McMansions as the fad of 2001

If we had to pick a year when McMansions were the key fad, would 2001 be it?

2001: McMansions

McMansions, shorthand for the oversized homes developed en-masse in the suburbs, were seen as status symbols by some and architectural abominations by others. By 2008, the crash of the housing market left many of these multi-bedroom behemoths empty or foreclosed upon.

The list of fads has McMansions in the right era. From the article I published in 2012 on defining a McMansion, the term and kind of home arose in the early 1990s and the term was more widely known and used by the early 2000s. By my count of mentions of McMansion in the New York Times and Dallas Morning News, the use of the term roughly peaked in 2005 and 2006.

So why 2001 – a very specific year – on this list of fads by years? It could be that surrounding years had more time-limited fads listed. Right before McMansions come Furbys, Latin pop, and Heelys and right after come beyblades, flash mobs, and wristbands for a cause. McMansions had to fit somewhere in a roughly ten year stretch and perhaps 2001 had the biggest opening.

Or, McMansions represented a different era in 2001 before September 11th of that year. A growing suburbia, SUVs and big homes, entering a new millennium. Enough homeowners had money to spend on big homes with a lot of square feet and a facade to impress the neighbors. The housing bubble crash came a few years later but perhaps McMansions had already peaked years before.

Looking at the full list of fads, the McMansion is the biggest item in the list in terms of price and size. When history is written (and rewritten), it will be interesting to see where McMansions fit into the late 1990s and early 2000s narratives as well as the broader sweep of housing.