What About a Dome?

When examining various types of tiny houses, one usually reads of tiny houses on wheels, diminutive structures made from shed or cabin kits, garage transformations, less on new buildings with a foundation and even yurts. Yet on the subject of modern tiny residences, little is mentioned about the geodesic dome. Indeed, if one cursorily looks over the subject on the Internet, most geodesic dome builders seem to go to extraordinary lengths to make their domes look like a traditional home with cedar shake or asphalt roofing, traditional siding materials and commonly used finishes inside. This goes to such a point that it might occur to one that the geodesic dome might be excluded from the notion of modern. However, nothing exudes modern much better than the geodesic structure.




The geodesic dome, based upon the icosahedron, was the invention of the German engineer, Walther Bauersfeld. He designed the dome as part of a planetarium. 30 years later the American architect, Richard Buckminster Fuller, popularized the use of the geodesic dome. I will not go into a history of Fuller. His personal as well as public life is quite rich and varied and worthy of investigation in its own right.

The geodesic dome proved incredibly strong even when using lightweight materials and could span large spaces without internal support. A dome could be built quickly with few parts, requiring no special tools or implements. Modern materials such as artificial fiber fabrics can be stretched over the frame making construction even faster.

Obviously, the dome appealed to the military because of the way a large structure could be packaged and transported, with uses from temporary shelter to covers for sophisticated equipment.

In terms of modern structures one immediately thinks of some famous examples:

Epcot Center, Opened 1982 at Disney World. The quintessential mid-century modern ideal.

United States Pavilion at the 1967 World Exhibition or Expo 67, Montreal, Canada.

 

One of the most interesting things about geodesic dome homes is their lack of a historical context. Virtually every building design today contains an element from the past. In western and eastern traditions, the post and lintel system forms a strong element of architecture. Among the architects included as mid-century modern, the International Style was entirely based on post and lintel construction, for instance. Although in a few places something like a dome such as the Yurt came into use, the complex mathematical nature of the geodesic dome only belongs to modern times. Of course, the ancient Romans expertly built domes as in the Pantheon. However, the Roman dome was basically an arch turned 360 degrees. No geodesic architectural precursor exists.

The fact that the geodesic dome has the added feature of a roof that also forms the walls also decreases its material expense. The dome can be the entire construction. Fortunately, the dome also has a great deal of flexibility. It can be divided in half or merged with another dome. The type of geometry allows for a high or flat dome, which can be mounted on various types of supports or walls. The most remarkable feature, however, is the amount of space a dome can cover. This becomes an unwanted characteristic of a tiny house to some, I would assume.

Here is an article in Freunde von Freunden about a Japanese photographer and his small dome home. One can easily see how a geodesic dome, even though the footprint is small, seems considerably larger.

 

 





 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

An example of a tiny dome home floor plan.

 

An example of the structure of a geodesic dome house.

 

 

The geodesic dome has great potential in terms of a modern building. Utilizing the high, open space, the dome, taking advantage of modern materials and furnishings, becomes just as modern as its rectilinear counterpart while retaining a bit of the feel of an organic design.

Here is a link to extremely interesting information included among the information about a frameless geodesic dome.

The following are links to various dome kit companies:

 

AIDomes

Ai, makers of 10 geodesic dome kits for owner builders or contractors who want to build a Tornado, Hurricane resistant dome home, concrete retirement home, concrete vacation home or commercial business dome.

 

Timberline Geodesics

For more than 35 years, we’ve been dedicated to designing Timberline Geodesic Dome packages that make it easy, practical and affordable for people to construct their own homes. Timberline Geodesic Dome Homes use our unique and patented SteelStar connector system that assures you can construct your dome with precision and confidence, even if you’ve never built anything before.

 

Natural Spaces Domes

A Natural Spaces geodesic dome home offers you a lifestyle that is at once comfortable, efficient and affordable while it is exciting, uplifting, inspiring and passionate.

Yes, passionate.  Our domes offer gorgeous wood interiors. We take advantage of breath taking views through our large groupings of dome triangle windows. Dome homes with high, soaring 2 1/2 story ceilings in the living/dining rooms. Open, airy domes but with a cozy, safe, “snuggly” feeling at the same time.

