I’ve read several articles on the death of the McMansion (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/McMansion) lately. The basic theme is that the “new economy” has made ostentatious living less socially acceptable, the proof being the difficulty in selling the one currently on the market and surveys where people express a preference for smaller homes. Oh, I hope it’s true! But even if a PWOTs (Person With Out Taste, and without the good sense to hire someone who does) builds a smaller homes, in my opinion, they’ll still be jumbled tacky messes.
Sorry to be pessimistic but a PWOT won’t be drawn to an architect or designer that will lead them to build a house with sensitive proportions and appropriate details just as the architects and designers that have been making a living giving these lost souls bad advice aren’t going to take the considerable time and effort necessary to study good traditional examples and make appropriate application in their designs.
It’s a chicken-egg thing. The PWOT doesn’t know what to look for so he’s drawn to the Unknowing Designer (UD) who produces bad designs for other PWOT’s. We are doomed to new houses that are poorly designed using materials that won’t last for people that don’t know.
HOWEVER, all is not lost! You can have a tasteful home without needing to know why a “Temple of the Winds” column is probably way too much for a home on a 1/4 acre lot. The Institute of Classical Architecture (classicist.org) is a good place to start a search for an architect, but plan on putting at least as much time searching as you (or your wife, as the case may be) would spend on selection of a dress for the most important social event you can imagine. The dress needs to look good for an evening, the house for many years.