Friday, May 04, 2012

A good mansion is hard to find

Vocabulary question of the day: what is the difference between a big house and a mansion? A question of intent: did they just want a lot of rooms, or did they want to end the idea of the house? How many servants did they intend to keep, and is there a separate entrance? Can everything be locked at a moment’s notice?

If you look up and think oh, how comfortable -- that is a big house. If you look up and think what on earth is that -- that, my dear, is a mansion.

Of course, this all depends on perspective, but perspective in terms of the mansion will always make you feel small. Sometimes a big house can become a mansion, simply because the real estate in the area becomes so pricey, or due to the level of restoration of period detail -- sometimes it's as simple as adding a few columns at the front, or preferably a multi-story entrance for no apparent reason. Sometimes a big house can never become a mansion, due to a lack of possibilities in attitude.

A location near the top of the hill always helps. Even better if you can't figure out how on earth they got that there -- 10 points for mansion realness. Mansions are often white or red brick, or red brick painted white with the paint peeling off to emphasize the structural importance. Stone, masonry. If this building looks like a cathedral, a castle, or a seat of government, but there's no discernible purpose, chances are it's a mansion. If there is a plaque over the doorway that says “Bla Bla Bla Mansion,” that's often a good hint, although why would a mansion need to declare itself in that way? Historical importance is no substitute for that empty feeling of loneliness when gazing upwards.

A good mansion will always look empty but never abandoned, stunningly open and elegantly sealed. A mansion in disrepair can often lead to an end in mansion status, unless the disrepair is a result of the fact that the inhabitants are as old as the building, and the building is old enough to look sufficiently stately in its demise.

If a mansion becomes a school, it will never be only a school. If it becomes a museum, it might only be a museum but it will still be a mansion. If it becomes an apartment building – tears for royalty in demise. If it starts as an apartment building -- well, that is pretty wacky.

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