What Is A McMansion? The McDonalds-Inspired Home

Cottages, castles, and farmhouses. There are many different types of residential buildings and homes that have many different styles. One of these types of homes is called the McMansion home, and it is quite different.

What Is A McMansionImage from Stephen T. Terhune, Architect

This McMansion home is a slang term used to describe a certain type of mansion that is cheaply made and oversized for no reason. But is the term still as offensive as it once was and are these homes still being built?

What Is A McMansion?

The term McMansion was originally a derogatory term used to describe oversized houses that use cheap materials and have no class. The name was created to describe the houses as “fast food” houses.

Because McMansion sounds like McDonald’s menu item, it is still often used in a derogatory way. But today, almost any design or architectural style can be used in a good way to express oneself in their homes. 

History Of The McMansion

The McMansion was likely first seen in the 1980s, but it wasn’t until the 2000s that they really became a trend. These mansions became everything that anyone wanted, the opposite of minimalism, these were the start of maximalism. 

What most people don’t know is that the McMansion wasn’t just a term used in America, but all over the world. There is still one country with larger houses than the United States and that is Australia.

The term is just as common there as it is in America. Not only are the houses larger in Australia, but homes have more land under them as well. Outside the city, it is very common for homes to come with acreage. 

The McDonald’s McMansion

Now, if you hear the term McMansion in Long Island, then chances are the person is referring to the McDonald’s McMansion. This is a real operating Mcdonald’s made from a mansion from the 1700s.

Yes, this is a real thing! It is called Denton House and it is located at 2045 Jericho Turnpike in New Hyde Park, NY. The building was supposed to be demolished in the 1980s and was turned into a fast-food restaurant instead. 

You can still visit this McMansion today and eat inside of the mansion. The owners agreed to transform the home if the original exterior of the house was kept original, which is why it still looks like a mansion. 

A Traditional MansionImage from MILLER + MILLER Architectural Photography

Now, there is absolutely nothing wrong with a traditional mansion. Some people confuse every mansion for a McMansion. But the truth is that traditional mansions were, and still are, wonderful pieces of history.

To better understand the term McMansion, we’ve labeled a few different things about the traditional mansion that mansions have that McMansions do not have. Here are some great things about mansions. 

The History

Likely more than 90% of real mansions stills standing today were built before the 1980s. Anything built after that is probably a McMansion. This is one of the main things that separates real mansions from their fast-food counterparts. 

Real mansions have a story to tell. They weren’t owned by the middle class like McMansions sometimes are. They were owned by those with titles who inherited their home and were titled by owning it.

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The Class

Real mansions exhibit taste. They don’t throw together something large and call it good. They ensure that everything is put there with a purpose. There is a classiness about mansions that make you want to visit them.

You won’t find a mansion that couldn’t be turned into a museum unless it is a McMansion. These knockoffs are not classy and would take a lot of work to become classy whereas real mansions don’t have to try. 

The Adaption Image from Richard Drummond Davis Architects

If there were newer mansions built after the 1970s that were real mansions, then they would need to keep the environment in mind. These homes would need to respect nature and use what was put around them.

No knocking down a hundred trees to build their home. These mansions adapt to nature and often become one with it. They are built on lots that could benefit from the home or at least that won’t suffer from it. 

The Materials 

The materials of a real mansion are important. They need to be real materials that are picked specifically for the project. No knockoffs, no clearance only sales, just good materials that will work well for the home.

More often than not, stone, wood, and even brick are used for a mansion. You won’t find plastic or other cheap materials covering real mansions. After all, these materials didn’t even exist during the mansion’s height. 

The Cohesion 

This is so important. In real mansions, everything needs to be cohesive. You can’t have a mix and match of materials unless they happen to go together very well. Good flow is crucial for a mansion to work.

It doesn’t matter if it is an open concept or a closed-off room. What matters is that everything works well together and feels peaceful. It can’t look like a storybook home it needs to be a storybook home.

What Makes A McMansion?Image from Sundeleaf Painting

Although McMansions don’t have a specific definition like other types of houses, craftsman or colonial, for example, which are set, there are a few things that people seem to think belong to this type of home. 

These things aren’t always true for every McMansion because not all McMansions are alike. After all, the term McMansion is a slang term and slang terms usually represent a feeling. Here are a few of those things. 

At Least 3000sqft

Size is very important when it comes to McMansions. Most McMansions are at least 3000sqft. This is quite large and is larger than most homes in the world. The size is the most crucial aspect of a McMansion. 

Some McMansions can be smaller if they appear bigger. For example, a 2500sqft three-story home can easily be called a McMansion. But much smaller than that and the term won’t be heard about the home.

Cheap Materials

This is another thing that really makes the McMansion a McMansion. Because it was important during their peak to keep up with the Joneses and have the biggest and best of everything, these houses had to look extravagant.

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But in order for that to happen, people had to use the cheapest materials possible in order to afford the sheer size of the home. So most McMansions are made with the cheapest materials available at the time of construction. 

Hodge Podge Of  MaterialsImage from Gonyea Custom Homes

Another thing that was done with materials was getting whatever was on sale. Because of this, the houses were built with a mix and match of materials. There will be floors of different types in each room and so on. 

This isn’t always the case if there was enough of the material available for the whole house but more often than not, the interior of the house is not cohesive at all. Instead, it is a conglomeration of clearance materials. 

High Ceilings

High ceilings were important to McMansion owners because they wanted to have a grand entrance. So they had huge living rooms and entryways with two or three stories in one room often with a chandelier in the center.

This wasn’t always ideal because it was considered a waste of space. After all, having an open concept with multiple stories in one room cuts the amount of space you actually have in half, which is dreadful for most people.

Large Garages

Large two to three-car garages were ideal in McMansions. Even if the family only had one car, the large garages left the impression that they had multiple cars and hardly enough space for all of them.

You see this theme a lot in the McMansion style. Because nothing is about practicality or taste. It’s all about making your neighbors think you’re living a better life than you actually are. That is what the McMansion stands for. 

Mass-Production 

This isn’t always the case but it is a lot of the time. Many McMansions were mass-produced at the time. They can be found in tract home communities or in the suburbs of large cities looking similar to every other home.

They were built this way to give that cookie-cutter image and to save on materials and labor. Because it is much easier and cheaper to keep creating the same home over and over instead of coming up with new ones.

The McMansion Misconception 

The thing about McMansions is that the term is often used to describe large homes that are not McMansions at all. McMansion is considered a derogatory term 90% of the time and is used to describe cheap-looking homes.

But then there is the exception. Sometimes, the term McMansion is incorrectly used to describe any large or elaborate home. This just isn’t the correct term to use and is usually used as a joke or in a covetous way. 

So if your home is high-end and someone uses the term, then count yourself lucky. This person was probably jealous of your real mansion and called it a McMansion. All that matters is that you are happy with your home. 

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