The word “McMansion” was coined in the early 1980s in Beverly Hills. Related terms include “Persian palace”,”garage Mahal”, “starter castle”, and “Hummer house.” An example of a “McWord,” “McMansion” associates the generic quality of these “luxury homes” with that of mass-produced fast food meals by restaurant chains.
In Beverly Hills the larger estates are located on larger lots North of Santa Monica Blvd. Lots south of the Blvd are much smaller and have smaller homes which are proportionate to their lot size. The lots in this area are 5000 to 7500 max. The homes were 2-3 bedroom homes approximately 1,800 sf.
During the Iranian revolution many Iranians fled their country. Many moved to Beverly Hills first moving into apartments then later buying homes. Because land is so expensive in Beverly Hills and they generally lived with extended families, they would enlarge their home and remodel to their tastes. They would prefer to buy the cheaper smaller homes on smaller lots in Beverly Hills then enlarge them to fit their needs instead of buying the more expensive, larger estates on larger sites. They were putting 4,000 to 6,000 sf homes on 6,000 sf lots.
They generally would remodel to build the largest home they could legally build on a lot using the entire foot plan. This would most times be a square home with Greek or Colonial embellishments on the front. It would cover the maximum lot lines and top out at the maximum height limitations. Many felt these homes were tacky and tasteless.
These two story plus homes which looked a bit like gaudy apartment buildings would dwarf the smaller one-story Spanish and Traditional homes around them. They would also generally get rid of the garage and have a circular driveway in the front. On top of this more people would live in each home. As they got rid of the garages street parking became an issue. This bothered the original neighbors and did look a bit sightly.
Over time this spread to other expensive cities. The public finally put their foot down and demanded that something be done. Building and planning departments made changes especially in Beverly Hills. New homes had to go through a more rigorous approval process. Height limitations and maximum square footage were changed as were lot lines, set backs and styles. They would no longer allow homes to use the maximum foot plan of the site or maximum height limitations. They also would not approve homes which were just solid squares.
Here are a few McMansions in Beverly Hills which I photographed last week. I did not appraiser these though I have appraised a lot of these types of homes. These are south of Santa Monica Blvd north of Olympic. Notice on the side near the rear the house juts out again. That’s because the set back changes at that point and they wanted to use as much land as possible. They also added basements to be able to add even more living space.
Another criticism of McMansions and mansionization is people think they are a waste of space and materials. There are sometimes more space than a regular family would need with tall ceilings and open atrium entrances. The quality of the materials and workmanship were sometimes also an issue. They didn’t always use the best architect ending up with a home which was a bit tasteless to the point of being obnoxious. Besides this the design and style of the homes seemed to be a jumbled mix of gaudy additions such as columns, multiple front balconies and statuary.
Over time new owners of the original “palaces” have toned down the front facades and color schemes. They’ve also replaced the acres of pink marble flooring with wood and removed some of the flourishes.
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