A potter/truck driver’s deep-heartland, renovated retro geodesic dome

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Magpie In Dome

The offbeat occupant: Rebecca Brandow, potter, artist, part-time truck driver

Other occupants: The husband, Brian. 2 felines, 2 canines.

Approximate square footage: Over 3000 sq. feet (over 278 sq. meters)

How many bedrooms? 2

Lives in: Middle of nowhere, Panora, IA, USA

When did you move into this home? 2004

Outside Dome

Let’s start with the neighborhood. What’s it like where you live? Our place is located in rural Guthrie County, Iowa. We live on the corner of two roads, and one of them comes to an end where Bays Branch Canadian Goose Reserve sits. Our house is surrounded by Conservation Reserve Program grass fields, some row crop fields, and a lot of trees. The nearest neighbor is about a mile away, and it’s very quiet here. The loudest thing is the geese on the pond at Bays Branch. We live about three miles from the small town of Panora, and about 50 miles from Des Moines.

Prayer Flags

What makes your home offbeat? Our home has been in my family since it was built. It was built in 1983 on 280 acres located south of Grimes, Iowa. That property had been in my family since the early 1900s. In 2004, my husband and I had to make a decision to move the house, or watch it be torn down. I love this house, and couldn’t deal with the idea of it being torn down, so we decided to move it. We spent four months planning to move the house to a five acre property in Guthrie County. It was a huge undertaking of financing, planning, and getting everything organized all at once, but we’re so happy we did. Our house is a 40 foot geodesic dome. We live in the upstairs and loft, and my pottery studio is in the basement where I work every day. I just opened my studio to the public and I have once-a-month open houses.


I would say that this home really reflects who I am because it’s been such a huge part of my life. I was three years old when it was built and some of my earliest memories happened here. The first time my husband (then my boyfriend) saw it, he fell in love with it, too. We both love the high ceilings, the woodwork that my parents spent so much time and energy on, and that it’s just so different from ‘normal’ architecture.

What’s the most challenging about this space? How do you deal with the challenge? The biggest challenge is cleaning. I know that sounds crazy, but it’s a big house and we do have pets and live on a gravel road. I think it’s one of the downfalls of living in the country. If I had to choose a runner up, I’d say heating the place. 4000 square feet is a lot of space to heat up in Iowa winters, but the walls are insulated with 16 inches of insulation, and we try to use as much wood to heat it as possible — but it is a challenge.

Studio Workspace

What’s your favorite feature of your home? That’s a difficult question because I really love my basement studio, but I have to say that the interior of the dome is my favorite. It’s all hemlock woodwork of hexagons and pentagons. I can still remember my Mom and Dad doing all the handwork themselves, and that our living room smelled like wood stain for months. It’s just a really pretty ceiling and it’s nice to live in a place with so much head room. The highest point in the living room is 20 feet high.


What’s the most important lesson you’ve learned from this home? I’ve learned to allow things to migrate where they want to. Maybe everyone learns that about a space, but I don’t have square walls and that makes it tricky for buying furniture and decorating. My computer desk doesn’t square up with the wall because the wall is angled and there are lots of things (furniture, beds, etc) in our house that just sort of “sit” in the middle of the room because it’s a round house. I used to get really bent out of shape because of this, but I’ve learned that it’s ok for everything to not be “perfect” — and I think it’s allowed me to accept a lot of other things in life.


What’s your grandest plan for the space? My grandest plan was my pottery studio and showroom. When we moved the house, we could only move the bubble part of the dome and the dining room that sticks off one side. We had to build a completely new basement. My studio started as a wood foundation basement with load bearing walls and exposed insulation. Now it’s a finished space that I feel really comfortable working in. It took over a year, but we finished it, and did 90% of the work ourselves.

