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Do you have a house in your neighborhood that you and your neighbors collectively call “the mansion?” If so, you are not alone.
What is a mansion anyway? The dictionary definition of a mansion is “a large, imposing house. Whether you’re curious about learning more or are possibly ready to buy a mansion yourself, it’s a good idea to know what makes these homes unique, and how you tell the difference between a McMansion and an actual mansion.
Mansions signify different things to different people. A mansion could mean a 2,000 square feet penthouse with a heavy price tag for someone in New York City. Meanwhile, a mansion may be described as a house with multiple living areas, wine cellars, and an indoor pool for someone living in Colorado.
Although both of them are correct in their own eyes, there are other elements that play a factor in whether a large home is technically a mansion.
There is no predetermined measurement that automatically makes a home a mansion. However, houses with over 5,000-8,000 square feet in interior space are commonly considered mansions among most realtors.
To compare, typical single family home has four bedrooms and 2.5 bathrooms. This is just enough room for a family of four to have space and a guest room or workstation for their children. Adults get a bathroom, while additional bathrooms are used by guests and the rest of the household.
A mansion tends to feature much larger bedrooms, in addition to having other rooms designated for a specific purpose, like a home theater, library, or in home gym.
Mansions almost always include a host of magnificent and unique amenities. These include:
Ballrooms, salons, billiard rooms, and lounges were standard in 20th-century mansions. Modern mansions usually feature large game rooms, large study or office areas, specialty bars, and a swimming pool with a pool house or cabana. To accommodate guests, these homes can also have up to three kitchens.
Greenhouses, conservatories, and libraries were popular leisure spaces a century ago. Large spas, home theaters, gyms, and high-tech media rooms—maybe even a high-tech safe room—are now standard in most mansions. Not to mention huge closets that can be converted into little man caves for the well-dressed.
Extensive garages, firepits, hiking trails, and guesthouses are popular features of today’s mansions.
Mansions are built with the best building materials available. Sustainable materials, innovative home features, and elaborate home security systems are now desired amenities in mansions.
There are several types of mansions in the United States, from classical mansions to McMansions. Here is a short overview of some of the most famous houses.
This term is often used to describe cookie-cutter homes springing up across America. These homes appear large and luxurious, but, in reality, they are modest compared to many mansions built before 1970.
It doesn’t matter what materials were used to construct these homes, or how quickly as long as it has great curb appeal. Many McMansions actually use cheap building materials and include quirky details that don’t match the home’s aesthetic.
Moreover, many McMansions aren’t planned by architects, making the home’s architecture a gamble. In many cases, the gambling and dormers on a McMansion are built in a rush and seldom keep with the architecture of the house.
Affluent dwellings are often out of scale with their environment—for example, a big house on a small lawn. The original mansion’s beauty was as much about the building itself as it was about the land it sat on well maintained grounds with magnificent gardens, tennis courts, and other outdoor activities. McMansions, on the other hand, generally share a small plot of land with their neighbor.
These were the storybook mansions of the 1920s and 1930s. These historic gems were—and still are real estate royalty. They are more than just big houses because they are made with the best materials and laborers of their day.
Victorian mansions are best known for their extravagant designs, which were based on European royal residences. They include elegant towers and great spacious halls for parties.
Travel to Latin America to see colonial style mansions. These homes are almost an art form in Brazil. These mansions were heavily influenced by European design. Adapting the culture of the second half of the 19th century, these homes now reflect Spanish and Portuguese influence.
This mansion is located at 2 East 91st Street and Fifth Avenue in Manhattan’s Upper East Side. Andrew Carnegie stayed in this mansion until he died in 1919, and his wife Louise lived there until she died in 1946. The structure presently houses the Smithsonian’s Cooper Hewitt, Smithsonian Design Museum.
This large beach mansion includes a formal garden. The East Garden, the Boxwood Parterre, and the Alpine Rock Garden were planned by Beatrix Jones Farrand between 1918 and 1929.
The Schinasi House is a 12,000 square foot marble mansion located on Riverside Drive in Manhattan’s Upper West Side. Morris Schinasi, a Sephardic tobacco baron, built it in 1907. In addition to a Prohibition era trap door that formerly reached the river, the home was designed by Carnegie Hall architect William Tuthill. It is the last detached single family house in Manhattan. Mark Schwartz, a Goldman Sachs executive, bought it for $14 million in 2013.
Mansions exist in various styles and sizes and are available in a variety of price ranges. Do you still believe the 2,500 square foot home down the road is a mansion? Applying what you’ve learned here should help you better understand which houses are truly mansions. At the end of the day, a mansion is not only defined in terms of its size compared to other dwellings but also the opulence of its amenities and grounds.