Our Homes Are Our Castles–And McMansions Too

Home sweet home isn’t a cozy abode with a white picket fence anymore. No sir! We Americans love to supersize things. It isn’t just our fast food lunch; now it’s our houses too. Forget cottages. We want McMansions!

But surely I exaggerate you say. Nope. The size of houses on the market is mind-boggling. Sunny California made the news this past week with a just listed “house” for sale. Poor Lori Laughlin and her hubby Mossimo Giannulli, apparently weighed down by hefty legal bills, opted to put their residence on the market for a mere $28 million. And what a “house” it is! There are 12,000 square feet, 6 bedrooms, and 9 bathrooms on the premises. Oh, and let’s not forget the garaging for 5 cars, a gym, a paneled library, and a media room. Sounds more like a McMansion than a house to me.

Yeah, but that’s Southern California. What about the rest of the country? Well, let’s see what’s going on back east. There’s a dandy “house” on the market here in my local area. It’s way less expensive than Lori’s Cali McMansion– only $11 million. This custom-built home on Choctawhatchee Bay has 7,125 square feet, 5 bedrooms, 4 full baths, and 2 partial baths and took almost four years to build. The living room has a 22-FOOT fireplace and a 20-FOOT television. Moving outdoors, there’s a sunken fire pit with seating, an 88-foot pool, and an outdoor kitchen and dining area. According to the realtor, coming off the dock and approaching the back of the residence one gets the feel of being at an exclusive resort. Well, this may be a grand “house,” but would it feel homey? Not to me.

A familiar expression says a man’s home is his castle. The idea being conveyed is that the owner is the boss in his own home. Nevertheless, seeing the homes on the market today, you’d be apt to conclude folks are taking the expression literally. They must have a supersize residence resembling a castle overflowing with luxury amenities. Of course what was considered a luxury amenity in the past–laundry rooms and home offices–are now must have features in today’s houses.

When one mentions a house being a castle, my first thought is of royalty. What is Queen Elizabeth’s “house” like? Buckingham Palace, her official residence, is supersize on steroids. It boasts a whopping 828,000 square feet and 775 rooms, 240 of which are bedrooms, for Elizabeth R. to call home. But she’s got a slew of royal relatives who might drop by and tons of visiting dignitaries to host; one can see why she might need a massive residence.

But that’s jolly old England. What about over here in the former colonies? The Donald probably needs some room for entertaining as well. At least his official residence is way smaller than the Queen’s. The White House has a mere 55,000 square feet and 132 rooms, 35 of which are bathrooms.

The average American, though, doesn’t need to literally live like a queen or even a president in a McMansion of phenomenal proportions with a plethora of rooms. A house, according to Oxford Dictionary, is a building for human habitation especially by a family or small group. In essence, a house is meant for living, not necessarily living high on the horse.

Over the years, Americans have come to believe their homes must bigger and bigger. A big home means a big status symbol for our big heads. Materialists that we obviously are, we need bigger homes to hold all the stuff we have accumulated; with more space, of course, we’ll accumulate even more stuff to fill up our big houses.

Research by MSN Real Estate found that the average new home in the United States has grown over 140% in the last 60 or so years. Data from the U.S. Census Bureau shows that the size of a new house has doubled since 1960.  Back in 1950, the average new home was 938 square feet. But supersizing occurred. The square footage rose as the years went by. In 1975, it was 1,725; in 1993, it was 2,095; in 2003, it was 2,330. By 2013, the square footage had risen to 2,598. Wondering where Big Foot is? He’s in our architectural plans.

The amount of square footage of the average house has sharply risen, but the size is even more striking when put in perspective. The average American has double the residential space of the average U.K., Spanish, or Italian resident. My house is bigger than your house, we might accurately taunt our European friends.

The size of our houses is not the only factor to take into account. Family sizes are shrinking. When combined with the expanding square footage of our houses, the result is growing space per person in the household. The U.S., along with Canada and Australia, enjoys the greatest per capita household space in the world.

What’s the big prize for having all this space in our house and to ourselves?  Well, big houses cost big bucks to purchase. Then it costs big bucks to keep the house in repair, furnished, heated/cooled, and clean. Sounds like a big headache to me.

Sometimes less is more. Smaller houses mean less building materials and less heating and cooling which is more environmentally friendly. Smaller houses mean more chances to interact with your loved ones and more chances to share life together. Don’t we want to live life in our houses and not just occupy a big space to ourselves in them? Even better, shouldn’t our primary focus be the type of home we provide for our families rather than how much space we can give them in a house? Nobody ever said, “House sweet house.”

Just WONDER-ing:

What’s the square footage of your house? Do you think your house is big enough? Why or why not? When is a house too big? Is it truly a “house” if it resembles an exclusive resort?