Credit: Lee Sobel

The McMansion is not a town

How many gables does this house have? I lost count at 11. The fake dormers and complicated roof line are meant to make up for the lack of variety in this Maryland exurb. Every house nearby has a similarly expansive lawn that is rarely used. Need to get anywhere? Take one of the cars in the multiple garages. But if you can't drive, and you need to go beyond the end of the cul-de-sac, you must find an adult-chauffeur. There is no main street, neighborhoods school, or playground to walk to—just shopping centers and single-use pods near the highway.

In the 1990s, this sort of home was the ultimate status symbol. But now the lack of diversity and choice, and general wastefulness sends a less flattering message.