The above is a cavernous waste of money and space unless you've got a whole raucous friendgroup of people you invite over to your house all the time.
And this is exactly the allegation that I wish people like Kate Wagner would address: what, exactly, is a waste of space? What makes it a waste? Why do we criticize a big dumb formal living room but give things like barbecues, personal watercraft and time-share condos a bye?
Where I stay right now there is nowhere to sit. The couch is awful. My host, the guy who rents the place, prefers to sit in a director's chair. There is, effectively, nowhere to socialize. My home has a ridiculously large leather sectional and fuckin' hell, man, I've had that ridiculous sectional for sixteen years and ever since I got it, my place has been where my friends hang out. Do you think it's valuable to have a place where your friends come to you? I certainly do. And I've found out how deeply inconvenient it is to have nowhere for friends to sleep because my spare bedroom is full of audio post equipment.
Let's presume for the sake of argument that your bank feels your finances are such that you can afford a big dumb formal living room. Let's assume it's an extra 800 square feet. It probably adds $100k to your mortgage. For that kind of money you could buy a reasonably decent motorhome (that depreciates 40% the minute you drive it off the lot), a 24' bass boat (which will be worth a quarter that in ten years) or a Porsche 911 (which is gonna be worth a third that in six).
The motorhome is gonna get used maybe a week a year and you have to insure it and put gas in it. The bass boat is gonna need a trailer and a truck to haul it and a place to put it, unless you've got a slip which is probably going to cost you $50 a foot per month and oh, marine gas is like $6 a gallon and you usually spend something like 20% the value of a boat every year keeping it seaworthy. The Porsche? At least you get to drive it to work.
But the living room? It's the only appreciating asset there. And it's eight steps from the kitchen. You can put a couch in it and read a book whenever you want to. You can do yoga in it. And fuckin' hell you can have friends over without wondering if they're going to be weirded out by the boat toilet.
Presume you have the money. Presume you want to spend it. After all, what's the point of earning it if you can't enjoy it? WHY are we so eager to pillory people for wanting living space? Google image search "minimalism." What you get is big empty fuckin' rooms. So apparently the idea is not "don't covet space" the idea is "don't put anything in it once you have it."
I do think people spend based on how they'd like to see themselves, and not on how they actually are.
"A man tells the world how he is four ways: his house, his wife, his car, and his shoes."
- Warren Adler, War of the Roses
Yeah. Spending is aspirational as all fuck. Always has been, always will be. Here's the question: if you've spent to be who you want to be, do you eventually become that person? If you buy a big dumb fucking living room and fill it full of parties, are you an entertainer? If you buy a big dumb fucking living room and fail to fill it full of parties, are you a failure?
This is the thing that bugs the shit out of me about Kate Wagner and her ilk. It's perfectly okay to savage someone for wanting a large living room or a formal dining room, even when they can afford it, but it's perfectly okay to pillory people for trying to make someone else's bad idea livable:
It’s hard to describe the feeling of loss that comes with looking at a house built in 1980 and discovering an interior fresh out of last month’s HGTV Magazine. Do I really think the world needs more overstuffed chintz sofas or shag carpeting? No, but the idea that a world without a single room decorated like it’s fresh out of a Laura Ashley catalog seems like quite an erasure of the pop cultural history of how everyday people decorated their houses.
I’ve devoted a large bookshelf to old catalogs, renovation books, interior design magazines, and other resources about how people decorated their homes partially out of personal obsession and partially because I’m afraid that someday that history will be lost in the material world and will only exist in the glossy imagery of those pages.
I worked in architecture for eight years. My sister is an architect. I've interacted with some of Kate Wagner's professors at Johns Hopkins. And it has made me fucking hate architects. The basic idea is that the client is always wrong, that whatever came before is bullshit unless it's holy and only they know the difference, and whatever ideas you may have about livability obviously come from the fact that you're a savage, here let me misquote a 15-year-old study with an n of 32 to prove it. I mean, she lost her fucking mind over the notion that someone would tear this eyesore down:
So what I'm left with is the hollow, spiteful elitism that's based not in any consistency of thought but simply a visceral dislike of anything you didn't study in school. And I fucking hate contemporary architecture. And I fucking hate "mcmansions." I mean look at this shit. Within two pictures she pillories a house for wasting energy with large windows and then pillories a different house for not letting the light in with small windows and they're both in Texas.
Look. There's nothing "Mc" about this mansion. It's twenty thousand square feet. Personally I can't imagine living in it (I can't imagine attending Medieval Times banquets in it). But I'm not so busy snarking that I can't see why it was profiled in the fucking Wall Street Journal. There's absolutely asinine quantities of wasted space in there but then, it's trying to be castle so of course there is. But we're too busy making "deep dream" jokes without noticing that really, the place is hella more logical than Neuschwanstein.
There's no why to architectural criticism in general, and McMansion Hell's in particular. It's all sophomoric "backoffmanI'mascientist" bullshit. And I honestly believe if she'd spend half her cleverness in actual critique the world would be a better place.