge old Victorian. On zillow, it looked like it needed some work, but might have been interesting enough to bother with, and it was on an acre and a half. We'd been living in 100 year old places for the previous five years, so we thought we could handle it, and the ad said it had replacement windows, so I figured that was one major upgrade that was already taken care of. But, the windows were original, so even though the main public spaces downstairs were awesome and it had five porches, we passed on it. Bringing it up to date would have cost more than the purchase price.
posted by LionIndex at 6:38 PM on August 12, 2016


Why are they all so crappily made?

They're not. There is a subset of new large houses that are badly built, but there are plenty of similar-look-and-feel houses that use better construction. Just depends on area and what people are willing to pay for.

But the reason people might buy the cheaper ones is they're stretching their money to get the biggest house they can, and one variable you can tweak there is quality. Especially if you only plan to live there a few years...
posted by thefoxgod at 6:49 PM on August 12, 2016 [3 favorites]


I mean, I don't think that the matter of masses and rules of three and so on gets at why these houses are so bad. They violate those rules, yes, but it's the ugliness and obvious cheapness of the material that makes them look terrible

We go on the annual Builder's Home Tour to get ideas for House 2.0 (if we ever get that far).
In general, it is a tour of things not to do, rather than a tour of inspiration.

The thing that strikes me about McMansions is that they are not designed, they are built from a check-list.

Every year, you can tell what's in after visiting only a couple of houses.
Acacia floors were big a couple of years ago, so every development house had one.
Before that, it was open pantries, then media rooms.

My house is a suburban tract home from the 60s, but you can tell thought went into maximizing space and value.
I can't count how many times I've opened what I thought was a closet in a McMansion and found random mechanicals instead because zero thought was given to layout.
posted by madajb at 7:04 PM on August 12, 2016 [7 favorites]


Is it just me, or does this thread have a lot of similarities with the purse thread from a couple years back?

Anyway, if I've learned one thing today, it's that I thought I knew what a McMansion was up until the moment when I started looking at the links in this post. In actual fact I had no idea of the depraved depths to which American home architecture could sink. I am a San Franciscan who was partially raised in a suburb of Sacramento, and I thought that the new developments in that suburb defined McMansion style, but they don't actually look anything like most of these. Here is the closest thing I could find on a quick Google search. The architectural principles are similar (though maybe slightly less horrible? yes? no? I'm not, like, a student of architecture here) but instead of the brick and siding and stuff in most of these pictures it is all. beige. stucco. Just street after street of this shit. But on the other hand, they look... dare I say it?... smaller than the houses I'm seeing here. Who would have ever thought I would describe one of those creepy echoing monstrosities as small? Compared to the disaster of a city I live in I want to cry when I see how cheap houses are over there, but is real estate really so much cheaper in the rest of the country that it dwarfs even that? Yeesh. (Come to think of it, I have seen houses kinda like this, when I visited family in Virginia in 2008. I just did a Google image search for "Loudon County homes" and yup, there it is.)

Anyway, this has been terrifying.
posted by sunset in snow country at 7:31 PM on August 12, 2016 [2 favorites]


... who the ?#(@! is going to clean all those windows?

Well, I've lived in my house for 27 years and neither I nor anyone else (that I know of) has ever cleaned any of the windows.
posted by Bruce H. at 7:33 PM on August 12, 2016 [10 favorites]


Oh man I have some mixed feelings about this.

My parents are first generation immigrants who raised me in series of modest apartments, among random discount furniture that never matched. Though we moved around a lot, we always seemed to live not very far from a McMansion cluster. My parents loved those things. As a child, I liked to take long walks with my dad that invariably ended up walking through these neighborhoods of gigantic houses. We had a game where we would pick out our favorite elements of each one and use those bits and pieces to build our own, fantasy home in our minds. It was a fantasy because we clearly did not have the money to purchase one and those who did seemed like they lived in a world of unimaginable opportunities and security. I was I remember being in complete awe of a place that had a little pond with fish in front of it. It seemed like it was out of a fairytale. These houses were of course, loaded with all the design sins described in this blog.

Today, looking at the chart of architectural oddities now I objectively recognize and agree that they are ill-thought out, gaudy, and gauche. Symptoms of late stage capitalism and its ills. But the sentimental part of my brain is hardwired to find them beautiful in some way. I think this because they acted a symbol of unattainable American security and success to my parents. Of course, the idea of "American success" is incredibly insidious, but my parents must have seen these houses as the exact opposite of the harsh communist austerity they'd grown up with. I probably also find McMansions beautiful because those walks looking at other people's houses is one of the more uncomplicated things I enjoyed doing with my dad, who I do not have an uncomplicated relationship with. I would never elect to live in anything resembling a McMansion, but despite myself, all those valances and secondary masses conjure up the idea of "home" to me.

As an epilogue, my parents finally got their McMansion while I was in college. At the time, I was still in some kind of residual rebellious phase. I was vocally aghast at their choice of a Spanish style home far too large for their needs, in a tract of nearly identical houses with all sorts of over-the-top stone lions and gazebos on their lawns. They ignored me, moved in, bought matching furniture for the first time, and started astonishing garden. It was clearly the fulfillment of a long-cherished dream. They poured so much love and pride into their home, that looking back, I really regret those acerbic things my teenage self said.

So yes, they're a blight. But a blight with warm fuzzy feelings for me, I suppose.
posted by erstwhile ungulate at 7:34 PM on August 12, 2016 [84 favorites]


Let us not pretend that ugly houses are limited to giant monstrosities from the 90s and early aughts.

Behold, the house I grew up in. Built in the 60s, 4 bedrooms (assuming you count the one in the basement), 2 bathrooms, 0 curb appeal. You can't actually see the front door from this angle, it's in the carport. The door in the picture leads into the kitchen (which is an addition, I believe. It and the dining room (behind) are always cold). My parents have talked about adding an actual front door, but the only way to do it right would be to tear out the entire front of the building, and that's a lot of money and effort when it's working alright as it is.
posted by quaking fajita at 7:36 PM on August 12, 2016 [3 favorites]


That house looks really hip to me, quaking fajita.

Victorians are awesome

Huuuuge Victorian fan here. Unlike true Colonials/early Republic houses, there is room for books. And there's a strong value of clear division - dividing living activities into dedicated rooms, which, to me, allows for a lot of diversity in both decoration and room use. Also, porches. And pantries. And basements. And decently-sized kitchens, but not too big, because people were actually doing work in those kitchens; they have great dimensions and practical workflow arrangements. The kitchens were about making dinner, not casually grilling bruschetta in a stagey manner while your friends sample a light Chardonnay, or presenting the illusion of gourmet cooking by displaying tens of thousands of dollars worth of kitchen equipment while spending 80% of nights heating up frozen pizza or bringing home Boston Market.

Also a fan of 1930s bungalows and mill houses, which did inherit a lot of Victorian room-division values, but on a simpler level.
posted by Miko at 7:59 PM on August 12, 2016 [19 favorites]


it seems like a waste of construction materials and money.

This is of course, the entire point: demonstration that money, they has it.

Value for money, durability, even livability are secondary goals to being able to say that the house is 7000 sq. ft. And custom built and brand new and have all the latest checklist of fashionable materials.
posted by bonehead at 8:09 PM on August 12, 2016 [2 favorites]


Okay, despite having grown up in The Granite State, I clearly know nothing about granite.
posted by TWinbrook8 at 8:11 PM on August 12, 2016 [6 favorites]


Before the advent of the McMansion and whatever that styling is, I used to think that 1970s ranch houses were the ugliest things in the world. But the last time I was house shopping, that was pretty much all that was available in the area I was moving to, especially since I really really didn't want an HOA. So I ended up buying a 1973 ranch house, and it's really grown on me. (It helped that my first house, a 1921 bungalow, was less than 800 square feet and not well maintained, so just having the space and not having to constantly update it to accommodate things like "needing more than one electrical outlet per room" felt impossibly glamorous.)

My house now is a nice, decently solid house. It was designed at least to 1973 energy efficiency standards, it's had a history of people living in it, making big and little tweaks. The landscaping has grown in and filled out sort of semi-wild, I've got bats and cottontails and raccoons and squirrels and all kinds of birds living here. Then, this summer, I got it painted red and put the original groovy font house numbering back up, and when I drive up and see my garage sticking out and my out of the way, invitation only sidewalk leading to my obscured front door, I think, "Dang, I love this dumb ranch house."

So I can imagine, over time, some of those McMansions and the houses I now think are so ugly becoming something someone else really loves coming home to.
posted by ernielundquist at 8:11 PM on August 12, 2016 [21 favorites]


Behold, the house I grew up in.

I think that's pretty cool myself. It needs a better paint job and the addition on the left looks out of place but it's got neat lines.
posted by octothorpe at 8:29 PM on August 12, 2016 [6 favorites]


My first job was as a clerk in a hardware store and lumber yard in 2002. So, approximately the lead-up to the housing bubble. The way that the hierarchy in the store worked, was that if you were a burly guy who they didn't think could work a computer then they would put you in the lumber yard hefting timber and loading trucks in blazing heat, or freezing cold (God bless the autumn and the spring). If they thought you could run a computer, then they put you to work in the lumber yard at first so you could get a basic conception of construction, so that you knew what joist hangers were, and you knew what a customer wanted when they wanted a 4x4 pressure treated post, and in a pinch you could help out in the yard if the yard boys (called dogs by the boys themselves, and monkeys by the management) weren't able to take a ticket.