Showroom One


What advice do you have for other offbeat homies? The best advice I can give to anyone that has projects to do (omg, the projects never end!) is to take them one at a time. Prioritize on what you can or can’t live with, and tackle everything that you can before calling a “professional.” Brian and I have learned to install walls, hang drywall (including mudding, taping, sanding, oh my!), lay tile, install lighting, and a whole plethora of other things. Lots of hardware stores will rent out equipment, so don’t bother buying that stuff… it’s way cheaper to rent, and you’ll feel awesome for having done things yourself. Also, don’t get too upset that everything doesn’t get done all at once. I spent five years picking away at projects, and it’s really gratifying to have seen the progress and completion..

Any stuff or services you want to recommend? Lake Lumber, Panora Iowa — a little hometown hardware store (NOT a big box hardware store) that not only has EVERYTHING we’ve ever needed, but the quirkiest staff.

Harold Bissel, Waukee, Iowa — the house mover! We literally couldn’t have done it without him. They moved our huge house 30 miles in TWO days. TWO!

RD Core — My carpenter that built the awesome shelves in my pottery showroom.

Randy Sparks — the contractor that made the entire construction project happen once we got the house moved to the property.

Show me the decor porn!

Comments on A potter/truck driver’s deep-heartland, renovated retro geodesic dome

  1. Much prettier than my father’s dome home… They have interesting acoustics too. Someone can say something to you across the room and you swear they were right behind you.

    • Hi Saundrah,
      You are absolutely right.. I can be upstairs in the loft and my husband will say something in the basement/studio and I can hear exactly what he says. We have that big spiral staircase, so all the floors are open to each other. Thanks for the comment! 🙂

    • Hi Crimson!
      Thanks for the comment! I know there are a lot of photos of the studio.. they’re from my open house two weekends ago, and that’s when my whole photography ‘crew’ was here to take pictures for me. There are a couple other photos of the house on my website, and I occasionally put them on my blog too. The panoramic photo that my friend Jill took is what I think to be the best photo of the inside of our place (and my favorite). 😉
      Thanks again for the comment! 🙂

  2. There’s a domed house like this in Davenport, where I grew up, and I always wondered what one looked like from the inside! Thanks for satisfying my life-long curiosity!

  3. Wow, fantastic home! It’s a kind of architecture that you just don’t see where I’m from (central Florida). I guess cooling that kind of house would be a nightmare in my region, but I hope to reside in something as architecturally stimulating someday.

  4. Holy cool house, Batman! Seriously. Thanks for sharing pics of your awesome space. Aside from the visual goodies, it’s really encouraging for me to see a living/working space that looks to work seamlessly while still maintaining a separate ‘feel’ for each space– hubby and I are in the process of buying a house that will have a studio/storefront for our letterpress business, and I’ve been a little nervous about how it will all work out. Thanks again for sharing!

  5. What a great house!

    There’s a mistake with the square metres though… 3000 square feet are approximately 278 square metres. It totally shocked me when I read 1000 metres, but then I googled it. 278 square metres is more believable.

      • Gee, and as I read it, I thought “wow – looks like they even got the conversion right” because it’s kind of tricky. 😉

        Anyway, thanks for including it in square meters – it really helped me get a better feel for the size.

  6. Wow, your folks did an amazing job with the woodwork. Love it!

    So what were the compelling reasons to build a dome house back in the day? I thought it was an energy efficiency thing, but from the sounds of your post, maybe not so much.

  7. Thank you so much!! After reading about all your projects, it gives me hope for mine! We just bought our house last year and after our first full winter our metal shed collapsed under the weight of a big snow dump. So it made my list of things to fix/replace grow much longer. But now I hold out hope that I can at least build a new/better wood shed and still get other things that need to be done DONE! THANK YOU!!
    Oh and your house is so beautiful! And I love your driveway! Amazing!!

  8. I love your house and think that’s wonderful you got to rescue it and keep it in your family. I have very fond memories of visiting a family friend’s dome house in the woods in Oregon when I was very little, I thought it was the most MAGICAL home ever and am glad to be reminded of that special memory by seeing your house pics. Also LOVE your pottery!

  9. I love the offbeat houses hidden in rural America. I have friends who have a concrete dome house in Jefferson, IA and I’ve seen lots of interesting places while biking or on roadtrips.

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