 

EconoDome

Evolving Dome Home Kits for Building Round Dome Homes since 1982.
Sturdy and aerodynamic EconOdome kit built structures are
Earthquake, Storm and Hurricane Safer Round Homes.
Precision Cut Kit Round Homes have Ten Equal Sides.
Ten-Equal-Sided Foundation and Floor is Easier to Build.
The EconOdome frame Kit includes custom vertical framing at perimeter
for Conventional Doors and Windows at no extra charge.

 

Oregon Dome, Inc.

Whether you are looking for dome kits, dome house plans or are interested in dome house construction, we are here to answer your questions and concerns. We make dome house kits with panels that bolt directly together. oregon domes, oregon building kits, panelized building kits, home building kits, geodesic dome kits.Our panels are framed and sheathed with holes already drilled and assembly hardware included.

 

Dome Inc.

With over 30 years developing domes, Dome Inc. has designed several distinct series of geodesic dome buildings. Each design is engineered to meet specific building codes and standards of construction, based on local climate conditions, seismic and extreme weather events, use of the building, and cost.

 

USADomes

Introducing the most revolutionary building structure that is taking the world by storm. The EPS personal dome structure is impervious to natural disasters, hurricanes, earthquakes, and the shape is naturally wind resistant.

This is personal real estate that has an endless amount of uses and is eco-friendly, energy efficient, easy to construct, and ridiculously affordable. These domes can be used in back yards, as single family homes, as in-law quarters, man caves, game rooms, storm shelters, etc, etc.

 

Domain Domes

Domain Domes are a versatile, cost-effective, relocatable or permanent shelter system, living space or accommodation solution.

Built with composite fiberglass materials, these innovative domes are frameless structures with the strength and durability of a conventional building but the mobility of a tent.

 

Dome Connectors

Create your own Geodesic Dome Structure with a set of these unique connectors. Easy to Assemble, Super Strong and Low Cost Domes.

 




HBosler

 

Tiny House Building Codes

Those who know me know what a dim outlook I have regarding building codes. Most municipal and local codes have gone far beyond the original intent of community safety. In some places the codes almost amount to a legal “taking” of property in violation of the Fifth Amendment to the Constitution of the United States. The notion of a “taking” is a legal principle that if one’s control of a property is so hindered as to render the property devalued, substantially diminished or unusable then proper compensation must be given. Unfortunately, the progressive nature of the Supreme Court since the first half of the 20th century to the present has left this definition so weak as to allow local governments to do just about anything.

A good example of a pernicious code that is not Constitutional in my opinion is the creation of so-called “historic” districts. When a property is sold in such a district, the local government can choose colors, architectural styles and even disallow the sale of a property until certain things are done to the property. Consequently, many properties can sit, unsold because of the excessive expense, rotting and becoming an eyesore. Billions of dollars around the country are spent maintaining an army of bureaucrats, measuring every inch of grass, and forcing people to comply and conform. This is the atmosphere that the tiny house confronts; a large group of people, given the notion that they have great power and strongly conformist motivations, who think they have a right to govern the lives of those in their jurisdiction. To these bureaucrats a house can only be what they live with and expect without thinking. Some jurisdictions, in their arrogance, have even outlawed tiny houses based upon all the usual collectivist excuses that I needn’t repeat here.

One will hear all sorts of objections to what I have just stated, but for most of American history such codes did not exist and only safety was considered. There was no collectivist concept of cities managing who did what where. The city of Houston, Texas today does not have zoning codes and has grown to be the fourth largest metropolitan area in the country. One can take over a gas station and live in it, for instance. Bureaucrats all over hate this with a passion.

I object based upon the idea that more freedom is usually a good thing for everyone in the long run. Where there is great freedom, there is usually a greater level of prosperity.

At any rate, here are some resources for finding out information about tiny houses.

Tiny House Building Codes: Building Code Myths

This is a page that includes different myths associated with tiny houses and what municipalities can do.

How to get around Building Codes and Zoning for Tiny House Living

A video on this link gives some information about tiny houses on wheels.

Tiny House Faqs

Various faqs about tiny houses.

Understanding Zoning And Tiny Houses

Quite a few answers about tiny houses and zoning.

American Tiny House Association

Tons of information, but here a lot of information about building codes with categories by state.

Legally Living in Tiny Houses: Can You Actually Live Tiny?

General information about the legality of tiny houses.