In my interview they apparently tagged me as computer-worthy, so I was a desk clerk. However, I had to do my time in the yard for two months in the blazing-hottest asshole parts of Maryland summer. I had a hell of a farmer's tan by the end of that.

I have a lot of interesting stories during that time (like the time that a customer tipped one of my friends in VHS pornography, which he took, and which was home-made, or the guy who would eventually get fired for running the forklift into a stack of subfloor because he came in every day chugged a full carafe of coffee and then a full flask of cheap liquor and smelled liked holy hell by the end of the day), but I definitely remember how the upper management viewed the high-level builders we were supplying. One of them was a Ryan Homes branch, for example. The common refrain was a "mickey mouse operation". The idea was these builders were putting up houses (many of them McMansions, but a few a little smaller but with similar design philosophies) as fast and as cheap as humanly possible to meet demand. I remember going out on a delivery with one of our drivers - a wirey dude named scooter, who must have been as old as I am now, but seemed like an old man at the time - and he went to use the crane to lift a bunch of drywall into the second floor of an under-construction house. I can't remember the exact chain of events, but whoever had been planning the construction hadn't realized that we couldn't fit the drywall through the opening they had left, so (cursingly) we ended up carrying the whole shipment of drywall up the stairs. I remember him telling me that all of these (the giant McMansiony developments going up in my rural neck of Maryland at the time) were huge "Mickey Mouse projects" and that none of them were worth a damn. I guess I agreed with him, because I was 16 and didn't know shit about the housing market, but looking back on it, Scooter probably had a pretty decent read on the situation.
posted by codacorolla at 8:29 PM on August 12, 2016 [19 favorites]


Oh lord, Northern Virginia is the absolute mecca of McMansions. Do you need 5 beds, 6 baths and a 4 car garage? You're in luck!

Yeah, it's pretty bad in this area, particularly the really ritzy parts of Loudoun County, Great Falls, etc.

Not too many McMansions in my more down-to-earth corner of Northern Virginia, although one thing that has driven Mrs. Photo guy and I nuts is the lack of architectural diversity here. We're both big fans of modern design (I love the Dutch house/mansion upthread) and have been surprised how hard it is to find here - virtually everything is the same bland sort-of colonial look (the few modern homes here are way out of our price range and/or too far from work). Neither of us are from the DC area, and everywhere else we've lived at least has some diversity in construction. Maybe it's the weird real-estate market here, I don't know.
posted by photo guy at 8:30 PM on August 12, 2016 [1 favorite]


Oh yeah. In 2007 I worked in a more rural library in the same county, and was surprised to see one of the senior managers who did the big-buy sales for housing developments (like he would sell thousands of pieces of lumber at a time instead of piecemeal stuff that we would do at the counter). He was surprised to see me, and we talked a little bit. He had been let go earlier that year when the market had crashed, and he told me he had moved to the more rural area because housing was cheap, and he was looking for a job. He was probably in his 50s, with a wife and kids.
posted by codacorolla at 8:45 PM on August 12, 2016 [1 favorite]


The gable on that house is nice and clean, quaking fajita. I'm doodling a echoes-the-carport roof over the kitchen door and an easy-from-the-sidewalk path to it. Keep the clarity, put in something that's people-scaled as well as something for cars.

In the late 1990s, a boom or two ago, I was working for a large software company and got a new coworker who had just taught himself enough to work in QA. (In the 1990s, we couldn't hire fast enough.) He had just left construction because McMansions offended him so much. The crew he worked on prided themselves on being able to install something (drip skirt, first clapboard, etc) all the way around a house so accurately that they came out within 1/4" of the elevation they started at. This requires the framing to be square, and the foundation to be level, and means everything locks together tightly when done. They'd been working through ups and downs because they were one of the best crews in the state.

When the boom came on they started *losing* bids for *expensive* houses. So they went off to see a Open House in a new subdivision, and found not just bad construction but code errors -- actual gaps in the exterior wall, flashing installed backward, stone facing installed with not-frost-proof adhesive. Says he to a realtor, who the hell makes this much money and buys such a temporary house? Tech money! says the realtor, brightly, so my coworker got a new career.

We drove to a new managers' housewarming a few months later and while waiting at the front door I leaned on the stone-faced arch, and it made this little 'pop' sound, and we couldn't look at each other for the rest of the evening.
posted by clew at 8:47 PM on August 12, 2016 [29 favorites]


Says he to a realtor, who the hell makes this much money and buys such a temporary house? Tech money! says the realtor, brightly, so my coworker got a new career.

This is the thing that really gets me about the McMansion trend. Sure, I grew up in a pretty ugly house. But it was a 3bd and probably cost $20k (in 1980). You can't make a lot of aesthetic choices when you just need to buy a house somewhere and raise a family. But when you're paying $2m+ for a house you could hire an aspiring architect and build a 3000 square foot work of art or you could build some terrible excrescence with no coherence or artistry behind it but get 7000 sq ft of disordered, temporary luxury. Such potential is squandered, and to such ill ends.
posted by dis_integration at 8:52 PM on August 12, 2016 [14 favorites]


But when you're paying $2m+ for a house you could hire an aspiring architect and build a 3000 square foot work of art or you could build some terrible excrescence with no coherence or artistry behind it but get 7000 sq ft of disordered, temporary luxury. Such potential is squandered, and to such ill ends.

The clients of the residential architecture firm I used to work for that did multi-million dollar homes typically wanted European farmhouses. Our designs were better than the typical McMansion, but the differences might be hard to discern for the untrained eye, since McMansions are basically trying to do what we did on the cheap. So, the complex rooflines, monumental entries, etc. attempt to signify wealth but don't cost as much as doing something more accurate.
Examples of that firm's work:
Both these houses
This angle looks all garage, but the frontage continues a ways to the left
This one's right on the beach

So, those aren't like, the most amazing houses in the world, but compared to this thing just down the street from the last one, they're pretty nice.
posted by LionIndex at 9:16 PM on August 12, 2016


It doesn't take much to make a wide garage front more tolerable. A couple of Berkeley houses and apartments had a balcony or walkway along the top of the garages, maybe extending a foot or two over the edge. There was what looked like a vernacular Japanese style and what I think was a romantic California-Spanish style that had arguably become vernacular.

I do not understand that last house, LionIndex. I feel sorry for it.

“They sneer at me for leaning all awry;
What! did the hand, then, of the Potter shake?”

posted by clew at 9:32 PM on August 12, 2016 [1 favorite]


Most neighborhoods in my city have alleyways behind each street and if a house has a garage, it faces on the alley instead of the street. That way the streetfaces don't have all those garages and there aren't any curb-cuts so there's more street parking available.
posted by octothorpe at 9:40 PM on August 12, 2016 [6 favorites]


I'ma just going to say - I love my dumb green 1250 sq. ft Craftsman bungalow from 1925. It has it's issues, but I trust the bones of this place.
posted by drewbage1847 at 10:17 PM on August 12, 2016 [5 favorites]


Of course McMansions aren't the only shoddily built things. A friend bought a reasonably recent condo conversion last fall. I didn't have a chance to study the whole thing, but the guest bath was weirdly proportioned, the fixtures were nearly worn out, and there were some features to invite a slow water catastrophe. And god knows what was going on with the subfloor of the guest room, which was creaky, uneven and probably not especially level. Somebody had obviously bodged in a plywood patch and figured - eh, we'll stick some carpet over it and nobody will care that it's a quarter inch higher than the rest of the floor. And being a condo, when the bill for all this halfassery comes due, you're stuck with an association of people who made the same stupid mistake of buying into the building.
posted by wotsac at 10:25 PM on August 12, 2016 [1 favorite]


Before I moved to the bay area -- where I live in a 1200 sqft apartment that is considered "huge" and for which I pay a ridiculously exorbitant rent, I lived in what you might call a "McMansion" in Houston, and... that thing was actually *awesome*. Sure, the roof had some weird angles, but that house was spacious and airy, yet there wasn't anything that you could call wasted space. Everything in that house made sense. You never felt cramped, there was a place for everything, it was just *nice*. And the fixtures, flooring, hardware, etc. was *so* nice. I'll probably never have a house that nice or that perfect again. That house was 3x the size of my current apartment, and had an oversized 2 car detached garage, and the mortgage payment was a *quarter* of my current rent payment. When I sold it, I got 10 offers the first *day* it was on the market. OTOH, that house was in Houston.
posted by smcameron at 10:34 PM on August 12, 2016 [6 favorites]


escabeche: And I definitely think of myself as being right about novels, so I guess this person is probably right about houses.

I wish to be very clear: I have no disdain in my heart for the FPP, or for the articles linked to, or for my fellow MeFites with Strong Opinions on this subject. Indeed, the garage piece hit home with me because, as functional as garages are, they are not often beautiful.

