This article delves into the typical specifications of what is considered a mansion and compares them with manors, estates, and McMansions. Read further to learn more about their differences, history, potential buyers, how to renovate them, and many more!
By George Nicola (Expert Stager)
By definition, mansions are large, luxurious residential properties characterized by classy designs, high-quality materials, magnificent landscaping with acres of land, extensive staircases, and many other remarkable amenities.
While the definition of the term mansion is not strictly based on size, a good rule of thumb is that their floors cover at least 5,000-9000 square footage.
What is a Mansion?
The word “mansion” originates from the Latin word ‘mansion,’ which means ‘to dwell.’ While its features have changed over time, one can still paint a picture of what a mansion looks like when the word is uttered.
By definition, mansions are large, luxurious residential properties characterized by classy designs, high-quality materials, magnificent landscaping with acres of land, extensive staircases, and many other remarkable amenities.
Where are Mansions Normally Built?
Most mansions are normally built in metropolitan areas with lucrative housing markets. In a 2019 study carried out by SmartAsset, the financial technology company found that Utah currently has the highest number of mansions in the U.S.
Utah is home to three big cities, with 5 in 1,000 houses being luxurious mansions located in Provo-Orem, Ogden-Clearfield, and Salt Lake City. According to the study a mansion has at least five rooms and fifteen bedrooms
The state’s housing market is also very hot and profitable due to high population growth and increased levels of employment, which intensifies the housing demand. Local real estate agents are more concerned with insufficient single-family homes to meet the growing housing demand.
What makes a house a mansion
A mansion is a significantly larger and more elegant property than the usual house. While all mansions are houses, not all houses makes a mansion.
Overall, the combination of size, opulent features, high-end finishing, and several floors may turn a house into a mansion. While all mansions are homes, not all houses are mansions since they lack all of these purpose built home features.
Manor vs Mansions - What are the Differences?
Generally, a mansion describes a “grand house” with high-quality fixtures and covers at least 5000-9000 square footage. Conversely, a manor is a term that originated during the days of medieval lords.
It does not primarily define a building but an expansive piece of land suitable for building a big country house. The building that the landowner lived in was usually known as “The Manor House.”
Several mansions, especially those that have stood the test of time, were initially manor houses before they were upgraded using stylish fixtures.
If you want to know that a mansion is an upgraded version of an old manor house, look for features, such as a ballroom, a pool hall, and even a servant’s quarter for home helps. Modern-day mansions often have masterful designs and modern luxury, such as theater rooms, spas, indoor basketball court, and swimming pool.
Historically, a manor was an expansive area of fertile land owned by a knight who cultivated it for family consumption and commercial purposes.
In England, manors with unfertile land were characteristically bigger than those with fertile land, but both had a small village and a church. Archdioceses and monasteries often owned many manors for housing nobles and their families.
Mansion vs Estate - What are the Differences?
Traditionally, an estate refers to an extensive piece of land covering villages, towns, farms, pastures, gardens, woods, and other significant property, including manors and mansions. The families that controlled the estate ensured that all the products and proceeds generated within the estate supported all inhabitants.
Nowadays, an estate refers to a vast parcel of land with more than one residential building and farmland constructed. In some instances, the term is used as the modern-day manor even though it lacks the now-abolished jurisdictional establishments that governed manors.
The actual difference between a mansion and an estate trickles down to the size of the land the property sits on. While both can accommodate huge stunning homes, an estate typically has more extensive lands.
Like old times, estate owners nowadays sell or rent out their land and property to allow people to build their homes, businesses and even cultivate them.
How Mansions Evolved - History and Current
The construction of mansions began in Europe in the 15th century when fortified castles were transformed into mansions, country houses, and manors. This was triggered by innovations in modern weapons and political ideologies. In various European cities, owners of country houses and manors also owned town mansions known as ‘houses’ or ‘palaces.’
