“Whoever built that ought to be shot!” So said Marilee Byrne the first time she saw a Monolithic Dome. Now, nearly twenty years later, Marilee often recalls that story as she welcomes visitors to her and husband Larry’s spacious dome home in Italy, Texas.
The unique beauty of this Monolithic Dome home, designed by Larry Byrne, Monolithic’s vice president of marketing and design, made it the perfect choice for the cover of the first printing of Dome Living, MDI’s book of more than 115 house plans. Its interior design consists of 2660 square feet in three domes, with diameters of 30, 40 and 32 feet.
An expansive, curved entryway with high ceilings opens into the large center dome with its living/dining area, TV/family room and kitchen. Two large windows and a front door, flanked by side lights and topped by a half-round window, allow light to add to the home’s feeling of spaciousness. Marilee, a career teacher, who appreciates organization, detail and beauty, said, “When you stand in the living area, you have almost an 180-degree view.”
A large, glass door with two sidelight windows opens onto a back patio from the master bedroom, creating a focal point for the 32-foot dome that also has a master bath, a walk-in closet and a separate study that could be easily converted to a third bedroom.
The 30-foot smallest dome includes a guest bedroom and bath, generous storage and an unusually large laundry area. Larry said, “That large laundry area was originally planned as my workshop. But then we added an outside dome that’s 20 feet in diameter for my workshop and storage. So if I were to do it again, I would redesign that dome to have an additional bedroom.”
But the oversized laundry area doesn’t dampen Marilee’s enthusiasm. She said, “I have come full circle on domes. At first I hated them and now I live in one.”
Marilee saw her first Monolithic Dome in the 1980s near Rexburg, Idaho. She said, “We went to town one day and there wasn’t anything there, and we went to town the next day and there was this big, round, ugly thing. It was bright yellow with a big blue stripe down the side. That’s when I turned to Larry and said, "Whoever built that ought to be shot.”
Four years later, both Marilee and Larry discovered just who did build that “big, ugly dome.” It was David South, with whom Larry was interviewing for a job.
“David invited us out to his house to talk to us,” Marilee said. “I was intimidated by David because he is so smart. It was interesting because my hang-up was that Larry needed to show David how he could make the domes look better on the outside. And David hired Larry because Larry didn’t have any preconceived notions about that.”
Asked when she first began seeing Monolithic Domes in a more favorable light, Marilee said, “I think it was when I began seeing how energy efficient they are. And with each dome that was built, I could see that you can make the inside do about anything you wanted. And with being immersed in it as I was with Larry, every time you were around them, they ate, drank and slept domes, you just kind of got indoctrinated.” Eventually Marilee concluded that “If I ever have a home built, it will be a dome because Larry works for Monolithic.”
Marilee now readily admits that she likes the design of their home, with its illusion of endless curves. She said, “We like everything about the dome. Larry likes the entryway because it’s so open. It has a comfortable feeling to it, spacious. If you are standing in the front entryway, you come into a curve and there are curved arches in each direction, including the doorways.
“I love the bay window in the kitchen. They did a wonderful job on the kitchen,” Marilee continued. “For windows, we used six-foot half rounds above the front door and directly over the back door. There is a lot of light, and I like that feature.”
Electricity powers both the cooling and heating in the Byrne domes. A 1-ton air conditioning unit in each of the small domes cools all 2660 square feet of living space. Marilee said, “Normally, it would take a 5- or 6-ton unit to adequately cool that much house. Our bill last month (August) was $220. Keep in mind that we had a full month of over 100 degrees. That’s keeping the domes at about 70 degrees inside. During 110-degree weather, we kept it very cool for that price.”
As for home owner’s insurance, Larry said, “We’re paying only \$274 per year. The state of Texas insurance inspector came out to look at the domes, and we got classified as all masonry construction. We didn’t have to go anywhere special to get the insurance.”
Construction on the Byrne domes began in September 1998 as part of a Monolithic Dome Builders Workshop, so that attendees at that workshop completed the outer structure of Larry and Marilee’s home. Eleven months later the Byrnes moved in. “But,” said Larry, “we still have a lot to do on the outside. We will put a stucco coating of some kind over the Airform. We plan to cover the back patio. We want a front walk and sidewalk over to the parking area. We’ll also add exterior lights, a patio covering and landscaping.”
Marilee added, “I think Larry did really well on our home with the arches, the brick trim and the bay windows. I like the augments that they put on it. I really enjoy that. It gives me a feeling of being in a more traditional house rather than a round house.”
Many of those attending MDI’s 1999 Conference toured the Byrne home. Most really liked what they saw. “We get a lot of different reactions,” Marilee said. “Some are in awe and some just outright say they couldn’t live in it. You can’t be thin-skinned when you have people touring your home.”
Marilee remembered one lady who said that you can make them (domes) look lovely on the inside, but they were sure ugly on the outside. “I can relate to that,” Marilee admitted. “That’s how I felt when I saw my first dome in Idaho. But now I’m living in one.”
Reprinted from the Winter 2000 issue of the Roundup: Journal of the Monolithic Dome Institute