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architectural visualiser george nicola

By George Nicola (Expert Stager)

By definition, mansions are large, luxurious residential properties characterized by classy designs, high-quality materials, magnificent landscaping, extensive staircases, and many other remarkable amenities. 

While the definition 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.

transform a house to a mansion
Backyard of a mansion - Photo by Stephen Leonardi on Unsplash

By definition, mansions are large, luxurious residential properties characterized by classy designs, high-quality materials, magnificent landscaping, extensive staircases, and many other remarkable amenities.

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.

mannor vs mansion
Front facade of an old manor - Photo by Gibbon FitzGibbon on Unsplash

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 (including mansions), 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.

mansion vs estates
Facade of historical mansion - Photo by James Bold on Unsplash

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.

Specifications of a Mansion

mansion specifications
Mansion on a hill - Photo by VJ Von Art on Unsplash

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

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:

  • How many rooms? – Typically, a mansion should have at least 5-6 themed bedrooms including the master suite. While the maximum number of bedrooms does not really matter, many modern-day mansions have up to 10 bedrooms. Other additional rooms are often designed for entertainment, luxury, and relaxation.
  • Kitchens – At least one oversized gourmet kitchen, and up to four or more additional ones to cater to guests.
  • Utility – 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.
  • Storage – Password-protected safes, safe or ‘secret’ rooms (panic rooms), walk-in closet, built-in shoe rack, built-in bookshelves, ottoman storage, custom shelving.
  • Garages – Mansions must have at least 5-car front yard and/or back yard garages
  • Luxury amenities – Spa, infrared sauna, home gym, walk-in wine cellar, a helicopter landing, and a library.
  • Entertainment Home theatres, games room, casino, a nightclub, a recording studio

Outdoor Specifications of a Mansion

Outdoor Specifications of a Mansion
Backyard of a mansion - Photo by VJ Von Art on Unsplash

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 pool, infinity pool
  • Games facilities – Basketball court, tennis court,
  • Guesthouses for servants and crew
  • Climate-control garage

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

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

mcmansion aerial photo
McMansion aerial view - Photo by Daniel Barnes on Unsplash

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.

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.

George Nicola

VIRTUAL STAGING EXPERT / After eight years+ working in high-end design and property business I realised that we are missing a critical part of the property business. We were not providing enough value to these old and empty properties. Not every buyer would have the opportunity to see the potential of vacant property or in a bad state. The idea of Virtual Furniture Staging the property gives the buyer and seller an incredible chance in seconds of taking the critical decision.
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