In the 16th century, when renaissance architecture became popular, owners of the castles that were rebuilt into mansions desired to live in private spaces away from their servants. This social change was triggered by powerful families who felt that they could only mold society by meeting in rooms above the ground floor. Servants were confined in explicitly delegated zones.
Most mansions in Europe and the US were built in the 19th century. However, unlike their prototypes, they were not surrounded by large estates. Until the early 1900s, moderately-sized mansions in England had approximately 40 servants indoors and outdoors. Business people used them as retreat spots away from city life.
Over the years, the term ‘mansion’ has changed from one country to another. In England, a mansion is an apartment designed to appear grandeur. In Japan, they are multi-unit apartment blocks. Generally, most estates nowadays are found in a neighborhood of tract housings where land is plentiful, and the average income is high.
5 Mansion Architects from the Past and their Styles
Gaudy was a Spain-based architect renowned for designing La Sagrada Familia in 1883, which remains unfinished.
His style featured a blend of Victorian, Moorish, Gothic, and Baroque elements that included decorative tilework and forms of nature.
From 1886-1888, he designed the Palau Güell mansion, which after many renovations, remains open only for visits by the public.
Nicholas J. Clayton
This Texas-based Victorian-era architect used a picturesque, spirited, eclectic style to design many public buildings in Galveston, Texas: St. Mary Cathedral, the First Presbyterian Church, etc.
He was deeply involved in the interior architecture of the Bishop’s Palace mansion or Gresham’s Castle in Texas. Since it was made of stone, the mansion sheltered local people from hurricanes
Clarence H. Johnston Sr.
Focusing on domestic, public, and religious architecture, Clarence H. Johnston Sr. was an American architect based in the State of Minnesota.
He is considered one of the most creative architects in the U.S. He designed the 20,000-square foot, 39-room Glensheen Mansion located in Minnesota.
This 19th-century American architect focused on an arts and crafts architectural style.
Morgan established the artistic use of reinforced concrete in several of her structures, which proved sturdy enough to withstand earthquakes in 1906 and 1989.
Morgan is also renowned for her active involvement in the architecture design and construction of the Hearst Castle in San Simeon, California.
Using an American type of Neo-Classicism and Neo-Palladianism known as Jeffersonian architecture, Thomas Jefferson was one of the famous architects to establish an American architectural image based on Roman and Greek designs.
He designed Monticello’s mansion in Charlottesville, Virginia, for himself for 19 years before becoming the third U.S. president in 1801. Jefferson owned approximately 60% of the furnishings in the mansion.
Why are American Mansions so Big?
To put this into perspective, let’s compare homes in America and homes in Europe. Over the years, the average square footage of homes in America has increased, while European home sizes have remained the same to some degree because they are often constructed for longevity.
This shows that mansions are also different in various parts of the world.
European home design puts more emphasis on communal amenities, such as parks and overall walkability, while Americans focus on having their private versions at home, such as games, hobby supplies, or pools.
This means that homes designed for the American market are generally larger than their European counterparts.
Data from the U.S. Census revealed that the national average square footage for a single-family home in America rose from 1,740 to 2,392 square feet in 1980 and 2010 respectively.
Specifications of a Mansion
In their own right, mansions are stylish works of architectural art. A one-of-a-kind mansion is usually custom-made by a team of highly-skilled architects from its development, design, aesthetics, and amenities both indoors and outdoors.
Below are specific features and fixtures that characterize mansions today:
Indoor Specifications of a Mansion
Typically, a mansion should have at least 5-6 themed bedrooms including the master suite. While the maximum number of bedroom vary, many modern-day mansions have up to 10 bedrooms. Other additional rooms are designed for entertainment, luxury, and relaxation.
Mansions must have common utilities like electricity, water, gas, security systems sewer, cable TV, telephone, and the Internet. In addition, others have solar panels, trash collection, and a gas pump in the garage.
