The Not So Mighty McMansion. RIP.

Somewhere along the way, America the Beautiful land of the free, has morphed into Home of the big, bigger and biggest. Did it happen when no one was looking? Is it like those five pounds you gain over the holidays? Did they just sneak up on us?

Not exactly. In fact, it took years. Of buying, working, shopping, comparing and consequently, blowing our values way out of proportion.

It’s difficult to feel patriotic and proud when we’re seen as the land of Big Macs, buffets and ‘become rich fast because the guy with the most toys wins’. Sadly, the American Dream translates to bigger is better and more, more, more.

Especially in the dwelling department.

In the 1950s, the average size of a home in the U.S. was 983 square feet. By 1980, that number had grown to 2,330 square feet. The bigger the house, the better the…I’m not sure what.

But I am sure you know the homes I’m referring to. They’re huge eyesores lacking soul, integrity and efficiency. They’ve been not-so-affectionately coined McMansions, which is defined by Wikipedia as “a pejorative term for large new houses which are judged as pretentious, tasteless, or badly designed for their neighborhood.” Who can forget this massive Florida McMansion?!


Badly designed, period.

Energy consuming, uninspired, over-designed and shoved onto tiny lots right up next to their neighbors, like dominoes. Poorly built and inauthentic, most look like they belong on a movie set because their facades are just that, a facade.

What happened to ‘built to last’ and efficient use of space?


The ‘Case Study’ homes are the perfect example of integrity in architecture. Elegance isn’t the result of abundance, but rather simplicity. I feel like an old lady when I swoon over Pierre Koenig’s Case Study House #22 (image above) and say those were the days.

But they were.

Lest I scare you away with my Negative Nelly attitude, I have noteworthy news that should inspire even the most pessimistic among you. It appears as if America the gluttonous and insatiable is prepared to start slimming down.

In fact, the prediction for the next decade is that homes will be built and bought, smaller and smarter. Dare we feel hopeful that home buyers will insist upon more affordable and environmentally friendly options in the years to come?

A recent real-estate survey (conducted by found that home buying trends are indeed changing for the better:

Just 9 percent of the people surveyed…said their ideal home size was over 3,200 square feet. Meanwhile, more than one-third said their ideal size was under 2,000 feet.

Also, the National Association of Home Builders (NAHB) says:

…for the first time since 1992, there has been a decline in the number of homes built with three or more bathrooms. The average size of new homes also fell in 2009, while homes with two stories peaked in 2006. And nine out of 10 home builders surveyed by NAHB in 2009 said they’re planning smaller or less expensive homes than they have in the past.

All I can say is, it’s about time. McMansions. RIP.

Let the party begin! Wait, what? What do we do with all the empty, foreclosed and bank-owned monstrosities?

Get creative, that’s what.

(Data via, SignOn San Diego, and NAHB.)

Images: ChicagoGeek, Arcadia Housing Blog, and Great Buildings

6 thoughts on “The Not So Mighty McMansion. RIP.

  1. This is one of the best posts I have ever read my green friend! Love it. We own a home that is 980 sq ft and it is just fine. We have what we need and what we want! I wouldn’t mind a bit if it was 980 sq feet of log cabin on some land with a garden – but we are simple peeps – and that feels great! Love your post!

  2. Thank goodness!! Coming from the Midwest where you can get lost in streets of identical McMansions sprawling suburban neighborhoods like “The Willows” and “Blue Springs Way”, I am happy to see the McMansion die. But “they’re so cheap,” everyone says! “Think of what you’re getting for the price!” No thank you. Recycling/renovating old houses and building more eco-friendly homes is one of the best ways to show your love for the environment. Great article!

  3. Interesting topic – which I have been researching as well. I have been looking at mid-century homes lately, which morph into great eco boxes. Only problem with some of the old “classic” construction was the asbestos and other nasty stuff used routinely. Luckily, the new sensible structures are clean. Some McMansions are actually constructed well, such as the gated homes in Calabasas and other suburbs of California, but in theory, they all do damage because they inherently spell big usage, as you pointed out in this fun post.

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