The intent was to make the place that was meant for two to comfortably live away from the public, a location with plenty of space and comfort for a werewolf and his little beastmaster that brings home all the small animals. Ra’harl’s favorite features of the home are the vast collections of tomes and books for him to read and past the time in a day and the bath shower that the two have installed into one.
They spend plenty of time together in the bath and Ra’harl can sit near Aldis on the top floor while the werewolf works from his desk. A good excuse for him to study more on werewolves while he is close to Aldis.
Hillary Clinton: “In fact, Donald was one of the people who rooted for the housing crisis. He said back in 2006, ‘Gee, I hope it does collapse cause then I can go in and makes some money.’ Well it did collapse.”
Donald Trump: “That’s called ‘business,’ by the way.
Hillary Clinton: “Nine million people lost their jobs. Five million people lost their homes. Thirteen trillion dollars in family wealth was wiped out.”
You can buy an anti-zombie cabin.
$113,000 gets you a bedroom, kitchen,
bathroom, garage, living room, TV, Xbox,
rooftop deck with barbed wire, and an
escape hatch. There are also extras like
solar panels, water cannons, search
lights, and flame throwers, but everyone
gets the same 10-year guarantee: if you
can prove a zombie made it past the
reinforcements, you get your $$ back. Source
McMansions 101 Revisited: Aesthetics Aside, Why McMansions Are Bad Architecture
I get a lot of emails. The vast majority of them are good, but every once in a while I get those mainly consisting of “You’re making aesthetic judgements aka That’s just like, your opinion, man.” (A subset of these are “HOW DARE YOU INSULT RONALD REAGAN!”)
As a response to these emails, I would like to provide an objective list of reasons why McMansions are bad architecture that ignores aesthetics.
(house tip courtesy of my dank Twitter follower @keowmb)
What are these mysterious reasons the McMansion is bad?
Imma sum it up for you:
Why McMansions Are Bad Architecture Aesthetics-Free Remix
1.) BAD craftsmanship! 2.) BAD investment! (This one’s for you, Wall St.) 3.) BAD for the environment! (That’s right, I said the e word) 4.) BAD for the spirit! (That’s right, architecture affects how we feel!)
Before I begin, I would like to take the time to say that this post is about the McMansion itself.It is not about the suburbs, urban planning, sprawl, etc. There are literallytenmillionreally superawesomebooksaboutthissubject. (Admittedly, I have a whole row on my bookshelf devoted to the subject and also no life whatsoever.)
McMansion Pitfall No. 1: BAD CRAFTSMANSHIP!
The signs of shoddy construction aren’t always easy to identify.
However, when big building corporations such as Toll Brothers and Pulte Homes, consistently push the “More House for Your Money!” angle, it’s a safe bet that corners are being cut somewhere, and you know they ain’t messing with that double-sink in the master bath!
At face value, building materials are a good primary indicator as to whether or not a house was built cheaply. Houses built from brick, stone, wood, or real stucco are generally more reliable than those built with cheap trendy materials commonly marketed as being “no-maintenance.” (All houses require maintenance. Sorry to burst your [housing] bubble!)
That’s not to say that all new building materials are bad - often, they are very energy efficient, and can look rather wonderful with proper maintenance. However, McMansions tend to use the cheapest materials possible, installed in dubious ways (EIFS lawsuit anyone?) in order to satisfy their builder’s profit margins.
The thing about good design, is that it’s well-thought out - it shows that care has been put into the details and quality of what is being designed. If builders skimp so much on the external design (literally how a house looks) of a home, it’s usually indicative of other problems: it shows that the house wasn’t carefully planned, and often this is revealed not only in inefficient (try re-roofing one of these houses) exterior form, but interior form as well.
The inside of McMansions are designed in order to cram the most “features” inside for the lowest costs. Often this is done inefficiently, resulting in odd rooflines, room shapes, and hastily covered up contractor errors. These lead to major upsets years down the road such as leaky roofs, draft problems, and structural deficiencies leading to mold, mildew, and other problems costing thousands of dollars to repair.
