Riding Out the Storms: Monolithic Dome Home Survives Two Hurricanes

Life on the Water in the Tinsley Monolithic Dome Home.

The Tinsley Monolithic Dome home sits on a small slice of land reaching out into Cudjoe Key Bay with a sheltered boat canal—complete with their own boat docked next to the house—and access to the bay and the Atlantic Ocean beyond. The Tinsley’s dome home is built on piers, with their living areas located on the second and third floors.

Rob O'Neal / Monolithic Commons / CC BY-SA 4.0

Floating Suspension Staircase.

The sweeping suspension staircase leading to the bedrooms of the Tinsley home adds drama to the great room.

Rob O'Neal / Monolithic Commons / CC BY-SA 4.0

When Paul and Shirley Tinsley chose to build a Monolithic Dome home in Cudjoe Key, Florida, they had no idea that they were building a home that would withstand not one, but two hurricanes in six years: Hurricane Irma, in August of 2017, and Hurricane Ian, in September 2022.

“It’s nice to know this home can survive anything nature throws at it,” Paul said.

Hurricane Ian, the costliest hurricane in Florida’s history, caused more than 150 deaths and completely destroyed 5000 homes, severely damaging 30,000. Roads flooded, and trees fell.

More than 100 homes in the Key West area were impacted by the storm surge that hit Florida and the 125-mile-long island chain of the Keys. The neighbor’s house on one side of them had significant water damage and needed a roof replacement, while the house on the other side got flooded entirely in the storm surge. The Tinsley Dome Home stayed safe and dry. The Tinsleys had to do some cleanup work outdoors, but their dome home emerged unscathed by the flooding.

“Water and mud accumulated under the house, and we did have some fish and sea life in the pool,” Paul said. “We had to wait three weeks to get fresh water so we could drain it.”

Living Room’s View of the Dining Room and Kitchen.

From the living room you can see all the way into the dining room and kitchen.

Rob O'Neal / Monolithic Commons / CC BY-SA 4.0

Great Room Kitchen and Dining Area.

The Tinsley’s great room features a full chef’s kitchen with multiple ovens, a farm sink and a butcher block island. The sunny dining area has a beautiful landscape view and flows naturally into the living room.

Rob O'Neal / Monolithic Commons / CC BY-SA 4.0

The Tinsleys had already survived Hurricane Irma at the epicenter of the eye wall. That hurricane had far worse winds and caused more storm damage in the area compared to Hurricane Ian. According to the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, Hurricane Irma caused 84 deaths and $50 billion in damage in Florida.

“With Hurricane Irma, we had no problems at all,” Paul said. “It was watertight. Some water sprayed through the sides of the windows and doors when we got the 140 miles per hour wind.”

High winds and storm surge from Hurricane Irma filmed by Paul Tinsley while watching from safely inside the dome home.

Paul Tinsley / Submitted Video / CC BY-SA 4.0

The Tinsley’s house had been complete for only a few weeks when that 2017 storm swept through the Keys. A nursery had delivered a pigeon plum tree the week before that hurricane hit, so they tied a rope around it, hoisted it onto the deck, and tugged it inside the house. Paul, Shirley, and the pigeon plum tree rode the storm out together in their brand-new Monolithic Dome home.

“It was a lot of work to build, but it will survive any hurricane,” Paul said.

Paul and Shirley have chosen a beautiful spot for their home, with a canal on one side and the Atlantic Ocean on the other side. Paul worked as a script supervisor and as a camera boat and marine coordinator on television and films, and Shirley is a pharmacist. They scoured the area for a perfect place—a rural spot with easy access to Key West—and ultimately chose to retire in Cudjoe Key.

The Swimming Pool.

The swimming pool is located next to a canal with access to the Atlantic. After Hurricanes Irma and Ian, the pool filled up with sea life and salt water—a problem easily fixed with a little cleanup and fresh water.

Rob O'Neal / Monolithic Commons / CC BY-SA 4.0

A Cool Patio.

This patio, which faces the canal, is located under the living spaces of the Tinsleys’ home. This would be a cool shady spot on a sunny day. During hurricanes, the furniture is removed so storm surge can safely sweep under the house.

Rob O'Neal / Monolithic Commons / CC BY-SA 4.0

“When we were looking for real estate here, we found that most of the affordable housing had problems with spalling,” Paul said. “Rebar rusts and expands, breaking the concrete around it. Houses had dry rot and termites, so I decided to find something new. This home has a polyurethane foam and an Airform that helps protect all the steel and concrete inside it.”

The Tinsleys designed their home on a 100-foot by 80-foot lot as two domes, 20 feet apart and connected by a central structure. A contractor built a concrete slab to conform to building codes, and a Monolithic Dome crew put the domes on 13-foot columns embedded in that slab. Paul had attended a Monolithic Dome building workshop, and he did all the interior work—plumbing, drywall, and framing—with somesolid local help and advice when needed.

“Whenever I had a question, I could call Gary Clark at Monolithic,” Paul said. “He always was really good help.”

