You know that cherished 21st-century feeling when you find a blog so wonderful you stop everything you’re doing (researching the price points of respectable American-made shoes) and read every single post since the blog began?
I felt this when I found McMansion Hell. Kate Wagner loves architecture and roasting bad American homes. She’s funny and a great teacher and a fellow North Carolinian, so I feel a particular kinship with her.
As Kate charmingly eviscerates McMansions, you realize that so much of the horror of these incredibly American homes is self-evident—even if you know nothing about proportion and architecture, like me. So if a total amateur like myself can see the grossness after a few minutes of Kate’s tutelage, why are so many of these monsters built? Why do so many people elect to live in these architectural trash heaps? Is everyone blind to the ugliness?
Here’s my short (probably incorrect) theory: Our desire to appear wealthy vastly overpowers our appreciation of aesthetics.
Having eleven roof lines and a four-car garage satisfies our human craving for approval and respect far more than an architecturally balanced home. This is Trump’s country, after all: The appearance of wealth is practically an American virtue.
Lately, because of Kate Wagner and a stack of architecture books I got for a few bucks at the library book sale, I’ve been thinking about proportion and design in mass-produced little homes like ours.
We live in a basic 1950s “Cape Cod,” the original floorplan of which is a straightforward box. The rooms are small and the ceilings are nothing to write home about. The main bathroom and the closets are very small. The exterior is shingled with pale green asbestos siding, which has not been touched for decades.
Here’s what it looked like the day we bought it, in October 2013:
How bare, how sunny!
We’ve made small exterior improvements, namely to the yard (to which I am foolishly devoted), and added a pair of shutters, a new front door, and tiny amendments to the stoop.
Here’s what it looks like now:
It’s still a little off-kilter and shingled with asbestos, but I am happy about the progress we’ve made. That grass is high on my kill list. Can’t wait to get rid of it and fill it with native plants. One day I want new windows. And I am so eager to jack up our ugly concrete walk and replace it with pea gravel. But all in due time. Our quirky little house is fine as it is; we are content.
My opening salvo on McMansions has little to do with our home, except to say that I am learning the virtues of contentment and patience. I am thinking more about the beauty in all humble homes, even in mass-produced little ones like ours, and how we can appreciate what we’ve been given.