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What Is A McMansion?

McMansion is a derogatory term used to describe overly large and costly mass-produced homes that are lacking architectural authenticity or class.

Deeper Definition

“McMansion” is a word that was coined in the 1980s by architects and architecture critics at a time when some developers built houses without the guidance of an architect. It is a pun derived from the fast-food chain restaurant, McDonald’s. The word is was used to describe poorly designed, oversized, and expensive homes.

McMansion was built to give middle-class homeowners an experience of luxurious housing that was previously available to one those in the upper class. They were often built with cheap materials and were poorly designed. The aim of the houses was not to offer a place to live but to serve as a status symbol.

McMansions are very costly to maintain. The massive size forces homeowners to spend a fortune on maintenance fees and utility bills. Also, due to being typically situated in suburban locales, homeowners may have to spend more on transportation to city centers.

From the 1980s through the early 2000s, they were popular and considered a status symbol until the Great Recession in 2007. The recession brought a decline in economic activity and McMansions became equated to living beyond one’s means. Many of the homeowners lost their homes due to accumulated mortgage debts.

A McMansion is characterized by some of these features:

  • Over-sized buildings in proportion to the neighborhood. 
  • Bizarre mixture of roof styles
  • Bizarre mixture of architectural details 
  • Grand open spaces that are rarely used
  • Low-quality building material

McMansion Example

McMansions often appear in the wealthier, upper-class suburbs of large cities in the United States. The Beverly Grove neighborhood of Los Angeles is a prime example. Identical, large houses were built at a low cost, resulting in low-quality, grand-looking homes. These homes in particular have been criticized for their high energy consumption.

It should be noted that not all large mansions are McMansions. Essentially, McMansions are cheap imitations of mansions built by upper-middle-class people who cannot afford the real deal. They are mass-produced, generic, unimaginative, and unnecessarily large.

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