Temperatures can get steamy in the 125-mile-long chain of the Florida Keys, and on a recent summer day, exterior temperatures soared to 94 degrees Fahrenheit with high humidity. Inside the dome home, it was 79 degrees with 49 percent humidity, and the energy bills stayed efficient. After six years and two hurricanes in their Monolithic Dome home, the Tinsleys feel comfortable and safe.

“I’m very satisfied with what we’ve got,” Paul said. “It’s been a good home. It can survive a hurricane.”

Aerial View of Tinsley’s Home in Cudjoe Key.

The perfect retirement spot. The Tinsleys searched for a rural site with easy access to Key West when planning their retirement home. They found what they were looking for in Cudjoe Key.

Rob O'Neal / Monolithic Commons / CC BY-SA 4.0

Tinsley’s Living Room and Office.

The living room in this home has space for an office. The beautiful staircase leading up to the bedrooms is close by.

Rob O'Neal / Monolithic Commons / CC BY-SA 4.0

A Sitting Room with Loft.

The sitting room with views of the Atlantic is inviting for a conversation or morning coffee. A spacious loft is accessed via built-in ladder.

Rob O'Neal / Monolithic Commons / CC BY-SA 4.0

Canal Side of the Tinsley’s Home.

The Tinsley home is tucked between the Atlantic Ocean and a canal. Living on the canal allows for easy access to all the waterways of the Keys.

Rob O'Neal / Monolithic Commons / CC BY-SA 4.0

Top Floor Patio.

The uppermost patio offers expansive views of the Atlantic Ocean and Cudjoe Key. The bedrooms in the home can access this patio through large french doors.

Rob O'Neal / Monolithic Commons / CC BY-SA 4.0

View of the Atlantic from Upper Balcony.

The sweeping view of the Atlantic Ocean from the upper balcony is worth all the work the Tinsleys put into the construction of their Monolithic Dome home.

Rob O'Neal / Monolithic Commons / CC BY-SA 4.0

Aerial View of the Tinsley Home and Pool.

This aerial shot of the Tinsley home gives us a clear view of the two levels of balconies and the pool.

Rob O'Neal / Monolithic Commons / CC BY-SA 4.0

A Bedroom with a View.

The family dog takes a cat nap on one of the beds in this large bedroom. The upper patio is easily accessed through the french doors.

Rob O'Neal / Monolithic Commons / CC BY-SA 4.0

Three Levels of Outdoor Living.

This house is almost equal parts indoor and outdoor living. Under the home, a large sheltered patio at ground level creates a breezy oasis on a sunny day. The second level features an outdoor dining room. The third level provides panoramic views from the bedrooms.

Rob O'Neal / Monolithic Commons / CC BY-SA 4.0

A Quiet Bedroom.

One of three bedrooms in the Tinsley home. All three bedrooms have access to the large upper patio and balcony through french doors.

Rob O'Neal / Monolithic Commons / CC BY-SA 4.0

Large Walk-In Shower.

The primary bedroom features a custom, large walk-in shower with a “trench drain” in the floor. It is completely barrier free and looks stunning.

Rob O'Neal / Monolithic Commons / CC BY-SA 4.0

Live Edge Counter in Bathroom.

This golden-toned bathroom features a gorgeous live-edge vanity counter and double sinks.

Rob O'Neal / Monolithic Commons / CC BY-SA 4.0

Aerial View of the Tinsley Home from the Atlantic.

The Tinsley home is pictured from the Atlantic Ocean. This side of the home features sheltered parking and street access.

Rob O'Neal / Monolithic Commons / CC BY-SA 4.0

Another Big Bedroom.

The Tinsley’s third bedroom features a view of the canal, roman shades, a private bathroom and easy access to the upper balcony.

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Smooth Plastered Walls in Bathroom.

This cheerful bathroom features smooth plastered walls and a double sink vanity with a beautiful wood counter.

Rob O'Neal / Monolithic Commons / CC BY-SA 4.0

View of the Tinsley Home from Cudjoe Key.

The Tinsley home was photographed from above the town. This side of the home features canal access and the family’s pool.

Rob O'Neal / Monolithic Commons / CC BY-SA 4.0

A Sewing Spot.

An inviting spot for sewing is tucked into an alcove on the landing of the uppermost floor of the Tinsley home. The view of the Atlantic Ocean in enviable.

Rob O'Neal / Monolithic Commons / CC BY-SA 4.0

The Boat Canals of Cudjoe Key.

This area of Cudjoe Key features rows of sheltered boat canals behind the Tinsley’s home, where many houses have easy access to the Atlantic.

Rob O'Neal / Monolithic Commons / CC BY-SA 4.0

Monolithic Dome Form and Function.

The Tinsley home is the ideal blend of form and function. In this case, the form adds to the function. This Monolithic Dome home has sailed through two hurricanes and will face many more in the future. The living quarters are situated on the second and third floors. The area beneath the home accommodates storm surge while also providing covered parking for cars and creating space for a cool patio.

Rob O'Neal / Monolithic Commons / CC BY-SA 4.0