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A McMansion is the "Big Mac" of residential architecture: large, often mass-produced, and lacking style or elegance. The slang term came into use in the boom years of the 1980s, as over-sized houses with a floor area between 3,000 to 5,000 square feet were built on small lots (the house itself often covering a larger portion of the property than the yard in a common setting). McMansions have been nicknamed "starter castles", "Persian palaces", "garage Mahals", and "Hummer houses".

The McMansion was part of the evolution of the single-family residence over the last half century. The average new American home swelled from a one-story structure having about 980 square feet in 1950, to a two-story, 2,340-sq.-ft. structure in 2004. A McMansion is two to three times the size of a typical single-family residence built within the last 50 years.

McMansions are intended to fill the gap between modest tract homes in the suburbs and custom-designed homes often found in gated communities and upscale neighborhoods. Like tract houses, McMansions can be mass-produced in suburban areas or built as a single residence in an existing neighborhood of smaller homes. Conflict has arisen in Fullerton and other cities when the construction of a much larger dwelling does not fit into the scheme of the neighborhood's older, smaller existing residences. Proponents claim that McMansions revitalize suburbs, reduce sprawl, and promote reinvestment in older suburbs. Developers call McMansions "luxury move-up homes."

Critics have weighed in against McMansions since their earliest inception, criticizing their wastefulness, cheap and mass-produced construction and cookie-cutter look. McMansions have no true architectural style but borrow motifs and elements from various and often incompatible architectural styles to mimic traditionally-built dwellings. Large houses crowded onto small lots also block sunlight, putting nearby residences into shadow.

Characteristics of McMansions include:

  • Oversized, especially in relationship to the lot size, with small or no yards
  • Two or more stories
  • Voluminous roofs (McMansion communities are often likened to a "sea of roofs")
  • Built with mass-produced materials
  • Ostentatious in appearance, often out-of-sync with surrounding homes, especially in rural-looking neighborhoods
  • Use a pastiche of traditional features, such as gates, gables, wrap-around porches, creating a non-harmonious exterior
  • Various window sizes and shapes
  • Faux or fake features such as dormers with windows that don't open or inaccessible widow walks
  • "Themed" in various faux styles, such as Mediterranean , neo-Tudor, neo-Colonial
  • Three or more garages
  • Interiors that feature "great" rooms, formal living/dining areas, open kitchen/family rooms, master suites
  • Reception areas and kitchens on the ground floor with bedrooms on the upper level

The Oxnard-Thousand Oaks area in California has the largest number of McMansions in California, but other cities with a significant amount of these massive dwellings include Portland, Dallas, Minneapolis, Seattle, and Provo, Utah. There are several examples of McMansions in Fullerton, all of which have been constructed or enlarged to their present size within the last twenty years. On a stretch of Skyline Drive, east and west of its intersection with Acacia Avenue, over a dozen McMansion residences are situated on large lots in a subdivision that was created in the late 1990s. These McMansions were not constructed at the same time by a merchant builder; instead, each residence was custom designed for the owner who bought one of the undeveloped lots. Other McMansion-type residences are present at, 1970 Skyline Drive, 2061 Skyline Drive, 900 N. Carhart Avenue, 1528 Sunny Crest Drive, and 1120 Richman Knoll.

Read More About McMansion Residences:

  • Kiviat, Barbara. "Reinventing the McMansion. " Time September 28, 2009, p. 57-58.
  • Nasar, Jack L. "McMansions: The Extent and Regulation of Super-Sized Houses. " Journal of Urban Design October 2007, pp. 339-358.
  • Wagner, Kate. McMansion Hell. Online

Residence (1991) - 1970 Skyline Drive
Residence (1991)
1970 Skyline Drive


Residence (1991) - 2061 Skyline Drive
Residence (1991)
2061 Skyline Drive


Residence (2002) - 900 N. Carhart Avenue
Residence (2002)
900 N. Carhart Avenue


Residence (2008) - 1528 Sunny Crest Drive
Residence (2008)
1528 Sunny Crest Drive


Residence (2018) - 1120 Richman Knoll
Residence (2018)
120 Richman Knoll



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