Where to live now in Atlanta 2018

McMansions are popping up all over Atlanta—and it’s annoying

Anatomy of a McMansion
Illustration by T.M. Detwiler

I am ashamed to admit that Kate Wagner—the John Hopkins University graduate student who pens the viral blog McMansion Hell—has called my home county of Cobb a “goldmine of dank McMansions.” But the truth is, with Atlanta’s explosive growth in recent decades, no corner of the metro area—from burgeoning North Fulton to cozy Old Fourth Ward—has been immune from this annoying trend.

The trouble is, if you’re not a design professional, it can be hard to identify exactly what makes a house feel wrong. So, we went to Shutze Award-winning architect Peter Block for a little guidance. “Mostly, the problem is people trying too hard,” Block says. “The eraser is as valuable as the pencil.” —Betsy Riley

1. Too many design elements jammed together compete for attention. Instinctively, your eye craves balance. If you traced imaginary diagonal lines across a drawing of the front of a house, key points like the corners of windows and doors should align. Our subconscious mind perceives geometric precision as beauty—just think of the corners of a maple leaf, which mark a perfect pentagram. “You can always look to relationships in nature,” Block says.

2. Doors and windows are called “voids.” Too many voids can make a house appear soulless and empty. Sometimes builders use lots of smaller windows because they’re less expensive, but the effect does end up looking cheap.

3. And don’t even get us started on turrets. Rapunzel?

4. Too many materials and colors give this facade an identity crisis. Is it Tudor? Shingle-style? Farmhouse? This house mixes stone, brick, shingles, siding, and more—not to mention two types of roofing materials, different trims, and multiple paint colors. This is especially disturbing when a house has lots of gables. Keep things simple, and stick to one idea.

5. Minimize the number of different window shapes. Identical windows can be set closely together as a single grouping if a larger opening is desired, presenting as one strong element rather than repetitive holes punched in the house. Shutters should be wide enough to actually cover the window, even if they are stationary.

6. If your garage faces the street, use attractive doors that make the structure look more like a natural extension of the house, such as a pavilion or carriage house. And if you have lots of cars to park, keep in mind that not all vehicles have to enter from the same side, Block notes. Some garage bays can face another direction.

This article originally appeared in our February 2018 issue.