The sociology of the mega-home

Posted by Kendall Harmon

In this, the third of four excerpts from Daniel McGinn's new book House Lust, McGinn explores what is behind the growing obsession with homes -- it's "house lust," a phenomenon that says as much about our times as it does about the homes we live in.

When I tell people who live in ordinary-size houses that I've been visiting 9,000-(and even 29,000-) square-foot homes, I hear two common reactions. The first involves the cost of these homes: People marvel at how anyone could (or would want to) foot the seven-(or eight) figure price tags homes like this carry. But the second reaction is more common, and it has less to do with finances and everything to do with family dynamics. People worry that if they lived in such a large space, they'd become disconnected or isolated from other family members, as everyone hangs out solo in sunrooms, grand conservatories or luxurious bedrooms. In Potomac View, Md., where nearly every child's bedroom features an en suite sitting area and bath (and very often their own TV and video-game system), it seems like a valid concern. Indeed, so many kids today are being raised in homes that feature a bathroom for every bedroom, some experts say today's teenagers have grown unusually squeamish about undressing in school locker rooms or sharing gang-style dormitory showers.

Read it all.

Filed under: * Culture-Watch* Economics, PoliticsEconomy* International News & CommentaryAmerica/U.S.A.Canada

4 Comments
Posted April 25, 2008 at 10:04 am [Printer Friendly] [Print w/ comments]



1. David Hein wrote:

A few observations:
1. “super-cedes”: nobody seems to know how to spell “supersedes” anymore.

2. “And whatever the size of a family’s home, Anthony says there’s usually one key factor that super-cedes all other indicators of how connected the family is: Do they sit down to eat together on a regular basis?”

I’ve been surprised by the trend toward families’ not eating together. I know all the reasons, BUT, as my wise godfather used to say, Everyone has precisely the same amount of time. My parents both worked during much of my childhood and youth, and we ate dinner together (and in the summers often overlapped with breakfast and lunch some too) at least six nights a week. Exactly what is different now?

3. Kudos to Kendall for posting this article. Our use of time and money is an ethical concern, at heart a theological matter, which warrants thoughtful consideration.

April 25, 11:08 am | [comment link]
2. writingmom15143 wrote:

While we live in a community where mega-houses abound, our home
is, shall we say, a bit cozier.  We certainly hear each other when we’re all here. But I do think that there is another very important issue here as well.  In our home, there is only one television…in the family room.  No TV in the kitchen, no tv in the master bedroom, no tv in the bathroom (and, yes, I’ve seen those) So in addition to hanging out in the same part of the house together, we all have to share.  And with one daughter in elementary school and sons in the middle and high schools, this takes compromise and work (Now, maybe if “Hannah Montana” was on an episode of “Monk” where the case was about the “European soccer leagues”, they might watch together)  Are there arguments?  Yes.  Can it be frustrating?  Yes.  Have we talked about getting another tv?  Yes.
Would we do it?  Never.

April 25, 11:36 am | [comment link]
3. Irenaeus wrote:

One old friend has a home with nine bathrooms. Nine bathrooms for a family of five that doesn’t do much entertaining. At least they’re ready for a cholera epidemic.

April 25, 3:42 pm | [comment link]
4. dwstroudmd+ wrote:

Used to be called “house proud” but I suppose that implies the sin of Pride, recalls the 6 other Deadly Sins, and so cannot be used.

April 25, 6:59 pm | [comment link]
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