I cannot help but think, though, that if the subject were grammar, there would be at least metaphorical knives being brandished and raw-throated screams of "Prescriptivist!" echoing across the thread. I believe escabeche struck a nice note concerning our varying interests and priorities.
posted by bryon at 10:36 PM on August 12, 2016 [6 favorites]


My wife and I call (probably after Kunstler) the McMansions where the giant jutting garage obscures the actual people entrance "snout houses." it's just so satisfyingly pithy. And dead accurate for these horrible shitboxes.

I encountered that term first in Delores Hayden's A Field Guide To Sprawl, from 2004, though I don't know who actually invented the term.
posted by Dip Flash at 11:28 PM on August 12, 2016


Relatives just paid $1.8M for a 3500 sf monstrosity with no yard and a really screwed up layout. But the place is engineered around driving into your TV room, which is what they want most of all (it has two garages). When asked about the various things that don't make any practical sense (giant cathedral room but not enough bedrooms for kids?), they make up various excuses for why it's ok. The best part was how they said well, yes there's no yard, but the builders said they might build a basketball court and playground. Suuure.
posted by benzenedream at 11:57 PM on August 12, 2016 [1 favorite]


quaking fajita, that's a weird house for sure but the proportions are OK to my eye.

The thing about McMansions is they're valid concepts pushed to the extremes of "value" by people who don't care to ensure quality or consider the manifold functions of the home. I'll take cathedral ceilings over a code-minimum ceiling any day, but if the insulation and HVAC isn't designed to match you'll have a bad time. Same with too many bathrooms- it's preferable to only having one right by the kitchen, like many 1900s foursquare plans, but you still need ventilation, moisture management, and adequate sound insulation. Open plan main floors are a great idea- consider the number of people who tear out an interior wall to open up a cramped kitchen and bring light further into their 1920s-50s bungalows. It's when that plan has no modulation of interior space when it loses intimacy and coziness.

LionIndex mentions this in passing above, but this is really where the expertise of an architect is valuable.
posted by a halcyon day at 1:55 AM on August 13, 2016 [4 favorites]


I'll take cathedral ceilings over a code-minimum ceiling any day, but if the insulation and HVAC isn't designed to match you'll have a bad time.

Do you clear the cobwebs yourself or have someone who does it for you?
posted by srboisvert at 5:51 AM on August 13, 2016 [1 favorite]


I love my dumb green 1250 sq. ft Craftsman bungalow from 1925.

Craftsman bungalows are objectively gorgeous! And highly prized in the East, where there are relatively few.
posted by Miko at 5:55 AM on August 13, 2016 [2 favorites]


Wow, SO MANY Chapel Hill houses. This "style" of "architecture" doesn't even look bad to me anymore because it's just the kind of house that was all over the place in the NC Triangle suburbs.

I didn't live in a McMansion in high school - it was a 4-bedroom, 2.5-bath, which is a reasonable size for a family of 6 - but it had that same sort-of-colonial-with-some-extra-gables aesthetic. Which meant that I had to be somewhat careful getting out of bed or I'd hit my head on the place where the roof sloped inward.

If I'd stayed in the Triangle I might have bought my own house by now. But it would've been the townhouse version of those so maybe I dodged a bullet.
posted by Jeanne at 6:13 AM on August 13, 2016 [3 favorites]


I hate New England architecture with a passion. Colonials! Colonials as far as the eye can see! With the occasional Ranch and Split just for shits and giggles!

For this guy who loves modern architecture based on steel, glass, wood, and stone it's positively heartbreaking. Every house looks pretty much the same just different colors. The same ugly plank siding. The same tiny windows. The same box. Sometimes you get a nice brick facade and it's gorgeous (red brick with white mortar oh my god) but those are especially rare.
posted by Talez at 6:22 AM on August 13, 2016


Jeanne, they are getting, what, $250k for the townhouse versions? Maybe $300k. Madness. Not to mention the garden apartment buildings from the 60's re-branded as "condominiums".
posted by thelonius at 6:23 AM on August 13, 2016 [1 favorite]


I have no love for McMansions or hunter green carpet (though I've no real problem with crown molding or brass fixtures) or whatever else. I don't love the scale of McMansions or their monstrous environmental footprint or how they're shoddily built (I know this from personal experience. My mother has lived in once since 1996) or how they're everywhere and they all look just the same. Which is exactly how everyone felt about the (currently trendy again) 1950s tract houses in the 1980s and 90s. And the Mid-Century Modern was seen as corrective to the flamboyance of Art Deco/Art Nouveau or their Victorian predecessors(which everyone passionately loathed until they didn't). It's trendy right now to love modernist houses and argue for brutalism and hate on gables and palladian windows, but that won't always be the case.

I see a lot of new construction that's super-boxy and modern. The brightly colored houses with industrial flourishes. The retro-style hotels and apartment buildings with butterfly roofs. And I think, in twenty years we'll be hating this shit too. It's enough to make a girl pretty darn satisfied that she can't afford to buy any of it.
posted by thivaia at 6:53 AM on August 13, 2016 [2 favorites]


I'm pretty amazed that huge apartment blocks now seem to be built the same way as individual residential units. I work across the street from a twin set of "luxury" five story apartment buildings that I watched getting built over the last three years and they're all wooden platform framed with the same 2x4s and 2x6s that you'd build a McMansion with. And they're charging $1200 a month to rent an efficiency in those fire traps.
posted by octothorpe at 7:03 AM on August 13, 2016 [1 favorite]


Loving this post. As an addendum, in the UK McMansions are very much associated with Premiership footballers, as this wonderfully scathing article in the Telegraph describes - one area is "A Bermuda triangle where all taste is sucked out of the sky."

It is nearly impossible to make a very large house look pretty.

One is going to have to respectfully disagree. Unless British stately homes are considered small by US standards?

I'm not denying that there aren't a few that are just complete messes (Dunrobin Castle I'm looking at you), and it does, for example, help if you check you have the money for both of the delightful symmetrical Adam wings before you build just one and make the place perpetually lopsided. But there are so many lovely huge houses (and I'm only thinking of ones in the UK, not even getting started on fabulous examples in other places) that I can't in any way see it as 'nearly impossible'.
posted by Vortisaur at 7:05 AM on August 13, 2016 [3 favorites]


And I think, in twenty years we'll be hating this shit too. It's enough to make a girl pretty darn satisfied that she can't afford to buy any of it.

In twenty years...? Hey, I'm ahead of the curve!
posted by Zalzidrax at 7:08 AM on August 13, 2016 [2 favorites]


Comparable to Schloss Neuschwanstein, I always think Brighton Pavilion is an objectively ugly building, but the world would be a poorer place without it. The occasional building which is ‘ugly’ but interesting makes the world a better place. There’s far too much slapdash ugliness and not enough exuberant, purposeful ugliness.
posted by Bloxworth Snout at 7:42 AM on August 13, 2016 [6 favorites]


Meanwhile, if you're willing to live in Davenport IA and have $300,000 or $350,000 to drop on a house, you have your choice of not one but two mansion-mansions.

Just got back from spending 2.5 weeks with my family and friends from HS and attending my 30 year HS reunion in the area. Theoretically in about a year I'll be empty-nested and free to move about the country, and moving back to the homeland at least for a while is still in the running as a possible next step. Of course, I've got no desire to heat/cool, maintain or furnish 5,000+ sq feet of space, but I'll admit I've drooled over those listings a few more times than is strictly speaking healthy.
posted by drlith at 7:48 AM on August 13, 2016 [2 favorites]


I grew up in a neighborhood of 90s-built McMansions (our house, at least, was more a colonial afflicted with a garage) so a lot of those houses looked eerily familiar. Try taking a spin down this street in Google Street View, which I have to drive every time I visit my parents, and marvel at the bronze eagles on gateposts and tacky faux chateaux you pass on the stretch between Bradley and Falls.

Now I live in a 1933 bungalow and cannot imagine wanting a house as big as the ones in my hometown.

(also it's the rare exception to the 'no closets' rule because all the under-the-roof space upstairs is GIANT closets. it's great! but I do wish my landlady took better care of it.)
posted by nonasuch at 8:16 AM on August 13, 2016


one thing that has driven Mrs. Photo guy and I nuts is the lack of architectural diversity here. We're both big fans of modern design (I love the Dutch house/mansion upthread) and have been surprised how hard it is to find here - virtually everything is the same bland sort-of colonial look (the few modern homes here are way out of our price range and/or too far from work). Neither of us are from the DC area, and everywhere else we've lived at least has some diversity in construction. Maybe it's the weird real-estate market here, I don't know.

It is a weird market. You've got 2 million transplants who both want to live in the city but are at the same time terrified of the "urban" environment and will pay more to live "in the city"...40miles away. DC itself has a lot of diversity in design, but it's pretty much limited to townhouses, and you'll pay for it. Northwest above Georgetown and into Tenlytown is great and full of gems, but you'll pay even more for it. Virginia is from what I can tell...not so lucky. With the possible exception of Old Town. And anything affordable its not really a matter of architecture, it's simply how much can you afford to pay in rent/mortgage versus how far you're willing to drive every day.

