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I don't know if I've seen a McMansion. I read about them, but as I've been living in countries with housing shortages and limited space for new development, houses tend to double up, become more vertical, have shrinking gardens, and so forth. I doubt that they qualify. Maybe McMansions only exist in North America?

I can believe that if these castles started appearing less than five years ago that they might be a response to some vague sense of insecurity, but I would be more inclined to attribute them to a herd mentality and to the efforts of property developers to draw attention to their wares. I'm pretty sure a suburban bungalow of the post-war type wouldn't attract today's suburbanite.

Wherever I go I am dismayed by unthinking conformity to wasteful practices, all in the name of doing what other 'successful' people do. It's not just houses, but any number of material trappings associated with being/becoming 'ordinary'. That's not greed, just stupidity.

So in some respects I am in agreement with Matt. With the caveat that having a paranoid streak about Liberals is amusing, but not funny. From here, those repetetive swipes seem irrelevant and/or an attempt to start a fight.

BTW, just visiting for the first time, via.

David Parsons

National Propaganda Radio

I hope that this isn't a case of "if they're against them, I'm for them" because NPR isn't the only news outlet that has reported (and reported unfavorably) on McMansions.

The original statement was whether the McMansions are wasteful, but you seem to have worked it around to whether people have the right to criticize them? Well, of course people have the right to criticize and (shudder) defend them, but I think that PrairieMod has the right approach by promising to do a thorough critique of the horrible things. You also mention one of the advantages of an estate made up of detached buildings when you mention that your garage is too small. A detached garage that is too small can be modified or replaced without carving holes in your main dwelling (I grew up in a prairie-style house in LaCrosse, Wisc, and our house had the garage built into it. It was _just barely_ big enough to fit a 1960 Rambler, but the replacement car (a 1970 Valiant) could only fit into the garage if you didn't want to actually be able to get out of it.

The "shouting wife and children" fellow that NPR interviewed in their article is a lot more sympathetic than some of the people who've been interviewed in some of the other articles I've read. There seems to be an endless stream of people who can't actually say anything in favor of their houses except "it's a big house, and we're supposed to like big houses because we're Americans." Mr. Frisby's argument actually _makes sense_ compared to that one, and it's an argument that can be responded to with real reasons why you'd not want to build a single huge house.

And, for what it's worth, my family (2 adults, 2 children) lives in a house that's 3600 square feet (not counting the garage, which I use as a lumber shed) and we don't use about 1000 square feet of it. It's _really_ hard for me to argue rationally against a 10,000 square foot house because my initial reaction is to simply point and laugh, which isn't particularly helpful.

Matt Anderson

I DO have a pretty small drafty house. A 1925 craftsman. And incidentally it has a detached garage. The house is beautiful and almost not reproducible in todays economy. I bought it because I wanted to. The craftsmanship involved in building my house is amazing. However that detached garage is just big enough for a small 1925 car. So I don't presume to judge someone who buys a home with a garage larger than mine. I am personally offended by most anything built in the 70's and especially those mostrosities known as "split-levels". But, and this is my problem with the NPR hit-piece, if someone wants to buy a 1974 split level with T1-11 siding and harvest gold glass, that is thier choice and though I may question thier taste, I lose no sleep over thier decision.

Regarding the schmendric that National Propaganda Radio dredged up, who built a big house so he doesn't have to hear his wife and kids scream, I find that very sad but not a condemnation on a big house. Are we to believe that EVERY mcmansion family is disfunctional and can't stand to be with each other? Maybe someone could do a study on families that live in homes that "spring from the ground and into the light". Are they happier, more well adjusted and closer knit?

You say, "just because you can build an 11,000 square foot single-family home, doesn't mean you should build it". That is true. It's true of most things. "Just because you can" is not a great reason for doing anything (except eating Rocky Road ice-cream). "Just because you WANT to" is a great reason for doing most things, so long as it does not violate someone elses God-given rights. What road do we go down when we begin to tell people how to distribute thier OWN resources? Does NPR claim perfect knowledge of the real estate market or even perfect knowledge of the man with the screaming wife and kids? Maybe his wife and kids are autistic and he simply wants a place where they can be themselves and he doesn't have to be around the noise when he doesn't want to. There are hundreds of thousands of mcmansions being built and sold (indicating that hundreds of thousands of Americans want them) and NPR puts this yokel on thier show as the poster child? Do you not find this disingenous?

David Parsons

You need to have a pretty drafty small house to make up for heating and cooling a ridiculously huge house. And you don't have to be a liberal to be offended by a huge ugly house (I'm a fairly rabid socialist, so I don't know too many conservatives personally, but the whole house porn world contains _many_ self-admitted conservatives who shun megamansions in favor of sensibly-sized bungalows and victorians. I'd hate to think that they're doing this out of sour grapes.)

And, really, if you're building a megamansion just so you can get out of earshot of your screaming family, you'd probably be better off building a detached workshop and putting your office there. A 4-acre lot is certainly big enough to have a sized-for -entertaining main house, a detached office/workshop building, and a carriage house, and then you won't have to heat all the air that would be used for the corridors and rooms that would connect them together in a big house. And detached houses are _much_ better for keeping the sound out.

Matt Anderson

Why is it that Liberals are so intolerant of anyone that is diffent than them? I thought we were told we need to understand and accept all viewpoints and lifestyle choices. If someone wants a big new energy efficient house instead of an old, creaky, drafty house that transfers energy out the windows almost as fast as you can put it in, why not let them? It is a personal choice that has nothing to do with greed. In general, people are not as supid as Liberals think they are. They make choices for a host of complex reasons that the average bystander could not hope to comprehend. And yet here is your average bystander that sees someone buy a bigger house than they personally own, and they declare that person "greedy". What if you were behind me in line at Costco. Would I be "greedy" because I bought two jars of peanut butter and you bought only one? Maybe, just maybe, I HAPPEN TO LIKE PEANUT BUTTER!

I don't even want to get started on the bizarre, kook, liberal, insane idea, that Muslim religious zealots murdered over 3,000 civilians because Americans are building bigger houses.


Thanks for the input. This post was meant as an opening salvo in a string of posts on this particular subject. We will explore alternatives (hopefully realistic) in upcoming posts. As always, feel free to suggest any alternative ideas you might have...we love to hear from our readers! Thanks again and stay tuned!

Douglas Anders

Here in the Midwest, the alternatives are all around -- they are called "existing homes". In Toledo, you can get a 1500 to 2000 sq. foot home in a good neighborhood for one half to one thrid of the cost of a ugly subdivision monstrosity.

My house (a 1917 bungalow) cost less than half that of my co-workers homes, yet I'm the only one at work who never locks his doors (not even sure where the house keys are), the only one who can walk to three parks, a library, ice cream shop restaurants and I have the shortest commute -- ten minutes.

On the downside, my house was once lived in by a member of the Bush administration -- but I don't like to talk about that.

Peter Davidson

Interesting on many levels. Let's not forget that many of Wright's prairie and organic designs far outstripped the average home size of their day. Many others were on average. This is an issue of resource use. Large homes designed to impress the boss and coworkers while energy and land wasteful. Then problem is that people aren't knowledgable about the alternatives. Condem the status quo but also provide realistic alternatives.

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