Why Betsy DeVos' summer home looks like a 'beached whale,' according to an architecture critic
Leanna GarfieldAug 9, 2018, 06.57 PM
Department of Education Secretary Betsy DeVos' summer home in Holland, Michigan.Advance Media/Barcroft Images
In Holland, Michigan, there's a 22,000-square-foot behemoth facing Lake Macatawa. The nautical-themed mansion serves as a summer home for Betsy DeVos, the Trump administration's Department of Education secretary.
While the custom home was likely expensive, architecture critic Kate Wagner argues that it reeks of bad design. Wagner has written for places like Architectural Digest and Curbed, but is best known for founding the blog "McMansion Hell," where she publishes memes that poke fun at huge, horribly-designed homes. (Generally, McMansions describe properties that span at least 3,000 square feet and feature a hodgepodge of nonsensical architectural styles. The homes started becoming popular in the 1980s.)
When asked to describe DeVos' waterfront home in a few words, Wagner replied a "beached whale."
DeVos' summer home in Michigan includes three bedrooms, 10 bathrooms, three kitchens, eight dishwashers, 13 porches, and an elevator. The exact cost is unknown.
She notes that it attempts to reference shingle-style architecture, known for its extensive use of shingles as a building material, big interior volume, and three-dimensional forms. But according to Wagner, DeVos' home largely fails at that, because each wing is visually different.
DeVos' mansion tries to focus on the center turret, but its other parts are nearly as large. The facade has no fewer than 13 window styles and three roof types. And it's unclear which of the home's many doors is the front door.
"This house is an example of too many cooks in the kitchen," Wagner said. "There's just too much going on at once. It looks like a bunch of mini houses clumsily Velcroed together."
She compares one living room to a Victoria's Secret dressing room.
As a McMansion, DeVos' Michigan home was designed to exude an enormous amount of wealth.
DeVos' Michigan mansion "points to the fact that 1% of people have more wealth of 99% of the country. I don't think we've let that sink in — A sliver of the population owns everything," Wagner said. "Everything about the home's design says, 'Screw you, I got mine."