Below is a comprehensive outline of the typical rooms in a mansion:
Painting interior scenes is usually challenging because the designs are often characterized by strong perspective lines and strange lighting from single or multi-sources. Depending on your viewpoint, interior scenes can be rendered using two forms of linear perspectives:
- Kitchens – At least one oversized gourmet kitchen, and even more to cater to guests.
- Garages – Mansions often have at least a 5-car front yard and backyard garages.
- Entertainment – Home theatres, gaming room, casino, a nightclub, recording studio.
- Billiard room – in a mansion the billiard room is often designed in a separate area of the home, frequently on the ground floor or in a basement level or within the entertainment area. It is frequently intended as a retreat or meeting spot for recreational activities and socialisation.
- Living room – Also referred to as a sitting room or drawing room, this room accommodates guests and is usually located near the mansion’s entrance.
- Bathrooms – Mansion should have at least two bathrooms for every three bedrooms by combining more than one type of bathroom: a half-bathroom, a three-quarter bathroom, or a full bathroom.
- Master bedrooms – This may include features like modern furniture, modern fireplaces, floor-to-ceiling windows, massive TVs, remarkable chandeliers, walk-in closets, etc.
- Luxury garage – Bespoke with car risers, displays for collections, glass features, high-end speaker systems, and mood lighting.
- Storage – Password-protected safes, walk-in closets, built-in shoe racks, built-in bookshelves, ottoman storage, etc.
- Recreation rooms – Used for various casual activities, such as games, parties, etc. Mansions may have tennis courts, basketball courts, climbing wall rooms, etc.
- Gym/Martial arts room – includes gym equipment and home exercise spaces alongside other amenities.
- Library – authentic mansions typically have breathtaking one- or two-story libraries with spiral staircases, custom shelves, pocket doors, walls themed with paint colors, etc.
- Laundry room – Usually located upstairs, they are often complemented with wall-mounted sinks or a fold-out ironing board.
- Indoor pool – the pool house is often designed for easy accessibility and equipped with heating systems for controlling water temperature.
- Guestroom – Often located within the main house, guestrooms are stylish extra sleeping quarters for hosting family members and friends.
- Servant rooms – Servant chambers in mansions were generally tiny, cheaply furnished rooms used by domestic employees or other estate workers. Often positioned on the mansion’s upper levels, away from the main living spaces, and were designed to offer minimal lodging for the staff. Today these rooms are now known as staff quarters, employee housing, or something similar.
- Home office – Always away from outside distractions, the home office in a mansion is often soundproof and equipped with ergonomic office furniture for long working hours.
- Craft room – Also known as an art room, sewing room, or hobby room, this room provides a unique space to nurture your creativity.
- Wine cellar – Wine cellars are a common addition to the large estates, and they are considered as a luxury and sophisticated addition to the property. They are normally chilled to between 50 and 59 degrees Fahrenheit (10-15 degrees Celsius) and have a humidity level of roughly 70%, which is ideal for wine storage.
- Movie Theater – Equipped with giant TV screens, cozy lounge chairs, mood lighting, theme décor, motorized shades, etc.
- Playroom – A space for kids to play and is equipped with toys, arts, paintings, books, etc.
- Sunroom – Mainly for lounging, this room has glass windows and skylights to match the feeling of being outdoors.
- Secret room – Typically located between normal rooms, they are hiding spaces from danger, such as invaders.
- Helicopter pad – A landing platform for helicopters and other aircraft to airlift people in case of natural catastrophes and emergencies, such as fires, burglaries, etc.
Smart home features and amenities
Because of their size and status, the mansion architecture relies on home built smart systems throughout. Since average home have x3 times less the square footage, elaborate security systems ensures intruders are kept away.
Smart house technology is a relatively new invention, therefore ancient mansions (those built before to the widespread acceptance of smart home technology) are unlikely to include many, if any, smart home features.
Some earlier mansions may have featured rudimentary automation systems, such as thermostats that enabled you to program heating and cooling schedules, or security systems with cameras and alerts.