Because we started treating our houses as disposable during the mortgage booms of the 1980s, 90s and 2000s, we ended up with houses built to last not even 25 years. This leads us to our next point: McMansions are a seriously bad investment.
To some, it is definitely a newsflash. After decades of rhetoric about what makes a home valuable (spurred in part by HGTV and other media outlets claiming that stainless steel and other trivial pursuits LITERALLY add ten gazillion dollars to the value of your home!!1), it’s come to light that SURPRISE, the aesthetic trends of 10 years ago aren’t fairing so well today.
The fact is, these houses are entering their dark years, where costly repairs such as re-roofing are looming just around the corner, contributing to their market stagnation. In addition, the rich and powerful who desire super-sized houses are building new ones, with all of today’s bells and whistles (warm gray walls and pseudo-mod furniture anyone?) Nobody wants someone else’s outdated, used luxury.
And so, on the market they sit after thousands and tens of thousands of price cuts. Meanwhile, according to the linked Bloomberg article at the top of this section, small and medium sized homes are appreciating at a rapid rate. This, coupled with the tiny house craze, indicate that, for the first time in a long time, people are starting to see that bigger isn’t always better.
While this is good news for the environment and for those who desire more affordable housing, it’s pretty bad news for the poor souls who bought 5,000 square-foot houses in 2005.
Unsurprisingly, having a ginormous house is bad for the environment. Yes, even if you “build it green,” a 9,000 square-foot house is still bad for the environment.
Living in huge houses on the fringes of society consumes massive amounts of resources: from the CO2 emissions from power plants that keep the lights on and heat your Pringles Can of Shame, to the emissions from your car as you sit in gridlocked traffic trying to get to the office park in Edge City, USA, the huge house lifestyle is no doubt impacting climate change in its own, if small, way.
Building huge houses on the fringes of society consumes massive amounts of resources.
One of the issues with McMansion design is their relative ignorance of the spaces around them. Often, when these houses are built, their lots are rid of any significant foliage (read: pretty trees) and replaced with a resource-gobbling lawn and a dinky stick tree.
Not to mention the amount of energy spent to extending roads and utility services to new lots and tearing down houses that get in the way of “luxurious progress.” Not to mention the fact that the entire idea and economy of suburbia is reliant upon fossil fuel consumption and the car, a totally unsustainable way of life.
[I guess none of this matters, unfortunately, to those who believe that climate change and global warming aren’t real, and these people who live lives of conspicuous consumption are exactly the type to buy a giant house in the exurbs and think that the environment only exists to ruin business and extend the arm of the gubment.]
McMansion Pitfall No. 4: BAD for the spirit!
I know, I’m totally going to come off as one of those hippie types, but architecture does, in fact, have a huge impact on how we feel and live our lives.
The fact is, big houses can make us feel incredibly isolated. (The McMansion is a small scale version of what critics of sprawl attribute to modern suburbia, which is entirely reliant on the car to do everything from go shopping to visit friends.)
A family of four in a 6,000 square-foot house can go days at a time without having to interact with each other in any real respect. When I was in the sixth grade, I remember visiting a friend who, rather than traverse down the massive, useless staircase, would text her mother, who was making dinner in the kitchen, or her sister who was 4 (mostly empty) rooms away.
Being able to hide away from the woes of family life hinders our ability to cope with others and learn important skills like conflict resolution, anger management, and empathy. In the house I grew up in, (1800 square feet, one story, 3bed/2ba, four people) my sister had to deal with my practicing the violin, and I had to deal with my sister’s incessant horror movie binges at top volume, and we all had to deal with my dad when he got way too into surround sound.
