The Heywood Monolithic Dome cabin in Northern Arizona, offering a family escape from the desert heat. (Ross & Linda Heywood)

A desert escape

Ross and Linda Heywood live in the hot, sun-kissed land of the Phoenix, Arizona metro area. Located in the southwestern United States, temperatures can climb into the 110s during the peak summer months. To escape the unbearable heat, the Heywoods wanted to build a summer home, one that would be a Monolithic Dome.

They purchased a piece of property up north, 30 miles outside of Flagstaff. This property is up in the mountains among the ponderosa pines at 8,100 feet above sea level, enough to offer a summer escape. Part of this is due to its remote location. To access the site, “we have to travel on six miles of dirt roads that are only maintained by the Forest Service,” Ross Heywood said. During the winter, those roads are not even plowed.

Once the property was purchased it was a matter of deciding what to build on the property. Ross is a concrete contractor, and thus wanted a concrete building. Enter Rick Crandall, an architect who goes to church with the Heywoods, who suggested building a Monolithic Dome. That suggestion landed with Ross. “A Monolithic Dome fit the bill perfectly,” he said.

From there construction began on the dome. Due to the remote location, Ross had put in a septic tank four years ago. The Monolithic Dome cabin took around three years to build, with Ross doing most of the labor to keep costs down. Ray Ansel was hired to inflate the Airform and spray the shotcrete. “I bought all the materials and he just provided the labor,” Heywood stated. “We tried to build it as cheaply as we could. We were able to stick to the cheap budget for the most part.”

The cabin was designed by Rick Crandall, who called the Heywoods “old friends.” He has designed almost 170 projects with Monolithic Domes, which has included more than 500 domes, the first one in 1995. He called the cabin, “closer to looking like a hotel.” It has 11 bedrooms and four and a half bathrooms.

Coming in at a total of 4,834 square feet, the cabin also houses a home theater, a musical conservatory, library, and exercise room. There are two floors, with the lower floor recessing back into the ground. The Monolithic Dome has a diameter of 58 feet, and the center great room has a 24-foot distance from floor to ceiling, with a 6-foot skylight.

Crandall further elaborated on the remoteness of the property site. “The ponderosa pines around it are very mature, so it’s hard to see until you get right up on it,” he stated. He also pointed out the other cabins in the area are between 500 and 800 square feet, a few around 1,000 square feet, making the Heywood cabin stand out. “It really dominates the landscape,” he stated. “I had fun doing it and learned a lot from him about concrete. Between the two of us I think we did a really winning project”

The Heywoods received the certificate of occupancy last year, around September. Since then, they have stayed at the cabin several times. While not built as a full-time home, the Heywoods will use it as a weekend home and a location for family reunions. There are a few minor things left to do on the cabin, such as putting up baseboards and some painting.

Ross has two more years of working until he retires, after which he and his wife plan to spend weekends and summers at the cabin. “The grandkids love it because they have a lot of room to play,” he stated. “A lot of my kids come up when it gets hot.” With a temperature difference of around 20 degrees from the Phoenix area, you can’t blame them.

Side view

The side view of the cabin. (Ross & Linda Heywood)

Great room

The great room inside the cabin, which has a 24-foot distance from floor to ceiling. (Ross & Linda Heywood)

Upper great room

The upper part of the great room. (Ross & Linda Heywood)


One of the bedrooms in the cabin. (Ross & Linda Heywood)


Another bedroom (Ross & Linda Heywood)


Another bedroom, one of 11 in the cabin. (Ross & Linda Heywood)

Dining area

The dining area in the cabin. (Ross & Linda Heywood)

Dome during construction

Inside the cabin during construction after the Airform was inflated. (Ross & Linda Heywood)