These systems, however, would not have been connected to the internet or managed by a smartphone or other device, as contemporary smart home technology allows.
Because of how is built, it allows some older mansions may have been converted with current smart home technology, however this would depend on the unique house as well as the owner’s tastes and finances.
Outdoor Specifications of a Mansion
The outdoor space of mansions should be seen as a personal retreat from the indoors. Once you step out, you should enjoy the beauty and relaxing feeling of the natural surroundings. Apart from the dreamlike peaceful surroundings, a mansion’s outdoors should have:
- Outdoor kitchen – It should have high-quality cooking appliances such as a sink, wood-fired oven, gas grill, and counter space.
- Sprawling grounds should include manicured gardens, hiking trails, a children’s playground, and fire pits.
- Water features – This may include ponds, in-ground pools, infinity pool.
- Games facilities – Basketball court, tennis court.
- Guesthouses for servants and crew
- Climate-control garage
First impressions count, and the first thing people will see when they look at a mansion is the façade. A mansion’s facade refers to the building’s exterior wall facing the street or the front door to the house.
The ‘front of mansions’ is designed to create some character and personality in the building and has various striking features that appeal to visitors or onlookers on the street. Critical elements of mansion facades include:
- Colour schemes on walls – Neutral colors, including browns, greys, creams, and whites, are ideal because they contrast stunningly against brick, stone, or cladding.
- Exposed brickwork – To eliminate monotonous brickwork, mansion facades use exposed red brickwork for columns, garages, door trimmings, and windows.
- Timber cladding – To add a touch of natural and timeless beauty, modern mansions install various timber panels vertically or horizontally to create multiple effects.
- Stone cladding – Stones are used to complete concrete walls or as an enhancement for trims and columns, alongside neutral colors for a simple yet modern appearance.
- Landscaping – Landscaping adds character to mansion facades by mixing the use of plants, grass, pebbles, rocks, and tiles, which enhance other outdoor features like gardens.
Guest Amenities of a Mansion
Generally, a mansion usually has guesthouse or at least a servants’ quarter for accommodating guests on bed and breakfast basis. The guests should always feel at home with personalized guest service from professional servants. Guest amenities in a mansion should have:
- Cable TV in all rooms
- Private baths
- Free wireless Internet
- Central air and heat
- Magnificent furnishings and fireplaces
- Full home-cooked meals
- Complimentary beverages and dessert
- Off-street parking.
- Smoking zones
- Pets are permitted unless indicated
Traditional vs Modern Interior Decors of Mansions
Generally, traditional mansions combine many features of past architectural styles for their interior decor. On the other hand, modern homes characteristically used mid-century interior decors to achieve simplicity of form, color, detail, and material and to maximize space. In addition, the use of bolder colors in accessories was common.
Traditionally, the interior mansions were as exceptional as the exteriors. They had features such as fireplaces, window seats, and built-in bookshelves. After the industrial revolution, the interiors had defined layouts with foyers, living rooms, dining spaces, separate laundry rooms, and a basement.
Unlike traditional mansions, the interior décor of modern mansions focuses on allowing a lot of natural lighting in the interiors rather than using artificial lighting. In addition, furniture and other decor designs have strong horizontal and vertical lines, which highlight the use of reinforced concrete.
In addition, furniture placement in traditional mansions prioritized symmetry and balance by grouping furniture in a manner that invites conversation, such as a sofa facing two chairs. In modern mansions, the placement of living room furniture ensures no obstacles between items in the seating area and the focal area, such as the TV, to create a functional space.
Who Buys Mansions and Why?
There are many categories of people who buy mansions. However, their tastes and preferences change over time. Below are some of the common buyers:
- Limited Liability Companies – Wealthy buyers who prefer their identities concealed from the prying public use LLCs as a private vehicle for purchasing a mansion. They also enjoy tax benefits and legal protections.