Workshop Follow up-Codes and Tiny Houses

Information about tiny houses on wheels.

Navigating minimum square footage requirements for tiny houses WITHOUT a trailer

Article about size and the International Residential Code.

Codes and the Tiny House

All about the codes.

Modern Small Kitchen Design

The nature of the kitchen in small houses varies as much as the wants and desires of the number of people who have small kitchens. Some people want large appliances for a gourmet experience, some require little space, preferring simplicity and efficiency. The configurations for kitchens in tiny houses are also widely varied with modular kitchenette to custom cabinetry and individually purchased devices.

The complete kitchen unit, as shown in this image, has advantages over custom-built kitchens. Not only does one know the exact dimensions of the unit, but also the entire features as well as cost. Such a unit should generally cost between 1200-1300 and 2200 dollars. Any sort of complicated or time-consuming carpentry is negated. Plus, many companies offer a considerable number of designs and sizes and styles. Gas or electric, installation usually takes little time and the models are not particularly heavy.

Although the modular kitchen is usually complete, it does have the draw back of a lack of customization. The appliances are well set and a larger refrigerator or bigger stove is not always possible. A unique construction allows, of course, for an almost infinite variety of configurations, depending on the space. The materials and finishes on either type will determine cost. However, customization allows for a wide consideration of the materials used. Even used appliances, unique materials, and reclaimed objects reduce prices. Conversely, expensive materials can be used if the budget permits.

Tiny house DIYers have long known that picking things up at thrift stores and garage sales and transforming pieces of furniture or objects into something else, combines the notion of pre-made and customization. For instance, a mid-century modern credenza can be reworked into a sink and counter for the kitchen or bathroom.

The great thing about using free-standing furniture in fitting out a kitchen is that everything is movable. Rearranging or remodeling involves less tearing down and cleaning up. Besides accommodating unique problems in a space, the ability to adjust and reorganize also allows one to change the nature of the space such as in the definition between living and dining rooms. A piece can act as a room divider, for instance. Since many found objects don’t usually garner great expenditures, plowing right into a transformation doesn’t create much anxiety, either. Depending on the creativity of the designer, the results can offer great satisfaction. Using a credenza as a bathroom vanity as in this image, only alludes to the great number of possibilities involved in re-purposing items.

Not only do people redo used furniture, but inexpensive shelving and other pieces from Ikea or other stores indulge the creative impulses of “hackers” who turn these pieces into all sorts of items without spending a lot of money.

Some ideas don’t require elaborate planning and execution. Many times a bit of paint or adding some legs are all that is necessary in creating a one of a kind design. However, with modern ideas, by keeping things simple, one can never go wrong.

Ikea Shelving Made Into Kitchen Storage
Ikea Shelving Made Into Kitchen Storage

 

 

A tiny house kitchen needn’t perform inefficiently or not provide enough space. As is mentioned over and over again regarding tiny houses, vertical space affords a great deal of organizing solutions. Pegboards or hooks will handle utensils, pans and spice racks to name a few, for example. Cabinets and shelving that go all the way to the ceiling, with access by step stool, will ease storage shortages. Yet storage should not be limited to the particular area. Nothing is wrong with placing non-kitchen items in excess space, regardless of the traditional notions concerning functions. In a small house, nothing is too far away.

Great way to keep small appliances off of countertops. ---6 Organization Lessons to Learn from Tiny Houses | Apartment Therapy:

 

Central to the whole concept of any kitchen the single most important question arises, “What do I actually use a kitchen for?” Many people have more kitchen than they really need simply because they have an image in their mind of occasions that may not actually happen all that often, if at all. Thinking carefully and objectively about how one uses a kitchen is essential for the proper kitchen. Too much kitchen eats up valuable room and upsets the free flow of space, consuming budgets and time. If in anticipation of preparing a meal for a major holiday once a year inflates the size of a kitchen, a good hard look at what one truly wants becomes necessary. Better yet, be creative and include in the design a way to expand the kitchen and dining areas temporarily, while keeping the kitchen an appropriate size for the rest of the time. For those of us lucky enough to live in a balmy climate, of course, the outdoors can furnish plenty of cooking, eating and entertaining space.