We were lucky to get into a affordable-ish red brick town house in (not Old Town) Alexandria, its just as unique as the 500 others around here, but hard to beat the location for us, and in DC cutting hours off a commute is worth architectural and space sacrifices. DC proper wasn't an option for us, we value having actual representation in Congress.
posted by T.D. Strange at 8:24 AM on August 13, 2016



I cannot help but think, though, that if the subject were grammar, there would be at least metaphorical knives being brandished and raw-throated screams of "Prescriptivist!" echoing across the thread.


But if this were a grammar thread, it would be about the Bulwer-Lytton Fiction Contest.
posted by ejs at 8:25 AM on August 13, 2016 [3 favorites]


Also, for heaven's sake, if you're going to build a mansion, at least have a little fun with it.
posted by thivaia at 8:46 AM on August 13, 2016 [7 favorites]


I consider myself a McMansion hater, but I actually liked some of the McMansions in the 101 thread more than some of the examples of the ideal.

The thing I don't like about McMansions is simply their bigness, which just looks laughable to me. My first exposure was in the 90s when my brother bought a house in an area developed with McMansions that all looked like they were trying to be the house from Giant, but quadruple the size, and I found it really amusing, but at least there was space between the houses. I always wondered how long before they were all converted to multi-family dwellings.

Later he moved to a gated community to an even bigger McMansion (formerly owned by a professional basketball player) with an average sized yard. It was great for family gatherings because everyone got their own room, and the open plan meant that all of us could gather in the same general space without being on top of each other. The gated part was slightly ridiculous because you could easily get in through shortcuts and, as I always said, you probably have more to worry about from the teenagers next door.

So... did McMansions really die in 2008? They seem to be still going strong.
posted by maggiemaggie at 8:53 AM on August 13, 2016 [1 favorite]


So... did McMansions really die in 2008? They seem to be still going strong.

There was a small dip in average new house sizes after 2008 but since then the increase has continued. The first graph in this short article about house size (and even more, square feet per occupant, since households are getting smaller) tells the whole story.

The thing I don't like about McMansions is simply their bigness, which just looks laughable to me.

The bigness and out-of-proportionness rub me the wrong way, but the few that I have been inside really stood out for their genuinely terrible layouts. Lots of square footage, but very poor use of space. I'm sure that there are much better designed houses also, but the ones I have been in were clearly designed around numbers and features, not livability -- there was clearly a checklist of items, from great room through granite counters, and as long as those were all included the actual layout and design were not factors.
posted by Dip Flash at 9:21 AM on August 13, 2016 [1 favorite]


I am baffled by the conflating of functional and quality questions, which get at houses being objectively bad and which are undoubtedly important, with appearance-from-the-street questions. I don't think I've ever lived anywhere that was pretty from the street by these standards, which is largely because I literally don't care about it AT ALL.

But there's something culturally classed about some of this that makes me squirm. Making judgments about someone who lives in a house based on how it looks from the street (like the claim that these houses are occupied by foolish people trying to show off) seems very dangerous to me. I've known lots of people who buy houses for lots of reasons, and they triangulate in so many ways -- where is work? Where is school? Where are relatives? How often do people stay over? How much ability to go off and be alone do people need? Do you want a big TV room? Do you own a piano? Does someone do yoga? Do you need a home office?

Assuming that the only reason a person in a house chose it is that they're a rube who doesn't know quality and wants to play at looking rich, which is an assumption that lives in a lot of "McMansion" critiques, puts me off, I admit.
posted by Linda_Holmes at 9:29 AM on August 13, 2016 [26 favorites]


Lots of square footage, but very poor use of space.

I worked in a lot of them in the '90s as a house painter and I swear that a third of the square footage never gets used. They always have a giant stair hall in the center that no one uses because no one ever uses the ornate front door. There are always two rooms to the left and right of that stair hall, the formal dining room and the formal living room that no one ever uses either. There's often a grand piano in the formal living room that no one has ever played.

As I said, the grand front door might as well be nailed shut because everyone uses the garage entrance because you can't fucking walk anywhere in those neighborhoods and there are no sidewalks so if you're getting to the house, it's by car. The two formal rooms might get used at Christmas or Thanksgiving but 99% of the time everyone hangs in the Great Room next to the kitchen.
posted by octothorpe at 9:30 AM on August 13, 2016 [10 favorites]


The secondary masses should never compete with the primary mass.
Even in New England?
posted by MtDewd at 9:43 AM on August 13, 2016 [1 favorite]


My brother now lives in a McMansion that's objectively bigger than any house I've ever actually been in in my life. After five years, they still haven't found a way to fill it with furniture, which drives me nuts because they got the place cheap (foreclosure). It's all-beige and insane cathedral ceiling and weird bathtub in the master bath and I still couldn't pick the place out of a lineup. The only reason I can find their house to this day is by location. Every house in their neighborhood looks exactly the same to me.

I love the guest bedroom in the fully finished basement though...but there's also a sauna down there they never use which makes me insanely jealous. People who don't like saunas should not be allowed to buy houses with them, because the Suomi Sauna gods are sad.
posted by RedEmma at 9:52 AM on August 13, 2016 [7 favorites]


I'm so tempted to post this to my gentrifying neighborhood's Nextdoor page.
posted by cmoj at 10:59 AM on August 13, 2016


Reading his comments is like reading the texts I get from my cousin, while he renovates his recently-purchased mid-80s home. A whole lot of "WHYYYYY"
posted by We put our faith in Blast Hardcheese at 11:01 AM on August 13, 2016


Now I'd like to see the same treatment for all the McModerns going up in my neighbourhood. Boxes on boxes, rarely a sense of presentation to the street, no porches, horizontal wooden slats everywhere that serve no weather proofing function (and with no sense of awareness of the fact that badly supported wood WILL warp). Often, the look is tied together with long narrow runs of aluminum cladding but all looks like shit because it can't be fabricated in a single piece- so sections are overlapped and caulked. Ick.
posted by bonobothegreat at 11:16 AM on August 13, 2016 [2 favorites]


We were recently shopping for a house and did our share of visiting open houses just for the shits-and-giggles of it. Among the weirder indulgences of the 21st century's upper middle class are multiple wet bars. One for parties or leisure time would be situated between the kitchen and visiting room, and another would be in the master bedroom or the master BR's private lounge area. Well, a private lounge area off the master BR is kind of a weird indulgence too. The realtor tried fobbing off the wet bar in one house's master BR as a "coffee station". Because every bespoke coffee station will offer a 30 bottle glass-door wine chiller I guess.

In the 1920s counterparts of McMansions we've seen, the captains of industry and law would install the wet bar at the top of a staircase leading to a stone-walled wine cellar. Local climate and geology wants to turn all basements here into indoor pools, but our ancestors were willing to work for their drinking.

The house we ended up buying was built in the mid-80s but the design is from books of the early-70s: 8' ceilings both upstairs and down (lending the larger rooms on the first floor a weirdly closed-in feeling), and all the windows are exactly the same. From the curb it looks like a hybrid colonial/Craftsman style that seems so generic that it's afraid of being noticed. It's in a small blue-collar neighborhood slowly being assimilated by the neighborhood of professionals at the end of the street: The neighborhood at the end of the street was built at the same time by the same developer but the houses are tonier: The architecture is more diverse, ceilings higher, floor plans more open, landscaping more individualized.

On the other hand those fancier 1980s houses have polybutylene plumbing -- the subject of a class-action lawsuit in the 90s since the pipes had a tendency to erode from the inside and burst, destroying walls and sometimes houses and sometimes the people who were in the houses at the time -- and Masonite siding,the subject of a different class-action lawsuit in the 90s. Our staid 1980s house has copper pipes and vinyl siding, sparing us some $30k in immediate repairs needed to prevent severe structural damage. Our house also lacks many of the oddly-angled and nonfunctional rooms that seem necessary to ensure that windows are all regularly spaced when seen from outside. On the whole, what we lost in curb appeal we gained in functionality and flexibility. Total win.
posted by ardgedee at 11:30 AM on August 13, 2016 [3 favorites]


To derail a bit, the thing about polybutylene plumbing was interesting. PB pipes were certified for residential plumbing after being tested at high levels of chlorine concentration, intended to simulate an accelerated exposure to common public water supplies. It turns out PB handles high concentrations of chlorine perfectly well. It's steady exposure to low concentration of chlorine and chloramines, as actually used in public water systems, that do damage.

It seems like hereabouts most of the homeowners who accepted the class action settlement treated it as free spending money rather than using it to fix their plumbing. Nearly every house we saw while hunting still had PB pipes if it had been built between 1978-1996. In the 1980s-era neighborhood next to ours with the nice houses, there was a rash of pipe failures about ten years ago.

The working-class houses with copper pipe have been doing OK.
posted by ardgedee at 12:40 PM on August 13, 2016


The working-class houses with copper pipe

They keep you doped on bay windows and pipes with PB
A lower-upper-middle-class plumber is something to be
posted by thelonius at 1:06 PM on August 13, 2016 [4 favorites]


What is it with the multiple roofline fetish on these houses? It makes them look messy and excessively mechanically complex, plus it seems like a waste of construction materials and money.

The explanation I have heard for these is that they are derived from France a couple centuries ago. The French aristocracy would buy as their summer vacation home a simple farmhouse because they admired their poor peasant character. But over the years they would add on first one room, then another room and another story until it had expanded into the multi-roof and angled monstrosity.

