How the rich virtue signal

Many people in Minnesota (not including me) have lake cabins — lots of lakes, lots of waterfront property, lots of opportunity for a getaway on the lake. Most of them are cozy, rustic places with basic amenities and big windows looking out on the water, because that’s mainly what you’re there for. For a few weeks every summer, and maybe a few weekends here and there, you go fishing, you waterski, you have a few barbecues. At least that’s what I picture.

There aren’t very many summer mansions around. I can’t even imagine owning a gigantic house that you only visit for vacations. But now I can picture one, because Betsy DeVos has one in Michigan, and it just got the McMansion Hell treatment.

I guess it might count as cozy to some people, since it only has 3 bedrooms…and “10 bathrooms, three kitchens, eight dishwashers, 13 porches, and an elevator”. I guess that sprawling pile is just intended for entertaining, or perhaps just flaunting ostentatious display because you have nothing better to do with your wealth than to instill envy in your equally tasteless friends with more money than they deserve.

Architecture is never a vacuum. This house sucks, but like all buildings, it is a reflection of both the people and the broader culture that make building it both possible and desirable. Those, too, irrefutably suck.


  1. quotetheunquote says

    Wow. The ugliness. It looks like what you would get if were design by an 9-year-old with virtually infinite reserves of cash, who kept saying “…and I wanna balcony, anna ‘nother balcony, and I wanna turret here, and I wanna …”.

    Except it’s lacking a moat … with sharks in it; oh, and a helipad. She forgot those.

  2. raven says

    I have had zero formal training in architecture or even art.
    Nonetheless, this “cabin” is visually discordant.

    . 1. It’s too busy.
    You might call this modern pseudo-baroque or something.
    There is way too much going on, too much detail.
    The myriad features don’t fit together very well to make a unified anything.

    . 2. It doesn’t fit in with its setting very well.
    There isn’t enough information in the picture to tell what the setting is.
    From the OP it is supposed to be a rural cabin on a lake.
    It’s the opposite of a rural cabin on a lake.

  3. chrislawson says


    It might be just as tacky if an uber-rich 9 year old designed it, but at least it would probably have a few entertaining features, like maybe a giant animatronic dinosaur with laser eyes.

  4. What a Maroon, living up to the 'nym says


    And slides. Don’t forget the slides.

  5. What a Maroon, living up to the 'nym says


    Check out PZ’s link. There are a few pictures of the inside. It’s probably worse than you imagine.

  6. microraptor says

    I’m reminded of a line in Dragon Age: Inquisition from Dorian, your token rebellious aristocrat. “Doesn’t that just scream ‘I hated my parents and had no friends as a child’?”

    Actually, what it really reminds me of is the Gilded Age Robber Barons who built extravagant but ridiculous mansions that were all torn down after their deaths because the places were so lacking in a cohesive art style that nobody but the men they were built for would want to live in them.

  7. charley says

    My in-laws live across the lake from this. The lake is busy with a couple of marinas and a channel to Lake Michigan. It is mostly surrounded by year-round homes. Nevertheless, this place dwarfs its neighbors and is considered an ugly monstosity, even by the mcmansion-loving locals.

    Even worse to me is the ostentatious turd next to the channel on a previously beautiful natural dune. That was built by heirs of Amway’s other co-founding family, the Van Andels.

  8. brett says

    Why does it have ten bathrooms for only three bedrooms? It only has three floors – that’s one bathroom for each bedroom, plus seven more bathrooms (more than two per floor!). It makes me wonder if one of the design requirements was “I don’t want to ever be more than 50 feet from a bathroom in this house”.

    I do like the big shaded porch and balcony, though.

  9. Ragutis says

    Um, my godmother has a place on Cape Cod; early 1900’s but immaculately kept with all the modern amenities, waterfront with a great view, 6 bedrooms IIRC. Looking at google maps, I’d say a 6 car garage. Not a huge tract of land, but she could easily fit a tennis court in her back yard if she wanted to and still leave plenty of room for the roses and sunflowers she enjoyed growing.

    Poor thing, I just can’t imagine how she gets by with only 1 kitchen. But she is a tough cookie. She somehow still manages a flight of stairs at 89yrs. I guess Betsy DeVos must be in much frailer health than we knew. Then again, having 1/10th of your yachts slightly damaged can do that to a person.

  10. komarov says

    I guess it might count as cozy to some people, since it only has 3 bedrooms…and “10 bathrooms, three kitchens, eight dishwashers, 13 porches, and an elevator”.

    Maybe they just went to the architect and ordered the most expensive features lots of times.

    “So, to recap, you want seven heated outdoor swimming pools, a dock for your twelve yachts complete with a channels to the nearest ocean, river or lake, 115 spiral stair cases and some filler to put in between. Any bedrooms at all?”

    — “Oh, you might as well put some in just in case we ever have to stay here.”

  11. peachesthewaitress says

    As it happens, my in-laws are from Minnesota and have a cabin on the lake. When we went to see it, my husband told me it was a bit fancy. By that he meant it looks more like a normal house than a fishing cabin. It even has a smaller cabin for guests and the sauna. So that was as far as my yardstick for ‘kinda fancy lake cabins’ went. This is…just awful.

  12. jamiejag says

    It has 10 bathrooms so that the owners won’t have to share with the servants (who won’t be staying the night, duh!)

  13. madtom1999 says

    Is this one of those emporers new clothes things where the architect forgets the deadline until a couple of days before and then digs out some stuff he did while drunk and then when he presents it to the client they are too scared to say ‘this is really shit for fear of being called philistines and then it just sort of escalates from there?

  14. anbheal says

    Faux fieldstone foundations are the new thing for the uber rich. Because real fieldstone can get a bit leaky. And require actual masons to build. Nuff said.

  15. says

    And a six inch water main to fill all the bathtubs all at once. And its own substation.

    All it needs now is a set of Santa legs sticking out of the chimney and the nightmare is complete.

  16. Colin J says

    @quotetheunquote, #3

    Except it’s lacking a moat … with sharks in it;

    Did you think that water in the foreground was the lake?

  17. ridana says

    brett @ 13 wrote:

    Why does it have ten bathrooms for only three bedrooms?

    Because it’s built for entertaining, and you can’t have your guests standing in lines outside the bathrooms. It only has 3 bedrooms since the host has to stand in the doorway and see everyone off, because god forbid anyone stays over and they have to spend a minute longer with their “friends” than the requisite schmoozing time during the party.

  18. steve1 says

    This building is stupid.
    It isn’t really a house, it is a banquet hall with three bedrooms.
    The bedrooms only purpose is so you can call it house and get by the zoning restrictions.