mcmansionhell.com/ (Click for direct link): this amazing little site normalizes the conversation about oversized, gluttonous houses that lack most classical components of good architecture. As retro culture advocates, it is so valuable for us to recognize that a huge house for the everyday resident doesn’t make a lot of sense. People don’t actually need 4,000 square feet of living space to be comfortable. Back in postwar America (late 40s through the 50s), the tax percent on the wealthiest citizens was 91% (americansfortaxfairness.org) and even then, the middle class lived in neither squalor nor excess. We aren’t here to talk heavy politics, but this is a key reason why American society functioned so differently than today. So let’s dig:
Retro is stereotypically matched with the midcentury culture of America. Given this, it makes sense that those who identify with this theme of reviving the good stuff would find large, 16-bedroom houses to be a bit… excessive. But it’s not the sheer size that frustrates us. It is the lack of real craftsmanship and old-world class. McMansion Hell (operated by Kate Wagner) identifies with this concept of lackluster architectural mishmash and thrills at the opportunity to poke fun at the curious components of these residential beasts.
I’m sure some of you are asking, “Didn’t the RRBlog stand in solidarity against the demolition of a huge house?” We are glad you stayed curious! Yes, we did and we still do. The difference is in the decades; unlike historic houses or the careful craftsmanship of older homes, the houses featured on Wagner’s website are devoid of authentic, classical character or features that are made like they used to be. These pompous structures are the subject of her satire often because of the seemingly shoddy replicas of features produced after the 1980s! No carved wood or parquet flooring here!
For several weeks, Wagner faced Zillow, the booming online business that features sales and rentals of all sorts fo structures for individuals to search through. Although the multi-billion dollar company owns none of the pictures used on her site, Zillow is outraged at the satire. This is an amazing story of the people winning their cases, however. At the end of the experience, McMansionHell was up and running again, but with some compromises. The site, although active and essentially winning their lawsuit by default when Zillow dropped their charges, has had some formatting changes and had to rescind several dozen posts from the previous website versions.
Of course, we are grateful that Kate’s story is a successful one and the Retro Revival will continue to encourage people like her for promoting a healthier sense of craftsmanship, pride in one’s work, and cultural artistry of all kinds!