Fast forward to American in the 20th century and they copied the French farmhouse architecture complete with all of the ad hoc additions. Sort of cargo cult imitation without even knowing why or how it got that way.

It is a case of middle class people pretending to be rich aristocracy pretending to be peasants.
posted by JackFlash at 1:29 PM on August 13, 2016 [10 favorites]


I like the punching up arguments (McMansions are wasteful/too big/inefficient/create hostile communities) much more than the punching down arguments (McMansions are for undiscerning people without taste and class. Homes for low class people posing as high class). No shit McMansions aren't quality, if they were a quality product they wouldn't be so ubiquitous. people can't fucking afford architects and actual top tier materials.

Yeah it'd be nice if products across the board were better designed from a sustainability and efficiency perspective, sadly the incentive structure isn't there. $150sq/ft shitboxes look "nice" (but us cool kids really know they are actually hideously bourgeois) and they conform to all the building codes. Simply put, they get the job done and thats all that developers care about.

the people inhabiting those homes are just trying to raise their family in as "nice" of an environment as they can provide. the 1950s are over, this is the new "nice".
posted by forgettable at 4:00 PM on August 13, 2016 [3 favorites]


Behold my beautiful home, whose mortgage I will finish paying off in 24 more years.

I am not in envy of the poor McMansion workmanship that I'm reading about in this thread. But I am filled with envy for the McMansion storage space and roominess, for being big enough to actually have architectural flourishes or decoration, for their lawns and gardens and spaces for kids to play or adults to have barbeques. I am also filled with envy for the people in this thread and on the Internet in general for whom these aspects of housing are so commonplace that they can look down at these houses as laughably bad instead of as unattainable dreams.
posted by Bugbread at 5:11 PM on August 13, 2016 [11 favorites]


Yeah, I grew up and am still living in a medium sized Victorian and jesus crackers I would kill a man for some goddamn granite countertops. Granite can be cleaned with bleach. It will not absorb the juices from raw meat. It will never grow mold. If I take a pot from the stove and place it on the granite countertop, it will not be damaged.

I would love a fucking island in the kitchen instead of just a tabletop, for all the same reasons, plus one: tables get wobbly. When I place a blender or mixer on the table, or the dishwasher (which is freestanding) the whole fucking thing wobbles back and forth.

I fucking hate the goddamn freestanding dishwasher because we have nowhere to put it other than right in front of the sink, and it's a pain in the ass to wheel it around because our floor is uneven old linoleum, which I also hate, and get this: THE DISHWASHER DOESN'T EVEN WORK anymore, can't afford a new one, we just keep it there because we need the goddamn working space. So everyday I wrestle it over the stupid fucking linoleum to get like three inches of space where I can stand and wash dishes. And then I wrestle it back over those three inches.

The actual countertops are fucking particle board with a surface that looks like craft paper and they are entirely occupied with the following: one toaster, one coffeemaker, and one dish rack. That's all that will fucking fit. The crockpot and the microwave are actually too tall to fit under the cabinets.

It has the ugliest '70s color scheme.

I have been in my fair share of McMansions and their kitchens are a fucking joy and there's a lot of architectural sins I would put up with to have one.
posted by Rainbo Vagrant at 5:46 PM on August 13, 2016 [8 favorites]


Sorry, I didn't realize how much I needed to talk about that.

(the floors in the bathrooms are also linoleum)
posted by Rainbo Vagrant at 5:58 PM on August 13, 2016 [9 favorites]


I am also filled with envy for the people in this thread and on the Internet in general for whom these aspects of housing are so commonplace that they can look down at these houses as laughably bad instead of as unattainable dreams.

Well, like, this time last year I was telling my out-of-town friend that she could stay on my couch but only if she wasn't freaked out by the fact that I had to set out mousetraps, and that I'd been treated for bed bugs but was really sure they were gone now. So it IS an unattainable dream to live in a nice big house, but at the same time --

-- Well, there's the comforting fantasy of "if I were rich, I would spend it in useful, sensible, tasteful ways!" and the comforting fantasy of "even though I do not have money, I have other compensating assets, like being able to tell the difference between nice houses and ugly houses."

And there's good old-fashioned class resentment which I cannot project on people living in the kinds of houses that I like, because I like to imagine myself being rich and living in that kind of house, so all my "Ugh, income inequality is destroying our society" thoughts get projected on people living in expensive houses that I don't like.

And there's a genuine concern that huge houses on huge lots are a big problem in terms of environmentalism and urban development.

I've lived in some crap, crap, crap apartments. I've lived in an apartment where a rainstorm soaked through one of my walls and it took so much yelling at my landlord to get it fixed. So forgive me for deriving a little mean-spirited satisfaction from the crap houses that people much richer than me live in.
posted by Jeanne at 6:15 PM on August 13, 2016 [7 favorites]


When I was reading this I was definitely thinking "Am I scoffing for real or is this sour grapes for something I'll never have?" Personally I'm doing both. But I think it's fine for someone who really dislikes a particular style to write about why if they can articulate it as clearly as this author does. I didn't pick up that the target of his ire was towards people who really liked this style of this house.
posted by bleep at 6:29 PM on August 13, 2016 [2 favorites]


And decently-sized kitchens, but not too big, because people were actually doing work in those kitchens; they have great dimensions and practical workflow arrangements. The kitchens were about making dinner, not casually grilling bruschetta in a stagey manner while your friends sample a light Chardonnay, or presenting the illusion of gourmet cooking by displaying tens of thousands of dollars worth of kitchen equipment while spending 80% of nights heating up frozen pizza or bringing home Boston Market.

I kinda agree...ish, but I don't wanna be too dismissive about yuppies grilling things, because I've worked on renovating some large and small Victorian houses, and they've gone thru some interesting class evolutions, from the original Upstairs/Downstairs "servants are seen but not heard", then sometimes infinitely subdivided into tiny rental rooms, and then into the recent trendy concept where support beams turn the main floor into an open-ish concept where the front parlour and back kitchen fuse into an inviting main floor space, which is really quite nice when it's done well.

Those old houses often had nice structure, I could say as having slightly altered or ripped up some of them. We have literally doffed our hats at some of the ancient workmanship that we've seen. Outdated technology, but with nice attention to detail, and the state of the art at the time.

The main article above mostly fusses about aesthetic things, and there is a very interesting discussion about the interesting co-relation of technical aspects and aesthetics, that has been commented on above.

Technically speaking, from the suburban monster homes that I've actually been in, if I was a big bad wolf, I could just fart and blow them down.
posted by ovvl at 6:41 PM on August 13, 2016 [1 favorite]


I am also filled with envy for the people in this thread and on the Internet in general for whom these aspects of housing are so commonplace that they can look down at these houses as laughably bad instead of as unattainable dreams.

This is a good point. I'm living in new construction for the first time in my adult life. It's an apartment, not a big house, but it shares a lot of the aesthetic that the FPP discusses, just in the boxy contemporary "urban infill pseudo-luxury apartments" version. But at the same time, there is a lot that I am enjoying about things like big closets, open kitchen layout, and lots of electrical outlets in every room. All my extension cords are packed in a box, instead of running around the living room walls like in our last place, for example, and it's lovely having appliances that are standard sizes and work well.

I wish the place was cheaper and the aesthetic crimes rub me the wrong way, but I don't at all wish for any of the small irritations of older places like dodgy wiring and no insulation. A lot of the criticisms of McMansions and fancy apartment buildings are valid, but there can be a tone-deafness as well.
posted by Dip Flash at 7:25 PM on August 13, 2016 [5 favorites]


ovvl: "Technically speaking, from the suburban monster homes that I've actually been in, if I was a big bad wolf, I could just fart and blow them down."

Well this applied to most houses built 100, 200, 300 years ago too it's just that survivor bias and/or continuous improvement and maintenance means you generally only see the most well built examples from hundreds of years ago. All those tar paper shacks, sod houses, and poorly sealed log cabins have been torn down or succumbed to the elements.
posted by Mitheral at 9:17 PM on August 13, 2016 [6 favorites]


" (McMansions are for undiscerning people without taste and class. Homes for low class people posing as high class) [...] Yeah it'd be nice if products across the board were better designed from a sustainability and efficiency perspective, sadly the incentive structure isn't there."

Well, probably part of the necessary incentive structure that'll eventually kill McMansions is when people constantly point out that they're terrifically gauche. People don't stop conspicuously consuming status markers until it's pointed out that their status marker is actually a lack-of-taste marker and therefore failing as a status marker.

"I am also filled with envy for the people in this thread and on the Internet in general for whom these aspects of housing are so commonplace that they can look down at these houses as laughably bad instead of as unattainable dreams."

A lot of these "starter mansions" are going to be (or are already becoming!) the low-income housing of the future. Huge, gigantic spaces with falling-down walls and leaky roofs and doors that don't shut. They're aesthetically offensive, it's true, and it's freaking annoying when people who can afford something well-designed buy something aesthetically offensive that the rest of us have to look at (i.e., buildings). But they're also horrible for the environment, terribly built, flimsy, expensive to maintain, etc., and while they may be unattainable dreams but for the wealthy few right now, in ten or twenty years they're going to be the ridiculously unmaintainable housing with absurd heating bills and shitty commutes for the poor. They're so poorly built that entire exurbs of them just get abandoned when the first owners move out for another newly-built exurb of McMansions, and then they get picked up on the cheap in foreclosure sales and so on.