The (mostly BS) accusations older generations make about Millennials is that they are overly-sensitive and mollycoddled; stuck in a perpetual childlike mentality. Those generations’ decision to isolate their children from the comings and goings of everyday life, including exposure to people different than themselves out of a combination of fear and prejudice no doubt has had some adverse effects on their children.
Diversity is more than just racial quotas and pretty words - it’s an active participation in the world around us, interacting with people who come from backgrounds different than ours. Monocultures benefit no one.
The rise of the gated community and certain financial restrictions (e.g. building a community of houses in a certain price range to deter “riff-raff”) since the 1980s are just two of many ways people used property and planning to keep out undesirables (read: practicing legal racial prejudice), resulting in an echo-chamber NIMBY (”not in my backyard!”) mentality.
If anyone is interested in further reading, the development of land as a practice of gatekeeping and prejudice is wonderfully covered in the book Privatopia.
POINT BEING: SURPRISE! By fostering a culture of loneliness and isolation, the oversized house hurts not only the environment and our wallets, but our psyche as well.
So there you have it, folks. Four reasons McMansions are bad architecture, aesthetic taste aside.
I plan on doing special posts about each of these facets and how they came to be this way in due time. (I have a long list of things to write about.)
As for next week, don’t miss the Dank McMansion of the Week which will be in Encino, CA, and next Sunday’s McMansions 101: McMansion Cheat Sheet, which goes down the line of tell-tale signs that yes, in fact, what you’re looking at is probably a McMansion.
Refugee Housing: A New Life for Empty Prisons in the Netherlands | Via
Associated Press photographer Muhammed Muheisen has documented many of the men, women, and children displaced by unrest in the Middle East, and followed them as they made their way toward Europe. He often found himself wondering “What happens to migrants once they reach Europe?”, and heard about a program in the Netherlands where the government had started housing refugees in vacant prisons. Years of declining crime rates have left the Dutch government searching for ways to put its emptying prisons to good use, and as an influx of refugees reached the Netherlands, the former prisons have temporarily become their homes. Muheisen spent months trying to gain access to the prisons, then, once he was allowed in, he spent another 40 days visiting and photographing asylum seekers from dozens of countries inside these prisons, as they wait to find out what comes next for them.
“Even in the Great Depression, evictions used to be rare. Now, each year, hundreds of thousands, perhaps millions, of renters are put out on the street. Even a paid-up tenant can be easily evicted. Arleen loses one apartment when her son Jori throws a snowball at a passing car and the enraged driver kicks in the front door, and another when the police come after Jori when he kicks a teacher and runs home. Any kind of trouble that brings the police can lead to eviction, which means women can lose their homes if they call 911 when their man beats them up. Think about that the next time someone asks why women don’t call the cops on violent partners.”
The 10 Circles of McMansionHell: The McMansion Scale, Explained!
Hello friends! I’ve received over one hundred (1-0-0) emails regarding the McMansion Scalefrom last Thursday. My goal with this post is to clarify the scale, which I believe can be really useful in helping my readers tell whether or not they’re in McMansion Hell!
BUT FIRST: I want to apologize for missing Thursday’s post. EXCUSE TIME: I ended up being stranded in NC for three extra days because of the hurricane (my grad assistantship work got behind because of it, and I really like my semi-free schooling - hence, priorities), and also ya girl’s givin a TEDx Talk next Saturday in DC and so prepping for that is of course v important.
WARNING: This post has a “READ MORE” page break, so now is the time to open in a new tab!
It’s a lot to look at. But I’m here to help, with photographs, of course. Friendly reminder that the scale is really for single-family houses built after 1980, and does not include historical houses, vernacular (folk) architecture, or multifamily housing.
Without Further Ado:
1-4: The Chill Zone
The 1s are reserved for:
houses built under historic preservation guidelines
most modernist houses built by architectural firms (e.g. not builders or construction companies)
houses built by architects working in the New Traditional style
The 2s are for:
classic suburban house styles, built using high-quality materials (e.g. Wood or Hardie Plank vs Vinyl Siding, Stucco vs EIFS)
This includes houses of various styles designed by local architects and well-informed builders.
