O McMansion--we hardly knew ye; don't let the brass doorknob hit you on the way out

August 30, 2010

 


(photo by Lee Bey)
 

Did you catch this? The era of the McMansion–the oversized symbol of the real estate excesses of the 1990s and early 2000s–is now over, according to real estate site Trulia.

The site said 9 percent of the people it surveyed wanted a home over 3,200 sq ft. Indeed, the site found more than 33 percent of the respondents wanted a home under 2,000 sq ft.  The economy has a lot to do with it. A smaller home is a cheaper home–not to mention people seem to be casting off stuff at yards sales with frightening regularity lately, enabling them to live well in less space. Folks are downsizing and an upsized McMansion doesn’t fit the bill for many anymore.

So what’s a McMansion? That over-adorned blond monstrosity that Tony and Carmella lived in on HBO’s The Sopranos would be one, down to the McMansion-like homes at the uncompleted Renaissance at Beverly Ridge subdivision (the photos accompany this blog) near 107th and Vincennes—which has its own complicated story. The worst McMansions are oafishly large with lobbed on classical detailing like arches, palladium windows.

The McMansion’s death-knell has sounded for years. Nationally, municipalities began passing laws to curb their construction in recent years, claiming the homes were too big for their lots size, out of character with their surroundings, or just not green enough. Christopher B. Leinberger asked two years ago in the Atlantic if McMansion’d suburbia was the next slum, citing national examples of abandoned and troubled subdivisions.

 


(photo by Lee Bey)


(photo by Lee Bey)
 

If we are running from the McMansion, then where are we ultimately headed? To smaller houses, yes–but ultimately well-designed ones. The century-old Chicago bungalow is still a marvel at under 2000 sq feet of flexible living space, built with great materials. Small-house advocates like Sarah Susanka–who presciently wrote the first of her Not So Big House books, in the 1990s during the height of the McMansion era–have pointed us this way for years.

But how small can you go? I live in 640 sq ft in historic Pullman, after moving from a large Arts & Crafts house in Beverly two years ago and have grown to really dig it. But would I go as small as this dude—in 89 sq ft?—uhm, no.