(And I gotta say, I've got some friends that moved into McMansions with the big paychecks, and they are constantly, constantly spending absurd amounts of money on roof repairs and appliance replacements and so on. Some of them are so "house poor" that they have a huge McMansion with gorgeous granite countertops ... and NO FURNITURE. Like, they've been there five years and still can't afford a couch, because everything they save up for furniture goes into repairs or heat. These places are treadmill money-sucks.)

Terrible housing is bad for everyone, not just the people who currently live in it. Not only do McMansions make your community ugly, but they increase your sewer costs, lengthen the busing time for your kids to get to school, degrade community relationships and decrease walkability, lengthen commutes, increase stormwater runoff, drive out affordable housing, and make credit harder to acquire for lower-income home buyers. The people buying them get mortgage deductions while sucking down a disproportionate share of taxes for roads and sewers; when they're abandoned in 15 years, the renters won't get the deductions AND will pay the now-higher tax rates for the maintenance of those neighborhoods. Why the hell should YOUR taxes go up to pay for some dude with a McMansion to have a 3-car garage and 200 feet of frontage while your road goes unrepaired because the city can't afford to repair it? (The answer is, city councils universally believe that new development for rich people will solve their problems, and when the rich people abandon the development because of rising taxes to pay for the expensive infrastructure required by new, large, suburban-style development, they will then annex more land for a newer, bigger, more expensive development. IT NEVER ACTUALLY WORKS but every city in America that isn't already landlocked has this development pattern.)
posted by Eyebrows McGee at 9:20 PM on August 13, 2016 [43 favorites]


I must say, in my hierarchy of guilts, unfairly mocking folks with million-dollar houses is pretty low on the scale.
posted by chortly at 11:24 PM on August 13, 2016 [15 favorites]


But the thing of "oh, I could only dream of having the space and the countertops, why insult McMansions you classist snobs" bit is that it is perfectly possible to dream of and indeed to build large nice houses. If you go about ten blocks south of me to the richer neighborhood, it's all beautiful houses - early 20th century, big, well-maintained, attractive outside and in. My dream house is one of those, or maybe an ultra-modern environmentally sound house.

Sure, if you feel emotionally attached to what McMansions represent to you personally, fine, but it's not like the only way to have storage and granite counter tops is to build everything else out of cardboard and toothpicks. For me, in my old, old house that literally has big holes in the plaster on the stairs because the needed repair is so large and complex that we will have to hire specialists instead of doing it ourselves and anything that is not rewiring or emergency fixes is last on our list, a McMansion is no more out of reach than one of the nice houses to the south, so why not dream of something I'd actually want?
posted by Frowner at 6:27 AM on August 14, 2016 [10 favorites]


I have a friend who bought a McMansion because it was in a development close enough to allow her to walk to work. She gave my sister and I a tour, and while we were marveling at bedroom after bedroom, the football field size kitchen and mezzanine walkway above the living room she finally plaintively remarked, "This was the smallest one they had."
posted by lagomorphius at 8:30 AM on August 14, 2016 [4 favorites]


Yeah these things are the worst of both words, they're terribly expensive and super shitty in addition to being eyesores filled with wasted space.
posted by The Whelk at 9:13 AM on August 14, 2016


Well, look. It's a free country and people can spend their damn fool money on any damn fool thing they please.

When I see these McMansions, I don't feel anger or disgust or anything like that. It's more an acute sense of disconnection. A discordance of values. What is it that makes people want a house that's so much bigger than what they need? I mean, it's one thing if you have 4 kids. Okay, sure, then go for the 5 bedroom house with the 3 car garage. But a family with 1 or 2 kids? What do they need this big house for? With rooms they never use? Furniture they never sit on? What is the point?

I think somewhere along the way, "big house" became a suburban American signifier of Success. A very visible sign that you Made It. Anyone who drives by your house can tell, without knowing anything about you at all, that the person who lives in this house is a Success.

Anecdotally, my parents moved us into a big house they couldn't afford when I was a young teen. Not only did we have money problems, but my parents could not in any way keep up with the Joneses socially. They just didn't have the same kind of money to throw around; didn't come from the same background. Honestly, we'd have been a much happier family if we'd bought a smaller house in a neighborhood where people made the same money as my dad.
posted by panama joe at 9:22 AM on August 14, 2016 [8 favorites]


My main objection to McMansions isn't what they are but where they are. They're built way out in the ex-urbs to escape city taxes but the owners drive into the city to work every day on highways that my taxes help pay for and then they write letters to the editor bitching that they have to pay to park in the city.
posted by octothorpe at 9:27 AM on August 14, 2016 [16 favorites]


Well, specifically in this thread someone was mocking granite countertops as being a wasteful taste marker, and that's what I was responding to. I just got carried away.

I am fully on board with mocking bad aesthetics, and bad design, and it doesn't even need to be morally bad in order to be mockable. But some of the mockery just doesn't land right. Having your friends in the kitchen, sipping wine and keeping you company while you make dinner, is really fucking nice. Having 12 foot ceilings is really nice for functional reasons- it makes it easy to move furniture and you get more bookshelf height. There's this one fancy stove I saw with a grill inset that I'd totally go for. And In that tumblr there was this nice parquet floor that was specifically mocked for I have no idea what. Point is: I disagree on certain minor points and I have to say so
posted by Rainbo Vagrant at 10:01 AM on August 14, 2016 [6 favorites]


Almost everything in bad McMansion design started out as a good idea though. Granite countertops are extremely good for cleaning and chopping... but you dont need 300 sq.ft. of them. High ceilings are nice, when they dont take up 1/3 of the usable space on the second floor. These useful and functional things become trends, which then become checklists by builders to implement, knowing full well that the people buying don't care if any of these class markers are functional. This is how you end up with beautiful kitchens where the layout is so large and screwed up you feel like you're doing laps at the track while baking (sink, stove and fridge all equidistant from each other with a giant island in between them). I highly recommend the old book The Encyclopedia of Bad Taste which does a good job of explaining how good things put together in a slapdash or thoughtless way turn into class markers specifically because they are aspirational.
posted by benzenedream at 11:20 AM on August 14, 2016 [10 favorites]


I worked in a lot of them in the '90s as a house painter and I swear that a third of the square footage never gets used.

There's often a grand piano in the formal living room that no one has ever played.

How can you know this for sure when you were only there for a short time?
posted by futz at 12:16 PM on August 14, 2016


futz: when it still has the shipping protections making it unplayable. Have not noticed this in a private house, did once run into it in a hotel. (Is it even surprising? AskMefi has plenty of people who have bought the instrument they want to be able to play and yet can't get themselves to practice, ever.)

Mitheral, while there has probably been a filter keeping the better houses from the past alive (mostly ... Penn Station is still gone and not all WWII temporary housing is), it is *also* the case that modern financialization encourages shoddy flashy building. When capital was not world-spanning, it was more sensible for city-scale magnates to invest by building buildings for their own use or enterprises. Material was relatively more expensive, but often that meant it was a better bet to build durable buildings because they wouldn't need complete teardowns every generation.

I don't think the original article did a great job of distinguishing between McMansions as tactics to extract civic wealth, cf. Eyebrows McGee above; McMansions as a second-best but only available style for buyers, cf. lagomorphuis' friend; McMansions as structurally incompetent buildings, as in my coworkers' examples; and McMansions as gestures at a vaguely Tuscan romantic style. The first three are actual harms to the world, the last seems like what the OA spends most time on.

I am curious whether the floorplans that people have experienced as useless and wasteful are different from the floorplans people have experienced as roomy and useful! Different lives? Different environments? Different designs?
posted by clew at 3:07 PM on August 14, 2016 [1 favorite]


futz: "I worked in a lot of them in the '90s as a house painter and I swear that a third of the square footage never gets used.

There's often a grand piano in the formal living room that no one has ever played.

How can you know this for sure when you were only there for a short time?
"

Well yeah, I didn't know that for sure but it was usually obvious that nothing in those formal rooms was there to be used, they were just there to be seen. I mean the kids weren't usually even allowed in there and everything was perfectly arranged like a movie set, not like a room that anyone lived in. Also, you'd be surprised at how long painters might be hanging out working on one huge fucking house. I spent months in some places that were getting total makeovers even though they were only a few year old.
posted by octothorpe at 4:10 PM on August 14, 2016 [4 favorites]


Super interesting. Thanks!
posted by turbid dahlia at 5:39 PM on August 14, 2016


I’ve been in some actual mansions, both the historical ones that allow tourists such as the set in Newport, RI, as well as some southern New England ones (the Connecticut Lindbergh estate, a couple of more-modern pre-McMansion builds in the same area, some mansion-style farmhouses in New Hampshire when I hung out with the old-money set up there.)