- To connect with us, and our community of people from Australia and around the world, learning how to live large in small places, visit us at www.Facebook.com/TinyHousesAustralia or at www.TinyHousesAustralia.com:

 

Dining Table and Seating Pull Out Of Kitchen by Alno - - To connect with us, and our community of people from Australia and around the world, learning how to live large in small places, visit us at www.Facebook.com/TinyHousesAustralia:

I would love to have an outdoor kitchen and do something like this. So cool it is like a Murphy picnic table. : ):

Tiny House Basics on Tiny House Swoon - to seat 6 for dining indoor/outdoor or for large work-surface indoors and on deck or porch:

 

critter mobile kitchen: Initially envisioned to be moved between indoor and outdoor spaces, the system works especially well in the house. And with dimensions 240 cm x 65 cm x h 91 cm – it can fit even in a small studio apartment.:

 

One of the greatest things about modern design is that nothing is fixed to tradition or period style. A modern kitchen includes what one wants without regard to what preconceived notions one has about what a kitchen should be. Not all functions of a kitchen need be in one place, for example. The kitchen can fold up or hide or flow outdoors. So many modern designers from the 20th century through the present have created amazing, magical ideas for kitchen design, that with a little research, one can find a solution to any problem or desire.

Bon Appetit

HBosler

Self-Portrait
Self-Portrait

 

A Frank Lloyd Wright Inspired Tiny House

This design is a variation on the Round House. Many of the rectilinear elements of the Round House are removed and replaced with curved forms. The main inspiration for this tiny house comes from two houses in Phoenix, Arizona known as the David and Gladys Wright Home and the Norman Lykes Home. Both these houses are examples of Frank Lloyd Wright’s later style which is seen in the Guggenheim Museum and Gammage Auditorium.

Guggenheim Museum 1959.
Guggenheim Museum 1959.

 

Gammage Auditorium 1964.
Gammage Auditorium 1964.

The Norman Lykes Home was the last house designed by Frank Lloyd Wright in 1959, the year of his death. The home’s completion came in 1967. Created with concentric circles, the house sits perched above a desert valley and lyrically repeats the organic motifs of circles and half circles. As typical, Frank Lloyd Wright also designed much of the furniture as well as the built-ins in both houses.

The Norman Lykes Home, Completed in 1967 by FLW’s Apprentice John Rattenbury
The Norman Lykes Home, Completed in 1967 by FLW’s Apprentice John Rattenbury
The Norman Lykes Home (Office), Completed in 1967 by FLW’s Apprentice John Rattenbury
The Norman Lykes Home (Office), Completed in 1967 by FLW’s Apprentice John Rattenbury
The Norman Lykes Home (Living Room), Completed in 1967 by FLW’s Apprentice John Rattenbury
The Norman Lykes Home (Living Room), Completed in 1967 by FLW’s Apprentice John Rattenbury
The Norman Lykes Home (Master Bath), Completed in 1967 by FLW’s Apprentice John Rattenbury
The Norman Lykes Home (Master Bath), Completed in 1967 by FLW’s Apprentice John Rattenbury

 

The David and Gladys Wright house was a house designed for FLW’s son and daughter-in-law and completed in 1952. Wright brought the house off the desert floor with sweeping circles much like the helical walkways of the Guggenheim Museum.

House + Home Magazine Article on the David and Gladys Wright Home, June 1953.
House + Home Magazine Article on the David and Gladys Wright Home, June 1953.
David and Gladys Wright Home
David and Gladys Wright Home
David and Gladys Wright Home Interior View
David and Gladys Wright Home Interior View

 

The Round House easily lent itself to redesign based upon influences seen in the above two residences.

The Round House
The Round House

Expunging the roofs and linear effects of the front walls, left room for an ascending curve, directing visitors to the front door.

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The cantilevered, extended roofs are replaced with semi-circular ones while leaving the ascending, sweeping effect of the different circular heights, giving an organic feel to the design. Since this is a tiny house, the house is left on the ground rather than elevated, but another creation with this element would demand some significant changes. The clerestory windows now have an inverted semi-circular shape, a favorite of FLW. Glass blocks, in order to bring the plans back to the 1950s, replace the windows in the bedroom section. The building still is balanced by rectangular patios off the bedroom and in front of the living room. The low, rock wall now curves and ascends toward the entry door.

