Call it Big House Small Welcome Syndrome, today’s luxury mansions are often designed to deter friends and family from visiting
It was always the same excuse every time the holidays heaved into view. She told her family, apologetically, that she couldn’t host their get together, even though her beachfront estate in LA was the largest of any of the family’s homes. Renovations again, she shrugged, mentioning the contractors who were working on something vital—the dining room over Thanksgiving, for instance. No matter what, there was always a reason to avoid her relatives stopping by. It was no accident, of course: She was avoiding her family, as she admitted to her therapist, LA-based Dr. Judy Ho. Growing up, she confided, her home life had been fractious; recent political divides had only worsened the tensions. “It was a passive-aggressive, expensive way not to have your family come round for the holidays,” Ho recalls, “So I just told her: Why don’t you confront your family about why you don’t want them there?” (So far, the client has dodged that difficult chat.) The elusive hostess isn’t alone in suffering from a distinctly contemporary condition. Call it Big House, Small Welcome Syndrome, or BHSWS for short.
The size of US homes is among the largest in the developed world—at least 800 square feet larger, on average, than all other comparable nations. Americans tie with Australians, Canadians and New Zealanders as having the most rooms per household occupant, according to the Organization for Economic Co-operation and Development. But it wasn’t always so. By one estimate, an American in 2021 enjoys 211 per cent more living space than US residents in the 1910s. Such spacious homes, it seems, would be primed for entertaining, another American past-time: Think dinner parties, galas and summertime BBQs. In fact, even as living spaces have swelled, our openness to outsiders has gone in the opposite direction—contracting, especially among the wealthiest Americans.