McMansions 101: Mansion vs McMansion (Part 2)

At last, the fun part, where I post pictures of houses on the fence and rule with my iron fist whether or not they are mansions or McMansions. 

A reminder of the criteria from last post. 

Virginia McAlester’s criteria for a McMansion (reformatted by me here from p. 707 of A Field Guide to American Houses) are as follows:

“-Complex high pitched roof with lower cross gables or hips
- Tall (1.5-2 story) entry features, often arched
- Haphazardly placed dormers (”afterthought” dormers)
- Multiple wall cladding materials applied to single surfaces
- Windows of differing styles and shapes, often arched
- Structure is commonly asymmetrical with tall vertical appearance.”

If a house meets 4 or more of the above, or 3 or more of the above plus 1 of the below, it is pretty safe to call it a McMansion

A house that meets 3 of McAlester’s criteria but none of mine is a house on the fence, so to speak - e.g. a house with a high pitched roof, a tall vertical appearance could still be faithful to the French Eclectic style, and if it happens to have one out of place dormer, is it really that huge of an offense? But if it also has a huge attached garage or is made of cheap material, then that tips the scale into McMansion territory.

McMansionHell additional criteria for clarity:

- Attached 2 or 3 car garage
- Side elevations are often clad in cheaper material and have few windows
- Front facade sometimes will feature a multiple-story window, often an indicator of the presence of the “great room”
- Architectural ornamentation is applied with little consideration for historical precedence (e.g. craftsman columns on a house that is mostly French Eclectic) and are often constructed from foam injected plastic or EIFS.
- House is often out of scale with the lot it was built on

Without further ado…

House No. 1

Mansion or McMansion? The answer:

This is a lovely New Traditional house based off of the French Eclectic style of the 1920s and 30s. The outside is made from high quality brick, and the roof imitates the slate shingles of the corresponding time period. The house is symmetrical, and the architectural details are appropriate (shutters are the right size for the windows, the rounded dormers and the pediments above the central window and the entryway reflect the original style.)

That was an easy one!

House No. 2

Mansion or McMansion? The answer:

A house can be relatively symmetrical and constructed of material like brick, and still be a McMansion. How? 

That’s more than 3 criteria folks. The judge has spoken. Still too easy? Try this next one.

House No. 3

Mansion or McMansion? The answer: 

I love me a house that barely escapes McMansion territory, which this one does. While it is an interesting mix up of architectural styles, (mostly Italianate with Ionic columns) and it does have the 1.5 story entryway, the house is symmetrical, balanced, and consistent (all the columns are ionic, and the window muntins demonstrate good use of architectural rhythm.)

House No. 4

Here is a perfect example of a home that is truly on the fence between Mansion and McMansion. In fact, I think this house can truly be argued both ways: 

These two graphics demonstrate a situation where it might not be appropriate to definitively say that a house is a mansion or a McMansion. The line can certainly be blurred and left solely to popular taste. Another example:

House No. 5

Let’s put it this way: there are varying degrees of McMansion-ness. Houses 4 and 5 might be a little tacky, but they are tame and generally acceptable compared to the following examples: 

I hope this post helped clear up Sunday’s post on what separates a mansion from a McMansion! Stay tune for tomorrow’s post: McMansions 101: Windows

Copyright Disclaimer: All photos are screenshots from real estate aggregate and are used in this post for the purposes of education, satire, and parody, consistent with 17 USC §107. 

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