This is a question you can solve with a little math in most cases. A mansion has more bathrooms than people and it will often have more fireplaces than people. If there is a party going on, a few other characteristics will help you determine whether or not you have stepped into a mansion by mistake.
Generally, if you are in a mansion, you know it. Looking around, do you get the sense that it would be impossible to maintain without a staff? Is the dusting alone a full-time job? Would some of that dusting involve ladders and pulleys?
Mansions usually have esoteric extra rooms that are seldom or never used, like ballrooms and ping pong palaces or pickle pantries. They may have as many dens and sitting rooms and parlors as they have residents, so it’s very easy to avoid your family in a mansion.
Mansions are not required to have taxidermy mounted anywhere, but a furnished mansion will have multiple “collections” on display. The type of collections is less important that the museum experience that the collections invoke. Armor is an obvious choice, but a collection of life-sized superhero statues works too. An entire wall of dolls alone does not a mansion make, but it is far and away the creepiest type of collection to discover when you turn a corner. If you encounter one of those, you have bigger problems than trying to categorize the house. Just leave!!
Mansions should not be “cozy.” They may have comfortable corners, but not in the most traveled areas. Upon entering a mansion, one should feel at a loss for what to do with one’s hat and coat. If there’s an accommodation other than a servant gliding up to take your burdens, you may as well be in a double-wide. A visible umbrella stand that could actually hold an umbrella indicates a lack of commitment to the mansion life, at the very least.
It’s possible for a building to qualify in many respects and still miss the mark. If the entry is lacking any ornate woodwork and instead sports a large column that has no practical function, you may have wandered into the dreaded McMansion instead. Don’t be fooled. The stairs may be curvy and the marble may wink at you from the push-button fireplace, but in your heart you know you’re in a wanna-be place that has more in common with a stage set than an actual mansion.
Full disclosure, I have a bias toward old mansions. I want everything to be over-sized and representative of the oppression that made it. I want to see geegaws that have no meaning to the modern mind. Bell pulls, candle snuffers, gas valves and other things that might have burned our ancestors should hover there, inert and stubborn. The smell of ancient lace doilies should linger in the air.
No one should have to tell you you are in a mansion, not even the ghosts.
A proper mansion should make you long for your tiny house and companionship that’s inescapably good for you.
Cuddle up, pups!!