This $2.1-million retrofuturistic dome home is an inhabitable EPCOT – Macleans.ca

The owners spent 25 years renovating the space to accentuate the home’s spherical shape

This .1-million retrofuturistic dome home is an inhabitable EPCOT – Macleans.ca

(Photography courtesy of Conrad Rowsell and Dianne Weir-Rowsell)

The legendary American renaissance man R. Buckminster Fuller was responsible for a few futuristic architectural ideas, one of which was the geodesic dome, an ultra-strong spherical structure composed of small interlocking triangles. Most people have only ever laid eyes on these domes as tourists—say, at Disney World’s EPCOT Centre or Montreal’s Biosphere, built for Expo ’67. Now, just off a dirt road in Fergus, Ontario, an inhabitable dome is on the market and move-in ready, provided you have $2.1 million to spare.

The living room of the dome house has curved white walls. A brown leather couch sits beside a triangular window, with a view of the woods outside.

Owners Conrad Rowsell, a retired auto worker, and Dianne Weir-Rowsell, an associate director of health services at the University of Waterloo, have lived in their beloved “dome home” since 1998. When their real estate agent initially showed them a grainy, black-and-white photo of a strange, orb-shaped structure that looked like it had plopped down from outer space, they knew they’d found what they were looking for. “Our first impression was that this was a lot of house,” says Dianne. With a ceiling apex of 32 feet and a total footprint of 2,600 square feet, the three-bedroom, two-bathroom dome was nearly triple the size of their previous home, a 950-square-foot wartime bungalow located in downtown Kitchener, Ontario, within earshot of emergency vehicles zipping in and out of a nearby hospital and fire station.

A birds-eye view of the property, in which the dome, house, pool and barn are visible, surronded by green lawns and woods..

The couple dreamed of living somewhere with plenty of green space, similar to their hometown of Roddickton, Newfoundland. On their first dome viewing, the yard was overgrown with weeds and the outbuildings—a chicken coop and treehouse—looked a little forlorn. But the promise of 20 acres and the added challenge of restoring a one-of-a-kind home were enticing. “It seemed like this place was put here just for us,” says Conrad. They snapped up the dome for the grand sum of $212,000, a very 1998 price.

The dome’s original owners were, as Dianne says, “children of the ’60s,” which meant that, on move-in day, the Weir-Rowsells were greeted with an abundance of blue shag carpeting and metallic-blue wallpaper. They tore it down almost immediately. “We really wanted to accentuate the shape of the house and the wallpaper disguised it,” says Dianne. They painted the ceiling and walls a dome-amplifying light beige, an onerous job that required rented scaffolding, a whopping 32 gallons of paint and a three weeks of work. To offset any coldness created by the new, vast white space, the Weir-Rowsells ripped up the carpet and installed warm oak flooring and accents throughout. They purchased a regular-sized six-foot tree for their first Christmas, then found out that only a 14-foot tree would fill the room. “We could barely get it through the front door,” says Dianne.

A wrought-iron bed sits in the foreground, covered by a white duvet. The room has curved walls, and a triangle-shaped window looking outside.

Once Conrad and Dianne began accentuating the home’s spherical shape, they found they couldn’t stop. They removed one of the kitchen walls in favour of an open-concept layout that made the home’s roundness more visible from the dining room. They also knocked out all the basement walls and created a circular seating area at the front of the house.

Curved walls come with their own unique set of challenges: kitchen backsplash tiles, typically sold in 12-by-12-inch sheets, had to be installed individually to ensure they covered every crevice. Off-the-rack curtains don’t fit the dome’s triangular windows, so the Weir-Rowsells’ windows remain bare. (The dome is far enough away from the road that privacy isn’t a concern.) Also, the home’s acoustics are flawless, sometimes to a fault—any conversations had in one of the two upstairs bedrooms can clearly be heard from the main floor.

The kitchen in the dome home. A black kitchen island with a grey marble top sits in the foreground. In the background the wall is covered with black cabinets and a black fridge.

Still, the dome’s perks far outweigh its quirks. Conrad created a series of trails where the couple could walk their dogs and go snowmobiling in winter. When the eavestroughs need cleaning each fall, he simply walks around the perimeter of the house and fishes the leaves out out the chest-height roof with his hands. The home’s biggest bonus, though, might be its energy efficiency. “In the winter time, we turn the heat on and everything’s warm in five minutes,” says Conrad. The Weir-Rowsells’ energy bills total $2,400 per year, an amount that includes heating the outdoor pool. The house is also a perfect spot for entertaining. “When our daughter was involved with sports, we would have up to 90 people here for special functions and it never felt crowded,” Dianne explains. Their favourite part of hosting guests over is seeing the look that washes over their faces when they enter the great room. “It’s blatant surprise,” she says.

An octogon-shaped pool sits outside the house, surronded by a brown deck. In the distance, there are two red-sided sheds.

After 25 years of dome life, the Weir-Rowsells are ready to move back east for a dose of salt air. They’ll retire in Roddickton, where they already own a (typical) bungalow, Conrad’s childhood home and a cottage that’s only accessible by a 20-minute boat ride. None of them are a kooky space-age dome, but they’ll do.


Leave a Comment