Is it about the home or the location of the home?

I recently saw this:

I think this is promoting living in the country as the person making the statement would be okay with a cabin rather than a mansion. The cabin looks like it is in decent shape, but it is no mansion.

However, this gets at a question I wonder about a lot: what exactly is it that motivates many people to select where they live? Here are several of the major factors:

-How many resources they have? What can they afford?

-What kind of neighborhood or community do they want to live in?

-Proximity to work.

-Quality of schools.

-Proximity to family.

-Preferences for kind and style of residence.

If you choose to live in a cabin in the country, you are elevating some of these factors as more important than others. But, is the choice primarily about the country and nature, the relative lack of people, the different kind of house, or something else? Reducing it to a binary choice of cabin/country versus city/mansion is simple but the decision might be much more complicated.

Successful people want to own tiny cabins

The oversized house may be less appealing to the wealthy compared to owning a small cabin:

McMansions used to be one supersize symbol of the American dream, but these days many of our country’s most celebrated businesspeople see success more diminutively: in the form of a cabin. Preferably one on the smaller side, made of recycled wood, as technology-free as possible. Ironically, many of the cabin’s great champions are tech giants.

One such champion is Zach Klein, co-founder of Vimeo, whose Cabin Porn Tumblr blog garnered enough followers to warrant a book of the same name, one The New York Times has been musing over.

“The cabin and the shack are ideal launchpads for remarkable lives but lately they’ve become homes to aspire to—particularly for overburdened types whose acquisitive binging has made them want to purge,” the Times noted.

Think of these simple spaces as an architectural panacea. “Driven mad by status anxiety? Addled by technology? Bankrupted by consumerism? Then shrink your footprint. Go minimalist. Get free,” the Times said.

Sounds like trading one status symbol for another: moving from the image of wealth and grandiosity with the large McMansion to an interest in getting away from it all. Of course, the small cabin is simply another luxury for the wealthy who can escape to it when they please and then return to their other expensive housing. Instead of spending money to show that one can afford the wasteful use (conspicuous consumption), now it is more desirable to forgo the luxuries of a house for a short time to show that one can. And we could ask: what kind of world do we live in where people have to regularly spend large amounts of money to escape from their everyday lives?

The opposite of a McMansion is a cabin in the woods

Looking to live in the opposite of a McMansion? That might lead you to a cabin in the woods, according to an architect called a “cabinologist” who defines cabins this way:

It has to be simple. There’s no place in a real cabin for a master suite or a formal entry, a formal dining room, an attached garage. I have changed my mind a bit on size, though.

Originally, I wrote that a cabin ought to have a 1,200-square-foot size limit. I do a fair number of cabins that are two bedrooms, with two baths, and maybe a sleeping loft, with a modest kitchen.

I’ve come around a little bit on size. I think the maximum number might be closer to 1,800 square feet. After that, it becomes a lodge or a lake home. It’s not a cabin anymore.

At that scale, the homes start to get too big, they start to have a different kind of feeling. At 2,000 square feet, there’s more of a houselike feeling. In those houses, you’re less likely to smell the coffee brewing when you wake up.

There appear to be several key features to being the anti-McMansion:

1. While McMansions are seen as ostentatious, cabins should be simple.

2. Cabins should be smaller than McMansions – which probably start somewhere around 2,500 to 3,000 square feet – but the cabinologist cited above thinks cabins don’t have to be small.

3. It is not explicitly discussed in this interview but the cabin should be more immersed in nature. Whereas McMansions are often associated with suburbia and some limited exposure to nature (there may be a lawn but the house may cover much of the lot, the neighborhoods are dependent on cars), cabins are supposed to be in the woods or on a lake or in the mountains.

Even with this argument about what a “true” cabin should be, I suspect there are plenty of getaway homes that approximate McMansions today with lots of space and expensive features.