Our experience living in and restoring a Buckminster Fuller geodesic dome

September 21 2018 | bijouxandbits
Our experience living in and restoring a Buckminster Fuller geodesic dome
By: Chris BogartCC BY 2.0

We live in a three bedroom, two bath, two-story dome with four foot riser walls on the central Oregon coast. Built in 1981, we are about two city blocks from the beach and elevated 151 feet above sea level tucked into the trees with ocean views on two sides among conventional houses. We are the third owners and have lived here for 12 years. We were lucky to receive the initial plans for the dome which showed a relatively simple, rustic interior design. The first floor houses two huge bedrooms, a nice bath, kitchen/dining area and entry/living room. Up the open stairs is a loft, small bath, and huge open room. A door leads from the room to a hexagonal balcony. There is a giant hexagonal skylight framed in timber at the top of the dome.

The entire dome is heated with the original radiant heater in the floors, a copper pipe/hot water system. The entire structure and the garage (a smaller dome) were sheathed in three-inch double laid cedar shake, the likes of which are no longer produced (Oregon logging is no longer the state industry) including all the beautiful, defining, triangular angles.

The second owners got creative and added a bump out, south-facing front entry with wall-to-wall double paned windows, an east-facing unheated brick floor service porch with wall-to-wall windows and a glass slider entry off a deck. They upgraded and tiled the bathroom. They installed ceramic tile throughout the living/kitchen/bath area then presumably ran out of money and simply painted the cement floor in one bedroom and had indoor/outdoor carpet glued to the second bedroom floor. Both bedrooms have "creative" closets and two large windows.

The second owners were well-known locals with an artistic touch. As we hired local tradespeople to make changes, we heard stories of the prior-to-ceramic tile floor installation of red painted floors, which was not surprising considering the soft pink ceilings, lime green accent walls, partially wallpapered stairs, purple with flowering arches stairway, giant purple pyramid upstairs motif and blue ceiling with white clouds kitchen.

Our bed is placed upstairs under the skylight and we watch the moon and stars dance through the night.

We fell in love with the idea of restoring some dignity and grace into this iconic Buckminster Fuller concept home. And so we have. Gallons of paint and an eclectic mix of comfortable furnishings and art have transformed our dome into a place in which our friends and family love to stay. Our bed is placed upstairs under the skylight and we watch the moon and stars dance through the night. The dome is magical in it's own right, and we simply let the art of the architecture shine through.

Our experience living in and restoring a Buckminster Fuller geodesic dome
An example of a NE Portland Buckminster Fuller home | Photo by David BurnCC BY 2.0

After 37 years of months of annual rain and 80+ MPH winds, we realized we needed to re-roof. I'm not going to sugarcoat the process of finding a roofer — it took a year. Many came, saw, and declined to spend the extra hours of labor it would entail. We were so fortunate to find Gary L Stevens Contractor with 20 years of experience building any and everything on this coast to become intrigued with the notion of working on something different.

We went into contract with a set price and $50 per hour time, and materials if necessary, to replace the existing wood. We readied paperwork to withdraw our 401s. Here is where all this finally comes to the point I need to make if you are considering purchasing a dome. On the entire roof, only two panels needed replacement. The rest of all that wood was as clean and clear as the day it was originally laid. Bees had claimed one, improper flashing another.

The most important thing to consider is the QUALITY of the initial build. Don't go cheap and buy someone else's problem.

If you want to purchase a dome, the most important thing to consider is the QUALITY of the initial build. Don't go cheap and buy someone else's problem. If the owners are having leaking windows and roofing, you will, too. We went in knowing our dome was structurally sound. It had a history of 25 years of problem-free service. Ask around. Talk with the neighbors, check how often it has changed hands. Did people stay a while? If you find a good one, buy it! Life's too short to live vanilla.

  1. I plan on building a home in a few years. I love them so much! My dad built his own in the late 70s, but it was too small for the growing family and was demolished. Good work!

    1 agrees

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