When did monstrous become magnificent? The problem with mega mansions

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There once was a 1940s state house; a wee weatherboard rectangle squatting on its section – perfect for its family of four.

In the 80s or 90s it acquired a pop-top, perhaps a bedroom and ensuite clamped onto its roof. It looked like itself in the same way some people who have had cosmetic surgery do – still like them, just a bit odd. It was, presumably, ideal for its family of three.

Come the mid-2010s, the little statey was put on growth-enhancing drugs and underwent radical surgery to inflate its front, boost its behind and face-lift it to the standard its once working-class neighbourhood had newly acquired. It no longer looked like itself.

Why are more of us buying into big?Why are more of us buying into big? Photo: istock

In its amped-up condition it was, presumably, just right for its little family. Same could be said for the fat 4WDs parked outside the double garage, vehicles that look better suited to the Kandahar Province than the Coles carpark.

It all comes down to “need”. For some families it means no less than three ensuites and a media room. Simply cannot do with a single bathroom, and God knows Oklahoma and Persephone need a wing for their cyber-yoga. Yet for others, it constitutes enough $1-a-loaf bread to stave off the kids’ hunger and enough cash from through-the-night cleaning jobs to pay the rent.

Just down the road from the steroid-pumped statey, a concrete-and-glass edifice has gone up. I believe its interior is exquisite; it’s just that from the outside, you’d swear an insurance company or bank had plonked its HQ behind the pohutukawa.

A hopeful counterbalance to the mega mansion is the emergence of the tiny house movement.

A hopeful counterbalance to the mega mansion is the emergence of the tiny house movement. Photo: istock

It’s a Grand Designs house, so of course it must be a symphony of style. Mustn’t it? Can’t recall Kevin McCloud or Chris Moller staring down the barrel of the camera and lamenting: “Well, that’s a big ugly sucker.”

So when did monstrous become magnificent, ginormous become gorgeous? It’s nothing new – think monarchs, oil barons, IT tycoons, oligarchs … and Mark Hotchin – but somehow it feels as if more of us are buying into big. Why? “Because we can” and “because we deserve it”. Super-sized entitlement, with a side serving of smug. Besides, you can’t really argue against it when you’re the only person in the conversation.

A hopeful counterbalance is the emergence of the tiny house movement. It’s not everyone’s thimble of tea, but you have to admire proponents’ financial pragmatism and their awareness that we are dealing with one small planet, limited resources and loads of people. Now there’s a big issue.

– Stuff