Blog Review: McMansion Hell« All Wyche Articles

April 19, 2017

Blog Recommendation by Ted Gentry

Works don’t have to be pretentious to be profound, and they don’t have to be utterly earnest to have an impact.  Having a good laugh is often reason enough to read something, but humor is better when it is infused with a message.  A reader might find the way to the blog McMansion Hell (www.mcmansionhell.com) because it delivers a laugh, but linger because the blog delivers a lot to think about.

McMansion Hell has grown rapidly from humble roots.  A graduate student in acoustics at Johns Hopkins, Kate Wagner, started the blog as a vehicle to share her passionate distaste for bad residential architecture with a few friends.  But her keen eye and snarky style have obviously struck a chord.  McMansion Hell has a following that grows by the day, and Ms. Wagner has given a TEDx talk and is in discussions for a book deal. 

McMansion Hell’s take-no-prisoners critiques may not be for everyone (“Hello art dealer? I need the most boring Toulouse-Lautrec print you have.  If it’s beige you’ll get a nice tip.”), and readers who don’t spend a lot of time on social media may need a search engine to translate some terms and abbreviations (is a “dank” mansion good or bad?).  But there are rewards to reading any work in the original language, rather than a translation.  And there’s a good bit of actual architectural theory sprinkled into the mix.

We have no shortage of books, and blogs, and videos that promise to be Life Changing.  But I can report that I have found McMansion Hell actually to be life-changing.  When I walk down a street, I notice architectural details that I would not have previously, and I have some sort of a context for understanding why they work, or they don’t.  I know what a jerkin-head is; and I correctly used the term muntin just yesterday.  McMansion Hell has made me laugh out loud, but it has also opened my eyes to a significant part of the built world that I had not properly noticed or appreciated.  Not bad for something that started, in Ms. Wagner’s words, as “a way for me and three friends of mine to laugh at ugly houses on real estate listings.”