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The Tassell Dome: Rocked by hand and beautiful

Image: Stoned and beautiful – Karen and Dan Tassell’s Monolithic Dome home sits on six acres just outside of Magonolia, Texas.

Stoned and beautiful – Karen and Dan Tassell’s Monolithic Dome home sits on six acres just outside of Magonolia, Texas. (Dan Tassell)


Image: Enter please! – Karen used her artistic talents in decorating her and Dan’s dome-home.
Image: The right size – The Tassell dome has a diameter of 53 feet, a height of 18 feet, a main living area of 2200 square feet and a loft with 425 square feet.
Image: Gracious living – A generous, open area that includes living room, dining room and kitchen dominates the downstairs.
Image: Going up! – A spiral staircase leads to the loft that circles about two-thirds of the dome’s interior. It has space for two bedrooms and a bath, should the Tassells decide to add.
Image: Collections – The Tassells’ hobbies include collecting. Karen has an extensive doll collection and Dan collects mugs and steins.
Image: Comfortable work space – Appliances, cupboards and counters in the kitchen are arranged for efficiency and comfort.
Image: Master bedroom – Furnishing the master bedroom marked the beginning of the moving-in process. Dan said that Karen began just as soon as he hung the first clothes rod in the master bedroom closet.
Image: Master bath – An efficient use of space provides room for storage cabinets.
Image: Anyone for a soak? – This attractive master bath includes a roomy tub. 
Image: The Stoning – Karen and her mom did most of it on their own.
Image: Adhesive – The Tassells used a Dow Corning product that cures in about three days and eventually forms a permanent bond.
Image: Looking natural – The stones are a cultured product manmade out of concrete but look very natural.
Image: What goes where? – The stones came in about four, well coordinated colors and 24 shapes and sizes. Fortunately, Karen and her mom knew just where to put what.
Image: Getting up there! – To stone the very top of the dome, the Tassells used a manlift, loaned to them by Amy and Bob Brooks. 
Image: Wow! – The stoning was completed. Now it’s time to celebrate.
Image: Dan’s backup power system: Frame 1 is of big white box Xantrex SW4024+. It’s a 4000 watt continuous 10,000 watt surge, 24 vdc (volts direct current) to 120 vac (volts alternative current) Sine Wave inverter with built-in battery charger. Small white box is a step-up transformer to make 240 vac to run water well. Large grey box left of inverter is homemade DC Disconnect panel. Battery bank feeds inverter and propane DC generators feed batteries. Two boxes right of inverter are GenTran Transfer panels.
Frame 2 is of battery bank, set-up for 24 vdc with 1500 Amp hr of capacity. Batteries don’t need water and don’t vent.
Frame 3 is of 2 Kohler COM 6, 26 vdc Propane generators that feed battery bank. They’re rated at 6000 watts DC each. Solar panel near each generator keeps starting battery charged.

A Winning Team

When Karen and Dan Tassell of Magnolia, Texas decided on a Monolithic Dome home, they agreed that Karen would do all the decorating, inside and out, and Dan would be in charge of construction details.

That proved to be a very workable, sensible agreement. As Dan, a Senior Communications Tech with the Houston Police Department, put it: “Karen’s the creative one. She just knows how to make things look really good. And I like to research and get things right.”

The Result

In February 2004, after several years of planning, the Tassells moved into their new Monolithic Dome home. Dan said, “When I hung the first clothes rod in the master bedroom closet, my wife began moving stuff in. She couldn’t wait.”

Sitting on an appealing, six acres just outside of little Magnolia, population 1100, their dome has a diameter of 53 feet, a height of 18 feet, a main living area of 2200 square feet and a loft with 425 square feet.

A generous, open area that includes living room, dining room and kitchen dominates the downstairs and shares it with a master bedroom and two others, two full bathrooms,a laundry room and a utility room that houses a freezer and back-up power equipment.

A spiral staircase leads to the loft that circles about two-thirds of the dome’s interior. Dan said, “We have room for two bedrooms and a bath up there, but right now it’s just storage space.”

The Stoning

In 2008, the Tassells decided to cover their dome with manufactured stone. “It was our 21st wedding anniversary,” Dan said, “and I told people I was taking my wife to Italy! We drove to Monolithic’s office in Italy, Texas and talked with David South and Gary Clark about putting stone over the Airform. They gave us all kinds of information, including pictures of domes that had been covered.”

Then the shopping began. Dan recalled, “We went to a home show in Houston and met a guy whose company made cultured, manmade stones out of concrete that have a coating embedded in them and really look natural. But what we liked was $4.00 a square foot. Then Karen, who’s a great shopper, found the same stuff on Craig’s list for $1.85 per square foot. It turned out to be the same guy we met at the home show. He just didn’t want to make that color anymore. But we loved it.”

The stone they ordered came in about four, well coordinated, shades of color and twenty-four shapes and sizes. For an adhesive, following Monolithic’s advice, the Tassells used a Dow Corning product. “It cures in about three days,” Dan said, "but after a year it becomes a permanent bond, so you can’t pry the stones off.

“Karen and her mom did all the stone work,” he added. “They’re both very creative and skillful. They just knew what size and shape went where.”

Energy

Like most Monolithic Dome homes, Karen and Dan’s is all-electric. But their utility bills are about 50% less than those of neighbors in similar-size, brick homes. Dan said, “We have a 2-ton air conditioning unit. Most homes of this size in the Houston area use at least 5 tons.”

Dan is interested in renewable energy. Currently, his power system includes inverter equipment and a battery bank and he plans to add to it.

Taxes and Insurance

When the Tax Assessor visited, Karen and Dan could see that he was very interested in seeing the inside of the dome, so they invited him in. That was a pleasant experience. What followed was not! "We got our first tax statement," Dan said. “It was horrible. We were assessed at $250,000. We couldn’t afford that. And why would anyone build a home they couldn’t afford to maintain?”

Fortunately, that assessment got amended when Dan showed paperwork that documented their construction and finishing expenses.

As for insurance, the Tassells carry coverage only on the contents of their dome. Dan said, “I’m secure in the fact that our home is indestructible. I just don’t worry about it.”