Shell House—A Mid-Century Modern Monolithic Dome Home

A Showstopper.

Lydia White and Ian Fleming purchased Shell House, a mid-modern showstopper, and gave it an award-winning renovation in 2018.

Lydia White / Submitted Media

Curves in the Kitchen.

The award-winning renovation of Shell House includes a curved mahogany entry closet that flows into the rounded cabinetry and countertops of the kitchen.

Lydia White / Submitted Media

Shell House is a stunning 2400-square-foot (225 m²) Monolithic Dome home situated on five acres in the Catskills Mountains. The striking half-moon-shaped home features a wall of windows and opaque panels of insulated porcelain. Shell House is available to rent on Airbnb and has been featured many times online and in print.

New owners Lydia White and Ian Fleming sponsored an award-winning redesign by DAAM in 2018, adding a mahogany entry and a round-edged kitchen that respects the dome’s unique shape and open interior. The mid-century modern home is a horizontal prolate ellipsoid that stands 24 feet (7 m) high on a half-elliptical base 85 feet (26 m) on the major axis and 63 feet (19 m) on the minor axis.

Architect Seymour Rutkin designed Shell House as a haven for himself and his wife, Anne Teicher. It was constructed in 1996 by Rutkin with the help of George Paul of Thermospheric Structures and Monolithic.

The Future.

An illustration by Sy Rutkin depicting his vision of the future.

Sy Rutkin / Submitted Media

Rutkin intended for the Shell House to be a model for a more thoughtful architectural future. In the essay “The Future of Shell Building Designs,” he wrote:

This is where we can go in the future to find [a] new organic [way of] building—a clear direction where designers, architects, engineers and creative people can develop multiple forms in a new language and families of new forms to meet the need for housing, schools, stadiums, religious buildings, theaters, spacecraft, watercraft, including high buildings using shell segments…“

Shell House has been featured in Catskills Country Style and numerous magazines, including The Upstater, All Over Albany, and Architectural Record. The redesign received an AIA Chicago award in 2020. It has recently been featured in Dezeen and Dwell for its unique qualities. Shell House has had multiple incarnations as a family home, a retreat center for artists, and an AirBnB.

The Great Room.

The curves of the kitchen echo the curved sofa in the great room.

Escape Brooklyn / Submitted Media

Views for Days.

The dramatic 24-foot wall of windows looks out over the Catskills of New York.

Lydia White / Submitted Media

An Bright and Airy Feeling.

The spiral staircase keeps with the rounded theme of Shell House and leads to the second floor loft with a guest room for four.

Lydia White / Submitted Media

A Dreamy Space.

The guest room looks out over the lush forest and includes two desks and a large bookshelf.

Lydia White / Submitted Media

Two Little Onlookers.

The orange panels of Shell House were created using insulated porcelain on aluminum backing.

Lydia White / Submitted Media

Winter Fun.

Owners and friends enjoy the winter in the mountains.

Lydia White / Submitted Media

Design Goals.

The half-moon-shaped Shell House represents mid-century modern architecture at its best.

Lydia White / Submitted Media