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The size of the average American house rose from about 1,500 square feet in 1970 to more than 2,300 square feet in 2001, with a particularly big growth spurt in the late 1990’s.

But from 2001 to 2004, the growth practically halted. “That suggests that the size of the average house is stabilizing,” said Gopal Ahluwalia, a statistician with the home builders’ association. For the second quarter of 2005, the average new detached house measured 2,400 square feet, according to the Census Bureau.

The public perception of big houses may help explain the shift. Owners of oversized homes are routinely portrayed as architectural yahoos whose “plywood palazzos” leave neighboring buildings in shadow. Some also associate the big houses with greed. In the corporate scandals of recent years, “a persistent motif was the grotesquely large houses of the perpetrators,” said James Gauer, author of “The New American Dream: Living Well in Small Homes” (Monacelli, 2004).

From Are McMansions Going Out of Style?, NYTimes, 2005

McMansion has been defined in various ways: (1) “a large home by world standards and located in a low-density sprawling subdivision” [2] ; (2) “not just a place to live, but an assertion of the American sense of identity and a statement of propensity” [3]; and (3) “a large modern house that is considered ostentatious and lacking in architectural integrity.” [4] Behind all these definitions is the theory that some people think bigger is better, but not everyone agrees.

There are 2 types of McMansions: mass built houses in suburban areas, and houses built in existing neighborhoods of smaller houses, where an old, small house is torn down from the lot and a new McMansion is built in its place. [5] The focus of this article is on the second type, since this type has been more controversial. McMansions built in older neighborhoods are generally too big for the lots, too big for the surrounding neighborhood, and even too big for the number of people who actually live there. [6] While the average square footage of houses is steadily increasing, the average household size has dropped from 3.35 people in 1960 to 2.58 people in 2002. [7] While the average size of homes in 2004 was about 2400 square feet, new homes of 10,000 square feet or more make up 1 percent of the total number of new homes built each year, which amounts to approximately 10,000 new homes per year in recent years that are 10,000 square feet or larger. [8]
Filter, Alicia, McMansions: Super-sized Homes cause super-sized backlash, Illinois Business Law Journal

This 2005 Washington Post article makes the skin crawl…

Some reference images (retrieved from Flickr)





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