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  • What are those domes along Greensprings Highway?

  • Four white, concatenated domes perched above Greensprings Highway east of Ashland are not something cast off from a sci-fi movie.
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  • Four white, concatenated domes perched above Greensprings Highway east of Ashland are not something cast off from a sci-fi movie.
    They're just the home of Marcia Sherry-Newby and Phil Newby, who love the feel of a circular space.
    "It's great to live in — very interesting acoustics, real positive energy from the circular shape, 16-foot ceiling and very energy-efficient. We love it," said Sherry-Newby, who lived in dome-shaped housing while studying at the University of California at Davis.
    Newby said he loves the shape and spaciousness, noting that the big downsides are leaks through windows — domes have no eaves — and the reluctance of lenders to finance an alternative structure.
    The home on 20 sloping acres was on the market for six months before the couple bought it for $250,000, said Newby, noting that the bank backed out at the last minute, so the seller carried the paper.
    "To me it's worth a million bucks. I don't plan on selling. I hope we spend the rest of our days here," he said. "People tell us we're brave and they admire us for buying it. People are afraid of alternative buildings, because they think they can't sell them. If we had to sell it in a hurry, we could be up a creek."
    The couple has adapted to the curved walls, making built-in bookcases that curve above a semi-circular, pillow-covered bench in the central dome or living room. The left dome is an office, with the couple's bed in a loft above it. The right dome is a modern kitchen with granite counters and a guest loft. Both lofts feature spiral staircases, and floors are flagstones of Colorado quartzite.
    The domes were built in 1992 by alternative design aficionado Steve Wolf of Ashland (www.stevewolfco.com/), who says they were the first solid domes in Oregon.
    "It's really fabulous to live in, a much different feeling than a conventional home. It's a comfortable, womblike feeling, very calming," said Wolf, noting that the only downside is financing. There are no "comps" (comparable sale prices) to guide lenders to a dome home's value.
    The domes, made by Monolithic Dome in Italy, Texas, cost about the same as any house of similar size, but are fireproof, storm-proof and bulletproof. And because they are super-insulated, they cost less than half of what it takes to heat a wood house, according to www.monolithic.com. The Newbys use wood heat.
    Construction is radically different. On a concrete pad, workers inflate an "airform," spray the inside with three inches of polyurethane, apply a net of steel rebar inside, then shoot three inches of concrete on the inside. Once it dries, the owner can move in.
    A 2,500-square-foot solid dome in Eagle Point, listed at $500,000, was taken off the market because of a lack of comps and reluctant banks, according to Candy Murray of Grapevine Realty, which had listed it.
    John Darling is a freelance writer living in Ashland. E-mail him at jdarling@jeffnet.org.
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