McMansion– one of the most affluent designs from the 1980s to 2000s is regarded as nothing but another hell. Owing to the spacious but poorly constructed homes, led to the crash in the housing market in the year 2008.

The term McMansion hell can be related to the cookie-cutter for suburban residences where the area ranged somewhere between 3000 to 5000 sq. ft. What is a McMansion house and why was it the talk of the town? Let’s find out!

What is a McMansion?

mcmansion vs mansion

McMansion’s definition is the architecture that is equivalent to mass-produced and very generic fast food. The term was used for ubiquitous and oversized American homes in the suburbs that people hated.

These McMansions symbolized the American excess and with the notion of bigger is always better, you can spot these homes cluttering in neighborhoods across the US. The homes were dubiously constructed which owed them the hatred from the public. 

History of McMansion Hell

History of MCMansions

The trend of McMansion dates back to 1980s Californian history which was also defined as the decade of free-flowing capital along with questionable taste. The rise of the trend was at its peak with the subprime mortgage that fueled the housing industry. However, the hike came to an end with the Great Recession of 2008 resulting in a financial crisis across the globe.

The perfectly planned and scaled housing like Craftsman bungalows, Cape Cod cottages, and post-war housing were brought down from the suburbs by bulldozing them and building huge pretentious mansions in their place.

Cheap-looking McMansion Spoke of Monstrosities Through their Scale 

These homes were poorly constructed and offered a poor quality of life not only to the residents but neighbors as well. The multi-story McMansion blocked the natural views and sunlight for the neighboring plots.

McMansion was defined as a hell for living as it appeared tacky and hideous. The entire construction was regarded as wasteful and the ambiance was depressing. However, the rise in this housing raised the bar for what could be defined as an acceptable living and how the ideal homes must be constructed for middle-class families.

The housing was also referred to as Frankenstein’s monsters with classical architectural languages like Mediterranean or Gregorian. With the Great Recession, these homes fell out of trend and it led to the rise of countercultural movements embracing the trend for small houses. However, with the American taste for supersizing being prevalent, it took a twist and laid the foundation for the development of upscale Mid-century modern or McModern homes. 

How Big is a McMansion?

how big is MCMansion

The area of a McMansion house is a minimum of 3000 sq. ft. It is comparatively larger than typically built houses and that’s one of the defining features of these houses. While there has been the construction of smaller McMansions as well, the scale was retained by increasing the number of stories in that case. 

Top 9 Peculiar Features of a McMansion

1. Poor Quality of Materials and Construction

Although spread across more than 3000 sq. ft., McMansion wasn’t only mass-produced but also picked the worst quality of materials. Rather than being architect-driven, these homes were much of a developer’s project. 

2. Oversized

The entire building was always scaled too much. With respect to the neighborhood settings, it’s easy to spot a McMansion as it generally looks out of place.

3. Odd and Random Interiors

A random feature here and an odd element there is what defines the interiors of McMansion. The entire home is jam-packed with features composing a layout that looks extremely off from the inside out. 

4. Neoeclectic Style

With coherence and integrity lying on the minimal levels, McMansions can be defined as Neo-eclectic in their design language. It’s a mismatch of architectural styles that are not related leading to an unbalanced composition. 

5. Clashing Details

From rooflines to windows and details, you can always spot clashes in the architectural features of McMansion.

6. Spaces that Echo

As the monstrous appeal was a basic characteristic of McMansion from the exteriors, the interiors also consisted of enormous spaces. The double-storied great rooms with oversized windows led to not only a disproportionate look but echoey acoustics as well. 

7. Everything Extra

From widows to chimneys, everything in these homes was extra. These comprised multiple garages, Palladian windows, and oversized columns forming the look of an enormous alien structure in the neighborhood. 

8. More than a Storey

The house was planned on more than two stories to accommodate en suites or bathrooms with each room in the house.