- Celebrities – Fame comes with a lack of privacy. As such, mansions are the go-to safe haven for celebrities who want some security and sanity.
- High-ranked civil servants – Company presidents, CEOs, and the like are public figures who can be easily spotted. They’d rather buy some peace and luxury in a mansion.
- Newly wealthy people – These are individuals who all of a sudden receive huge amounts of money and want a large house for their newly purchased possessions.
- Claustrophobic people – If you suffer from the fear of confined spaces, a mansion will always be an ideal residence if you can afford it.
The high resale value of mansions is one of the reasons why these luxury homes have a higher return on investment. Their high-end features and proximity to important places give them a competitive edge over other properties. Their prices constantly rise irrespective of market conditions.
Can You Transform a Normal House into a Mansion?
Houses can be transformed into mansions, depending on your budget, planning and location!
However, be ready to finance the high cost of renovation that comes with it. This is because ordinary houses have standard indoor and outdoor specifications that you will have to replace in the process.
How to transform the average house?
Transforming an average house into a mansion is not a one-size-fits-all project. First, you must research the market for a suitable home that you can buy, renovate and sell. Keep in mind that the size of land where the house is sitting must be big enough to accommodate all amenities that are typical of mansions.
What does it take – from house to a mansion?
The most crucial step is to find a suitable location, preferably a high-end area. If the ordinary house is constructed with wood, brick, stone, stucco, hardiplank, or vinyl siding, you might be forced to demolish it before renovating it afresh.
It is cost-effective to go for properties constructed with the finest woods, stonework, and fabrics because most mansions use the same.
How do I make a plan for a mansion?
Ask yourself the following questions when creating the renovation plan:
- What’s my budget for hiring contractors?
- Should I hire a virtual renovation expert?
- Should I hire an interior designer?
- How will I optimize the layout?
- What’s the timeline for the renovation?
Mansion vs. McMansion
McMansions are mass-produced dwellings aimed to serve the upper-middle-class, especially in the United States. The McMansion trend appeared first in the 1970s along with the cheap oil boom that allowed people to keep large houses and drive anywhere.
McMansions became popular in areas where the 2008 financial crisis hit hard. While mansions can be custom-made or rather be renovated according to the taste and preferences of owners, McMansions cannot. This makes them a bad choice for renovations.
Low-quality materials were used to build them quickly and their designs barely follow specific architectural styles. Many websites are dedicated to demolishing them due to asymmetry, misuse of space, odd window placement, and many other design malfunctions.
To put this into perspective, a Mansion and/or a McMansion has at least two or more of the following features: 3000+ square feet; 5 or more bedrooms; 3 or more full bathrooms; and a 3-car garage. Generally, mansions are more bespoke than McMansions, as they are typically constructed for families in accordance with their preferences.
Typically, the architects often ensure that the interiors have custom craftsmanship with furnishings that correspond to their location. To spot the differences at a glance:
- A mansion is symmetrical; McMansion is more asymmetrical.
- A mansion has more windows; McMansion is mostly walls.
- A mansion has one type of roof and siding; McMansion uses different materials.
- A mansion can remain standing for centuries; McMansions are often demolished and rebuilt after some decades.
6 Key Takeaways: What is considered as a mansion?
- Mansions are large, luxurious, and spectacular residential properties characterized by classy designs, high-quality materials, magnificent landscaping, extensive staircases, and many other remarkable amenities.
- Mansions are not strictly based on size, but their floors cover 5,000-9000 square footage.
- Manors are expansive pieces of land suitable for building big country houses popularly known as ‘The Manor House.’
- An estate is a vast parcel of land with more than one residential building and farmland constructed.
- McMansions are mass-produced dwellings that serve the upper-middle-class, especially in the United States.
- You can transform an average house into a mansion, but you cannot convert it into a McMansion.
There is a practice amongst today’s home buyers to buy 20 to 30 years old houses and spend money on transforming them into pretty mansions. We’ve written more on that process here.