Dome design nestled in forest


June 26, 1994|By William C. Ward | William C. Ward,Contributing Writer

Dome houses never caught on. Phyllis and Tom Taylor don't know why.

The Taylors' 2,300-square-foot geodesic dome home in Parkton, a stone's throw from Gunpowder Falls State Park, is nestled amid several acres of red and white oak, black birch and pines at the top of a steep hill landscaped with old rail ties.

"A dome really has to be set in a wooded area. If you set it in an open field it looks like a spaceship just landed," he says.

The geodesic dome was designed by architect Richard Buckminster Fuller in the 1950s. He wanted to create houses for which minimal materials were used to maximum efficiency. The dome, a polyhedron of any size, can be erected with little on-site labor.

The idea never caught on, though it enjoyed some popularity with do-it-yourselfers in the 1960s and 1970s. Domes were sold by the Geodesic Dome Manufacturing Co. in Plattsburgh, N.Y., but are no longer being made. The company says production may resume if the demand increases.

The Taylors, who have each taught for 25 years in Baltimore County public schools, are both physical education instructors and live within a 15-minute drive of their jobs. They became interested in domes when a fellow teacher invited them to his dome house in Freeland, near the Pennsylvania border.

"We had never seen one before," recalls Mrs. Taylor, 46. "But we liked the idea of a dome. It had open space, and skylights, and they are efficient for heating."

The couple moved into their home 15 years ago, after building the foundation and riser walls and putting up the 60 prefabricated triangular sections with the help of a few friends. Mr. Taylor estimates that the materials, including a deck and landscaping, has cost approximately $150,000 over the years.

"Some people get 20 subcontractors together and say, 'I built my house.' That's not building a house to me," says Mr. Taylor, 54.

A 5,000-square-foot cedar deck surrounds the house and covers a two-car garage and Mr. Taylor's woodworking shop. The deck also holds a hot tub and provides a view of the Taylors' pond.

The two have continued to build and make improvements, decorating the deck and interior with antique tools and kitchen equipment to add a rustic element.

Three-fourths of the interior is open space containing a centered sunken living room dominated by a large stone fireplace. The fireplace supplements the heat put out by electric glass heat panels in the winter.

A hardwood stairway leads to the master bedroom and bathroom in a loft over the kitchen and guest bedroom that overlooks the rest of the house.

Surrounding the living room are a sitting area and a dining room, which make use of two of the five extensions that increase the area of the dome.

DTC A laundry room and a storage area are tucked into the space next to the kitchen, which occupies another of the extensions from the dome.

Two 5-foot pentagonal skylights and four 4-foot hexagonal skylights spaced evenly around the dome brighten the white-carpeted room, and the interior of the dome is painted white to reflect more light.

Phyllis Taylor explains, "We're in a big gym all day, and we come home and we're in open space."

Both are avid cyclists, in-line skaters and runners, who run a circuit through the wooded hills surrounding their house each day. Recently, Ms. Taylor, looking out from her kitchen, counted 20 deer crossing behind the pond.

Mr. Taylor says he will never consider living in another type of house, and would re-create his house if some disaster were to destroy it.

"I'm going to die here, I tell you."

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