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Fortunately, the extreme changes on the outside did not require wholesale changes on the inside. The movement of the front door caused a couple of furniture re-orientations, but that is all. However, considering the influence of Frank Lloyd Wright, the style of furniture and the nature of the built-ins, the finishes inside almost demand a change to something matching the organic architecture.

FLW House Floor Plan
FLW House Floor Plan

If you would like to read further about the two Frank Lloyd Wright houses referenced, an extensive article at Mid Century Modern Groovy discusses both houses as well as their influences.

HBosler

http://www.moderntinyhouse.org

self-portrait.jpg

Self-Portrait

The Round House

The Round House is based on mid-century modern styles, except this time on a more organic and less International flair. A juxtaposition of curved and rectilinear forms, although they might seem in conflict, produces an interesting contrast between the opposing thrusts in the design.

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Front entrance to the Round House showing the roof over the bedroom and front portico.

 

The building is composed of two cylinders of different heights with cantilevered roofs projecting over separate areas, one, the front entrance and the other an enclosed private patio. Also, the two roofs are composed of different materials, further separating the two visually. The split between the two halves are further delineated by color, the bedroom/bath is dark in color and the living/kitchen area is white. Introduction of a rectangular front porch as well as a rectangular private patio, mirrors the roof structure, with the roofs providing a practical cover for both. For the cylinders that make up the two distinct areas of the design, the outer walls should properly be constructed with a visually smooth, paintable surface such as fine textured stucco or metal. A cement block or brick surface would diminish the overall aesthetic. However, with significant changes, this house could use a variety of materials and finishes.

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A better view of the two roof lines and clerestory windows.

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A view of the side of the house with a look at the curving form of the taller section.

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Beginning to see the sculptural nature of the two semicircles.

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The metal roof casts interesting shadows against the curved, white surface.

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The soft curves of living/kitchen area starkly contrast with the sharp angles of the roof and private patio on the right.

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The differences between shapes and shadows reminds me of paintings by Georgia O’Keeffe of Santa Fe structures.

 

Georgia O’Keeffe, Ranchos Church, Number 1, 1929, oil on canvas, Norton Museum of Art, West Palm Beach, FL.

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Coming around to the other side we see the enclosed, private patio covered by the cantilevered roof of the tallest semicircle.

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A direct side view displaying the different roof elevations and the contrast between dark and white.

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We see the repetition and rise of the angular forms and the windows which only face the front.

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The long stretches of roof thrust in different directions. The long, short stone wall helps to weaken the stark dark and white influence by introducing natural colors all along the front, directing the eye to the front entrance.

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We get a closer look at the front portico.

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Peeking into the front window at the living room.

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On the other side of the front window with a view of the front portico. The wall on the right hides the kitchenette and small dining area.

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Looking into the dining area with the wall to the kitchenette on the left.

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Looking back toward the front entrance and living room.

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The dining area on the right and the kitchenette on the left. The door on the left leads to the bathroom and the door to the right to the bedroom.

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The kitchenette with the door to the right to the bathroom.

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The bathroom which is formed from the  curved outer wall and a curved inside wall that altogether is like a Gothic arch.

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Outside the bathroom door and in the bedroom. The vanity for the bathroom is in the main space of the bedroom, much like one would see in a hotel.

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Looking across the curve of the bedroom with the glass door on the right to the private patio.

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Seeing through the glass doors into the private patio.

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Looking back toward the bedroom.

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The Round House Floor Plan

 

Obviously, the Round House is composed of two half-cylinders with rectangular areas on either side of their union. The cantilevered roofs give covers for each end of the design. The private patio is just that, very private due to the high walls creating total seclusion off the bedroom, with the roof still 4 feet from the top of the patio walls. Windows are limited to the front and high clerestory windows provide a lot of light without diluting the space for furniture and wall space. In order to also offer this light to the bathroom, the surrounding walls (not seen in the images) go up 8 feet, 2 feet below the ceiling, allowing light from the clerestory windows to leak in.

As difficult as it is to design suitable space using circular forms, this particular design is quite flexible. By changing the roofs or changing surrounding spaces, the house can look and live very differently. Having recently examined a Frank Lloyd Wright house in Phoenix, Arizona that uses his trademark round shapes, I have already produced a variation on this house with a strong influence of Wright and will post that very soon. Keep watching.

HBosler

Self-Portrait
Self-Portrait