Living In The Round - West Of Talent

Yards of ugly brown shag carpet and hokey teddy bear stencils didn't deter Dominick and LeeAnn DellaSalla from falling in love with the 1980 geodesic dome that overlooks six and a half acres of woodlands. The creative couple saw an eco-conscious remodel that would help their young family move into the future in green style.

Since purchasing the property in 2001, the DellaSallas have spent about a hundred thousand dollars and gallons of sweat equity to bring the 2100-square-foot, four- bedroom, two-bath dome up to their exacting environmental standards.

Living outside the box

As Rogue Valley residents start to reconcile their lifestyles with the impact they're making on the environment, some are choosing more earth-friendly home designs like geodesic domes.

Invented just after World War I by Walther Bauersfeld in Jena, Germany, then further refined and patented in 1954 by American philosopher R. Buckminster Fuller, the geodesic dome is widely accepted as the lightest, strongest, and most cost-effective structure ever devised. Interlocking triangles create a frame, over which a surface is applied.

About 20 local families have opted for a dome, says Johan Ziems, founder and manager of Dome Guys in Ashland and Domes Europe.

"People are catching on and they're becoming more popular," adds Ziems, who has been building domes around the world for 15 years.

And because they can be tailored to virtually any size, materials, amenities, floor plan and energy system, domes are easy to make "green" with a renewable energy source such as solar, wind or hydroelectric power.

First, they ripped up all the carpet and replaced it with wood certified by the Forest Stewardship Council as coming from responsibly managed forests.

"That's really important to me and my family as my big passion in life is to save old-growth forests," says Dominick, who is director of the national Center for Conservation Science and Policy in Ashland. "In each remodeling project, we consider the ecological footprint of our consumption and choose products that are less damaging to the environment."

In the main floor living room, that means beautiful madrone underfoot, with madrone-hued plaster walls all around, lending a soft southwest palette to the gently curving space with its central wood stove and brick hearth. Whimsy comes from a flock of Peruvian butterflies fluttering across one wall and hand-painted "petroglyphs" peeking out from corners.

"They're inspired by Sedona, Arizona, where my parents live," says LeeAnn, who also brought in a hand-carved, fair trade entertainment cabinet from Mexico. Light was added with a triangular skylight at the top of the dome's 21-foot ceiling.

The kitchen, too, was totally refinished. Vinyl was traded out for 12-inch x 12-inch ceramic tiles with a patchwork design of smaller decorative tiles, all planned and laid by LeeAnn. The design is mimicked in the room's window trim and backsplash, which sits above new FSC maple cabinets with blue tile countertops.

A window was cut into the small dining area on the kitchen's southwest side, opening up views of the pasture and Anderson Creek below; a door near the sink leads out to a new wraparound deck. Vividly painted masks and animals the couple collected on trips to Borneo and Peru trot around the room's perimeter.

Daughter Ariela's playroom nestles into the dome's northeast corner. It's all girl in here, with hand-painted mountain murals on the walls, a corner "sea garden" where Ariela can read books under a blue canopy and a homemade, three-story dollhouse, crafted by LeeAnn for Christmas.

The main floor's "Sedona bathroom" (which was once decorated with teddy bears cut from a magazine) features an imported tile sink, tin mirror and "crowfoot" tub, all sitting upon slate tiles. A gecko lightplate continues the Southwest theme.

The DellaSallas remodeled what was an upstairs loft with a tiny bath and room-hogging closet into a gracious master suite. By completing a half wall and adding a stepped glass brick design and two French doors to the mix, they gained privacy and needed light.

Walls were given a coat of sage green paint, FSC tan oak floors were laid around a ceramic tile bed base and a curvy wrought-iron bed frame plays up the dome's graceful shape.

Two closets were carved into each side of the room, allowing the couple to remove the old closet and turn it into a larger bath with a five-sided tub and walk-in shower. Dominick scored some petroglyph-patterned tiles for the sink's backsplash and shower trim and LeeAnn coordinated the accents with large tiles on the shower walls and 2 inch x 2 inch tiles she cut by hand for the shower floor.

To further reduce their residential footprint, the DellaSallas traded out all the home's incandescent light bulbs for energy-saving fluorescent bulbs. Then they switched over to Energy Star appliances, which afford them peace of mind as well as valuable rebates.

"It really is possible to live joyfully with a light touch on the land," concludes Dominick. "And I'm conscious that the footprint we leave is not going to damage the environment in a way that reduces my daughter's chances to experience the same things I value: old-growth forests, clean water and salmon!"

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