One thing that stuck me was the quality of the builds in those places. The Newport mansions, in addition to the marble and exotic wood floors, all had quarter sawn white oak used to make the servants’ staircases, something the owners and guests would never see. The servants quarters, while plain and carpeted with oilcloth, were also floored with solid quarter sawn oak. In New Hampshire, these century old farmhouses had solid oak flooring, 18” wide or more, plus beams and clapboards strong enough to make ships, let alone keep out the weather. The Lindbergh mansion was where they lived, not where they entertained, so was cluttered with all sorts of fascinating memorabilia, which the house could easily support as it was solid stone on the outside, slate and lead roof, fieldstone walls, finished granite on the corners, with stone arches carefully built of fieldstone wherever needed, all clearly designed to last generations. All of these had lots of windows, usually facing nice scenic views.

I now live in northern Virginia, and I remember driving past all these McMansions now littering the place as they were being built: framed-in walls, often left exposed to the elements for months or even years until the builder could get around to adding roofs or exterior walls, or at the other extreme foundations poured and construction finished at a rate that meant everything was wet and green when it was assembled. Six car garages with a 5-bedroom house attached, with 7 bathrooms and no windows not facing the road. Entire walled divisions of .45 acre footprint houses on .5 acre lots, the windows staring at the neighbor's windows from a few feet away. I'll take my picayune ranch that I (single bachelor) rattle around in over any of those.
posted by Blackanvil at 9:00 AM on August 15, 2016 [3 favorites]


What is it that makes people want a house that's so much bigger than what they need? I mean, it's one thing if you have 4 kids. Okay, sure, then go for the 5 bedroom house with the 3 car garage. But a family with 1 or 2 kids? What do they need this big house for? With rooms they never use? Furniture they never sit on? What is the point?

With 2 kids, that would be Mom's car, Dad's car, Kid1's car, Kid2's car. Oops, better draw straws for whoever's car is outside (hope it's not winter storm season!) At least, once those kids are over 16, and, presumably, want to spend their summer job money on a 15 year old Corolla to drive to their friends' houses.

Also, it's really nice to have a guest bedroom or two for visitors. I'm glad that my in-laws have a fairly (but not absurdly) large house because it makes visits a lot more comfortable. I wish my wife and I had a larger place, for hosting family from far away.

Different strokes, etc. Some (not all) of those tumblr pictures are a bit much though.
posted by theorique at 11:34 AM on August 15, 2016


My brother now lives in a McMansion that's objectively bigger than any house I've ever actually been in in my life. After five years, they still haven't found a way to fill it with furniture, which drives me nuts because they got the place cheap (foreclosure).

An old friend had a 5000 square foot McMansion (in the outer-ring 'burbs of Northern Virginia, natch) and it was one of the most uncomfortable places I've ever been in. The living room had a "cathedral ceiling," which translated into this one 20-by-15 room having a wall of windows two stories high, terrible acoustics, and an awkward layout because of course the living room melted right into the open-plan kitchen. The living room was a terrible place to gather -- too hot or too cold, depending on the weather, too noisy, no way to lay out furniture to accommodate the flow of people between the kitchen and the main room.

The whole house felt uncomfortable -- simultaneously too big (the bathrooms with the giant octagonal tubs) and lacking useful space (not enough storage, no decent cabinets or countertops). It seemed like a lonely place to live.

I do wonder, though, if the children raised in these McMansions will feel more comfortable in them as adults than I do now.
posted by sobell at 12:26 PM on August 15, 2016


I grew up in smallish houses and apartments, but a lot of my friends growing up lived in these things (or the southwest version of same). I remember thinking they were, well, expensive, which they were, but always feeling vaguely depressed about the unrelenting beigeness. There's something about all those beige-carpeted rooms with the super-tall doors and the overly dramatic staircases that just, ugh. Even as a child who wasn't yet worried about clearing cobwebs out of those damn ceiling vaults or muffling bedroom noises.
I'm about to move into a little old rowhome and I couldn't be more excited about it.
posted by you're a kitty! at 12:46 PM on August 15, 2016


My main objection to McMansions isn't what they are but where they are. They're built way out in the ex-urbs

That may be true in some areas, but there are tons of counter-examples. The city of Los Angeles has a lot of McMansions. (My neighborhood is slowly being converted, since the lots are worth $1.5M or more, so people tear down the tiny/old houses and build a large house on the lot. Which is honestly what I would do if I could afford to actually buy a house in my area....)
posted by thefoxgod at 7:31 PM on August 15, 2016


"But a family with 1 or 2 kids? What do they need this big house for? With rooms they never use?"

I sometimes actually ask people this! (Because lo I am nosy, but I try to ask it in a non-judgy way.) The answers are always some variation on "resale value" or "good schools." (Except for my disgraced congressman, where the answer turned out to be "hiding illegal campaign contributions via the home purchase" but that seems like an outlier.) The "good schools" people often say, "Well, we only have to live here for ten years, it's fine, then we can move wherever once the kids are in high school and get something we actually like." But the resale people make me think of a pyramid scheme, or a tulip mania, where a family with one kid buys a gigantic house with five bedrooms so they can resell it to another family with one kid who can resell it to another family with one kid, property value appreciating and appreciating as everyone buys the same relatively useless investment until eventually everyone realizes at once that a) they don't need that much space and this is dumb or b) there's a price shock in natural gas and nobody can afford to heat them, and then everyone will wonder why the only damn thing you could buy was five-bedroom cookie-cutter mini-mansions that suited HARDLY ANYONE instead of a large variety of housing types and sizes among which were five-bedroom mini mansions but did not consist exclusively of that.

"The whole house felt uncomfortable -- simultaneously too big (the bathrooms with the giant octagonal tubs) and lacking useful space (not enough storage, no decent cabinets or countertops). "

Yeah, that's a good description. There's a real outside-in-ness to these places, where instead of saying "let's design a space that's useful to humans and then make it pretty!" the builders say "let's design a space that's pretty and if it's incidentally useful to humans, bonus." (My personal pet peeve is the trend for the master bedroom to be in a "separate wing" for privacy from the kids, which in practice means it's RIGHT BEHIND THE KITCHEN or RIGHT BEHIND THE TV WALL IN THE GREAT ROOM, so if your kids ever have sleepovers or anyone over past 10 p.m. you can listen to the endless noise in the public rooms and not sleep. It's a nice, marketable idea, that as rendered DOES NOT WORK AT ALL.)
posted by Eyebrows McGee at 7:39 PM on August 15, 2016 [4 favorites]


ovvl: "Technically speaking, from the suburban monster homes that I've actually been in, if I was a big bad wolf, I could just fart and blow them down."

Well this applied to most houses built 100, 200, 300 years ago too it's just that survivor bias and/or continuous improvement and maintenance means you generally only see the most well built examples from hundreds of years ago. All those tar paper shacks, sod houses, and poorly sealed log cabins have been torn down or succumbed to the elements.
posted by Mitheral at 9:17 PM on August 13 [4 favorites +] [!]


Sigh.
posted by ovvl at 8:45 PM on August 15, 2016


Eyebrows McGee: " then everyone will wonder why the only damn thing you could buy was five-bedroom cookie-cutter mini-mansions that suited HARDLY ANYONE instead of a large variety of housing types and sizes among which were five-bedroom mini mansions but did not consist exclusively of that."

Well long term the good news is a 5 bedroom 6 bath house is pretty easy to subdivide into two or three units or more.
posted by Mitheral at 9:10 PM on August 15, 2016 [1 favorite]


Ye gods, my fresh off the boat H1B ex sister in law and her friends all found one each of these as soon as they got their green cards. They were status symbols among the crowd that came over in peak bodyshopping.
posted by infini at 9:36 AM on August 16, 2016


There's a real outside-in-ness to these places, where instead of saying "let's design a space that's useful to humans and then make it pretty!" the builders say "let's design a space that's pretty and if it's incidentally useful to humans, bonus."

Especially if they're filling up all the ground space of a tiny lot. I'm not even sure if they're pretty spaces. They're often ones where things only line up if you spend all your time in the specific places where the promo photos were taken, like a giant optical illusion.

It's the ugly collision of bad zoning laws, mediocre CAD, cheap materials and fast-food building methods. The only saving grace is that they're built to be easily knocked down in 30 years, but the problem of rotting suburbs is going to stick around for a while.
posted by holgate at 3:13 PM on August 16, 2016 [2 favorites]


the good news is a 5 bedroom 6 bath house is pretty easy to subdivide into two or three units or more

Well, maybe, depending on how the space is arranged. Some Victorian mansions split up well, some didn't, and they weren't designed as open-plan.
posted by clew at 3:42 PM on August 16, 2016


Oops, better draw straws for whoever's car is outside (hope it's not winter storm season!)

Anyone who lives in an area that's regularly walloped by snow knows the correct procedure is to park far down one's driveway, nose of car as close as possible to driveway entrance (with enough allowance for snow plow) with windshield wipers up and off windshield. Who wants to spend fuckin' hours shovelling or snowblowing an acre of driveway at dark o'clock in the morning just to be able to get to work? No. Remote start car, deal with a few feet of snowplow windrow while car is warming up, scrape windshield if necessary, get into warm car and go.
posted by Klaxon Aoooogah at 4:55 PM on August 16, 2016


clew: "they weren't designed as open-plan."