Typical 2 aesthestics include the Classic Cape Cod/Colonial and Bungalow styles.
The houses in architect-designed/planned Traditional Neighborhood Development (TND) communities (such as Seaside, FL) often fall under this number.
The 3s are for two things:
traditional style houses built from modern materials with large attached garages; the standard suburban home, if you will.
The extremely trendy but otherwise well-executed house
Probably the most trendy housing style trend in recent history is the crossing over of modern and traditional forms. These houses have simple shapes, and sleek, minimalistic windows and rooflines. While I personally like the style, I’m curious to see how long it lasts.
99% of houses I believe fall into the 4 category:
If a house has either cascading gables OR a concealed multistory front entry, but follows the rest of the rules, it is a 4.
These are the houses that begin to have noticeable design flaws, such as inconsistent window choices.
This is the realm of the houses that are high quality, but a little off (sometimes this is the handiwork of an architect)
Hello, Hello! As you may have read from last week’s post, this week’s post is a sort of field guide to the McMansion. As the internet’s self-appointed expert on big ugly houses, I have collected over the years a huge amount of materials, data, and resources on everything “luxury.”
As I sat down to plan this post, I came to the realization, that, taking into account such things as geographical variation (e.g. Texas vs New England), fitting the McMansion into one post would be pretty impossible. So, after a week of dwelling on it, I decided to break it up into three posts, using the letters of the alphabet as a guide. Part One is A-H; Part Two will be I-P; Part Three will be Q-Z.
By the end of this three-part series, my hope is that even the least architecturally inclined (e.g. my relatives) will be able to identify a McMansion from a mile away, and the world will be a better place for it.
So without further ado, let’s begin.
A is for Architectural Anarchy
As you might recall from the post on eclecticism, McMansions can’t just pick one architectural style. They have to have all of them and nine out of ten times, they aren’t integrated together whatsoever.
It’s not just mixing styles that’s the problem, it’s mixing shapes, rooflines, details, sizes, and pretty much everything else into Architecture Mystery Meat.
Here are some examples of Architectural Anarchy. If the house you are looking at looks anything like these houses, it is almost certainly a McMansion:
B is for Beige
It’s no secret that McMansions love beige - and the further west you go, the beiger it gets. Now, not all beige houses are McMansions, but often the BeigeHaus, as it is known around this blog, is almost always cladded with EIFS (fake stucco), and the architectural features almost always have a tacked-on appearance.
If the dormers on the house you’re looking at look anything like these, you’re probably in McMansion Hell:
E is for Entryway
Luckily for everyone here, the McMansion has its own textbook entryway, universally recognizable by all. This entryway consists of three parts:
1.) Arched two-story entry “porch”, may or may not have columns 2.) Large front door, usually double door. (May have sidelights) 3.) Enormous transom window, often with square bottom and arched top The arch in part one is not as important as the other two parts - often the entry is flush against the surface of the building.
Here are some examples of this textbook McMansion Feature:
In the above example, the transom is visually separated from the door by a portico. On the inside, however, they are all the same space.
Note the pilasters, rather than columns, above.
Any variation of this entryway is one of the most important signifiers that you are looking at a McMansion. It is a textbook feature, and one of the easiest to identify.
Black Lives Matter activists protest for affordable housing at Cambridge city hall.
“Brick by brick, wall by wall, racist systems have to fall” were among the slogans four Black Lives Matter protesters chanted Wednesday morning, after chaining themselves to the front door of Cambridge City Hall in Cambridge, Massachusetts.
The protesters are asking the city to prioritize building affordable housing, the Boston Globe reported. Police spokesman Jeremy Warnick told the Globe that police would remain on the scene until the demonstration ended. On Facebook, the BLM chapter also out a set of affordable housing demands.