9. Inefficient

Overall, McMansion was nothing but the most poorly constructed, inefficient, and wasted structure in the American suburbs

McMansion vs a Typical Mansion: Top 3 Reasons

mcmansion vs mansion

Are mansions and McMansion the same? No. Both work on different design languages. Here are the main differences that make them distinct.

1. History of Structures

Any mansion whether it was built before the 1980s or later, can still be seen standing sturdily and with a sense of timelessness. Whereas, McMansions have always looked out of place with minimal aesthetic appeal. 

2. The Features

The mansions are all about design features and elements that radiate a sense of luxury. While constructing a mansion, the aim is to feature timeless materials that help in keeping the design sturdy and eye-pleasing. Whereas, McMansion is a result of construction taking place within a few weeks resulting in a poor sense of aesthetics and clashing design features. 

3. Construction Materials

While mansions are made structurally sound by the adoption of premium-quality materials like stone, brick, and wood, McMansion is all about inexpensive and poor-quality materials like plastic. 

Why Was it McMansion Hell?

1. Lack of Basic Design Principles

Design principles of MCMansions

Any good design is a combination of mass and void where the solid represents the mass and openings are considered voids. In the case of the McMansion design, the concept of mass is missing as it’s full of oversized windows. With a plethora of openings in one single wall, the facade gives off an appearance of emptiness and blandness. 

2. Unbalanced Design

Unbalanced design of MCMansion

One of the design principles defining aesthetics in design is Balance. While symmetrically balanced buildings offer eye-pleasing results, McMansion doesn’t even hint at that. It’s all about poor balance without any line of symmetry and conflicting design features. 

3. The Horrible Proportions

Horrible proportions of MCMansion

Architectural harmony can only be maintained through proportions– something McMansion is horrible at. With no clarity on primary and secondary masses, overall pictures look extremely chaotic and disproportionate. 

4. Zero Rythm

rythms of MCMansion

With one window here and one there and no coherence in the designs, McMansion is all about zero rhythms in its architectural language. Asymmetry, disproportions, and excess scale lead to a distracted view that makes it look tacky.

Landscaping Features in a McMansion

Landscaping of MCMansion

As evident, the design for a McMansion isn’t very inspiring or successful. Does it spare landscaping, in this case? Let’s check it out!

In a classic McMansion hell, there are traces of landscaping with one patch in the entrance and another one placed at a random location. The design features a minimum of 3 garages, respective driveways, and a minimal trace of manicured lawn even in a spacious property.

The sea of grass could mainly be seen featuring one tree in the middle that looked as alien as this property in the suburbs. These structures sit on a huge chunk of land entirely denying the concept of sustainability by removing trees and never making up for them. The landscaping of a McMansion is all about unmaintained green lawns devoid of proper plantations.

McMansion– The Flawed Architecture 


Being nothing close to what an actual mansion means, McMansion was just a decade of flawed architecture. With zero sense of aesthetics and entirely compromised quality, these were just pretentious facades that let their scale talk.

The large and opulent housing served a plethora of inconveniences to the residents and nature. It could be considered one of the worst design languages with no hints of sustainability in the entire building process. McMansion can be taken as a lesson of what a design should not be! 


1. What is a McMansion?

McMansion is a term used to define the oversized and mass-produced houses in America that lacked quality. The style was often regarded as McMansion hell.

2. How Big is a McMansion?

The minimum area for a McMansion is 3000 sq. ft. 

3. What is the Quality of Living in McMansion?

From the quality of construction to living in a McMansion, the overall structure can be defined as poor in terms of its experience, functionality, and architecture. 

4. What’s Better– McMansion vs Mansion?

Traditional mansions are a better choice as compared to a McMansion owing to their architectural features, high-quality materials, and richness in the experience of living. 

5. Why is McMansion Considered Bad?

The mass-produced homes were developer-driven with a lack of aesthetics and sturdiness in their structures.

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