Open plans are easier; you can add dividing walls wherever you want without being constrained by the original layout.
posted by Mitheral at 5:00 PM on August 16, 2016 [2 favorites]


Klaxon Aoooogah: "Remote start car"

Wait, what? This is a thing now? That's cool!
posted by Bugbread at 6:32 PM on August 16, 2016


there's something culturally classed about some of this that makes me squirm.

Yeah, to some degree. "New money, garish houses" has a long history, though: Alexander Pope (who had a neat Palladian villa in Twickenham) wrote a poem about them in the 1730s: "Lo, what huge heaps of littleness around! / The whole a labour’d quarry above ground."

But there's also a history of post-WW2 'modest houses' -- often public housing or built to allow state-subsidised mortgages, but not always -- built to high standards because those houses were meant to last with minimal repair and renovation for 50+ years. Australian post-war home architecture is interesting here: the Small Homes Service, under the guidance of Robin Boyd, commissioned architects to create plans for smaller and more affordable houses in a variety of styles that could then be passed on to builders. Only 50 copies of each set of plans were sold, so the design you chose would be distinctive and another home like it was unlikely to show up nearby. It was also a useful way for younger architects to build up a portfolio.

Checklist identikit building is made to be built and sold quickly so that the money can be churned into more identikit building. Ten years on, you'll have forgotten who built it, and the people who built it will be glad you have forgotten.
posted by holgate at 6:34 PM on August 16, 2016 [3 favorites]


Bugbread, it's definitely a thing in Canada and has been for some time now. In my part of the country, minus 25 to minus 40 Celsius is not unusual in the winter.
posted by Klaxon Aoooogah at 7:31 PM on August 16, 2016 [1 favorite]


Also useful when it is +35C and your work parking isn't shaded. Start the car a couple minutes before you leave and the interior is bareable.
posted by Mitheral at 8:23 PM on August 16, 2016 [1 favorite]


the good news is a 5 bedroom 6 bath house is pretty easy to subdivide into two or three units or more

Except that most suburban municipalities would probably rather bulldoze the buildings than let poor people live there.
posted by octothorpe at 8:25 PM on August 16, 2016


Open plans are easier; you can add dividing walls wherever you want without being constrained by the original layout.

But I've suffered in the parcelled-off interior rooms with no direct heat or light, and terrible airflow. Retrofitting everything into a built volume is evidently difficult or not cheap or both.
posted by clew at 10:07 PM on August 16, 2016


I grew up in this house, , which my father built with his own two hands from pouring the foundation to putting on the roof (except the plumbing. He hired a plumber.) It was built in 1975, when cathedral ceilings were a rare and exciting thing. The main living area is a big box; the peak of the ceiling is 26' high. There's a loft over half of it.

The bedrooms, thank goodness, are in a split level section at the back, so they are private.

Growing up in this house means I was one of the first generation to be cold all the time in my own home. I didn't find out until I grew up and moved out that it was possible to be warm in your own house during the fall and winter. It also took me a long time after I grew up and moved out to realize what a badly-designed house it was.

The big open square was half living room, and the other half was a kitchen and dining area. The kitchen was a decent size, was well-designed, and worked fine. The dining area was a reasonable size. But half of it being the living "room" meant that that space was a long, narrow rectangle. My mom set up a comfortable are with couches, chairs, and TV, that took up just over half the space. The other half had my spinet piano in it, and eventually a table under a window. It was very hard to arrange to be useable.

Of course, it didn't help that you couldn't get to a bathroom without going up or down a half-flight of stairs. If you were watching TV in the loft—which was also long and narrow, so at least half of it was going unused—you had to go down a flight and a half to pee. I don't know whose clever idea it was to have the only full baths accessible only through the bedrooms. (Actually, I do. My dad's cousin, who was an architect, designed it.) My parents' bedroom had its own bath; my brother and I had a bathroom in between our bedrooms. There was a fourth bedroom. A person living in it could have gone down a full flight of stairs to pee in the half-bath on the lower level, but would have had to go through one of the other bedrooms to get to a shower. It was a house that was built to be impressive but it was not very functional. My dad's cousin was clearly ahead of his time as a residential architect.
posted by not that girl at 9:30 PM on August 17, 2016 [5 favorites]


As for granite, I think I've said before here that it's nice for headstones and boneyards is where it should stay. Apparently, some types give off unsafe levels of radiation.
posted by Klaxon Aoooogah at 10:30 AM on August 18, 2016


the only full baths [are] accessible only through the bedrooms

Wait, are you saying this is an inherently bad idea, or just bad because the 'public' half bath wasn't conveniently located near the common public space? I can't think of a great reason to place a shower or bath adjacent to a common space rather than off a bedroom.

One of my friend's parents' McMansions has a full bath sort of awkwardly pasted into the open-plan main living area, which means a guest exiting the bathroom after a shower confronts the living room, kitchen, foyer, and dining area. That would be much better as a half bath.
posted by a halcyon day at 7:16 PM on August 18, 2016


Um, does every bedroom get its own bathroom? Because everybody needs to use the shower.

(also i have literally never lived anywhere with a bathroom that opened into a bedroom)
posted by Rainbo Vagrant at 7:32 PM on August 18, 2016


It's pretty common in above average cost homes for every bedroom to have either it's own bathroom or a bathroom shared with another bathroom. So a three bedroom place with have 2.5 baths; one off the master, one shared with the other two bedrooms and the half bath off the common area for guests.
posted by Mitheral at 8:37 PM on August 18, 2016 [1 favorite]


Wait, are you saying this is an inherently bad idea, or just bad because the 'public' half bath wasn't conveniently located near the common public space? I can't think of a great reason to place a shower or bath adjacent to a common space rather than off a bedroom.

Having at least one bath/shower that can be accessed without going through a bedroom helps when you have multiple guests, so maybe someone is sleeping on the sofa or in the den. We are firmly in the realm of "first world problems" here, but it's a design oversight that happens quite often.
posted by Dip Flash at 5:38 AM on August 19, 2016


Having at least one bath/shower that can be accessed without going through a bedroom helps when you have multiple guests, so maybe someone is sleeping on the sofa or in the den.

My parent's house has the bathroom for the master bedroom open into the bedroom (through a walk-through closet) and the living room (through the laundry room). It's the worst of all possible worlds, since you can never be sure the right combination of doors will be closed or open to both signal whether the bathroom is available (knocking barely works because of the distance from the door to the toilet) and ensure the privacy of everyone not using the bathroom. If I don't have a full headcount of everyone I know is in the house, I just go upstairs where there's a normal bathroom with one door that adjoins a hall.
posted by Bulgaroktonos at 6:25 AM on August 19, 2016 [1 favorite]


To be fair, back in the 70s, there were A LOT of newspaper articles about the woes of then-shoddy construction. Wobbly floors, leaks algore, aluminum wiring, drafts, etc.

I believe that today we're experiencing survivor bias, and exposure to social media makes it worse. It sounds like today's houses are built poorly, will be falling down 20-30 years later, and is the worst ever. We see that, and are exposed to that, via social media/the Internet more. What we forget, however, is that back then, people were saying the same things. And those houses are still standing today. Some were torn down, sure, but a majority survived. The same will happen to today's McMansions, I'm sure of it.

Here's some example links to newspapers on Google which demonstrate this:

https://news.google.com/newspapers?nid=2519&dat=19720920&id=lGxeAAAAIBAJ&sjid=f2ENAAAAIBAJ&pg=875,2437064

https://news.google.com/newspapers?nid=1876&dat=19790103&id=PkEsAAAAIBAJ&sjid=v80EAAAAIBAJ&pg=6821,323299

https://news.google.com/newspapers?nid=1309&dat=19920924&id=YmNPAAAAIBAJ&sjid=KZADAAAAIBAJ&pg=6917,1427476

https://news.google.com/newspapers?nid=1915&dat=19640504&id=xQ8iAAAAIBAJ&sjid=uXEFAAAAIBAJ&pg=4590,489856

https://news.google.com/newspapers?nid=1290&dat=19921021&id=1_xTAAAAIBAJ&sjid=zYwDAAAAIBAJ&pg=5356,2972532

Not trying to minimize what people today are experiencing. Yes, McMansions can be built poorly. Does that mean they won't last? Not necessarily. Repairs, etc., will help the longevity of them. Survivor's bias enables us to forget that this kind of thing (complaints about new construction) isn't new, and has been going on for decades. It's very easy to forget that fact, IMHO.
posted by dubious_dude at 12:57 PM on August 22, 2016 [4 favorites]


One would have to do a survival analysis of houses by cohort to figure out if all decades were really equally reliable. There have been trends running steadily since the 1970s that hold up even though people complain about them -- the stagnation of labor income in the US, for instance. That would even help explain successively cheaper houses.

although, googling a bit, what I got was a finding that houses built in the 1960s and 1970s use more electricity. And somewhere a result that 1970s houses more often had cinderblock foundations which have a higher propensity to crack.
posted by clew at 2:13 AM on August 23, 2016


For anyone interested, the Tumblr in the FPP is still updating every Sunday and now has a Faceboo, Twitter, and Instagram. http://www.mcmansionhell.com/post/149507599491/follow-mcmansionhell-on-other-platforms
posted by Rainbo Vagrant at 8:26 AM on August 26, 2016


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