Down the dirt Road to Misery in the picturesque seaside town of Kennebunkport, a gray house is nestled between ledge outcroppings, next to an idyllic pasture where bluebirds nest.

The house, which appears in current real estate listings, isn’t like any other on the market.

It is a one-of-a-kind monolithic dome, shaped somewhat like a bowler hat, hand-built in 2003 by Maine sculptor Daphne Pulsifer and her family in 2003.

And it is for sale for $690,000, along with the 43 acres that surround it.

As for the ominous name of that road where it sits, which might give a prospective buyer pause, it’s just a family joke that always elicits laughter, said Pulsifer, because driving down it brings you the opposite of misery. It brings you to “your own magical place.”

The house may be unlike anything most folks have seen in Maine, but the story of how it came to be is simple, Pulsifer said.

Her husband, Daniel Bates, dreamt of building a concrete dome. When they bought the land in 2000, they decided it was the perfect place to realize that dream and build a family retreat for themselves and their six children.

They turned to Monolithic Domes in Italy, Texas, for advice about designing and building their own dome. According to the company, a monolithic dome is a super-insulated, steel-reinforced, thin-shelled concrete structure. It is an energy-efficient form, the company’s website says, built worldwide for residential, commercial and industrial uses.

That type of construction was new to Kennebunkport, but Pulsifer and Bates worked with the town – including a code officer who Pulsifer said took a special interest in unique buildings – to get through the permitting process. They designed the home to be as energy-efficient as possible, with an off-grid photovoltaic electrical system and self-contained utilities.

The view from upstairs of the four-room, off-the-grid, Kennebunkport dome home. Photo by Nicholas LaRiviere Sr./Firefly Aerial Solutions

When it was time to build, the whole family learned how to hang rebar and mix concrete. They used trees from the property for all of the beams and posts. They collected branches to create interior railings. Pulsifer and Bates made a large pot hanger that runs along the curved wall of the kitchen, to give that space under the dome definition. Pulsifer learned how to make porcelain tiles, which she laid around the fireplace and across most of the floors.

Puslifer, who creates cast bronze sculptures of people and animals in her studio on Monhegan Island, said she thinks of the homemade house in Kennebunkport as her largest sculpture. She said she designed concrete shelves to complement the spaciousness of the dome and built niches to showcase artwork and the family’s personal treasures.

“It’s the kind of project as an artist that you put a lot into in terms of design,” she said.

But what is it like to actually live in?

“You come into this place and feel like it embraces you,” Pulsifer said.

Josephine Power, a Realtor with Coldwell Banker Realty, has never before listed anything like the dome house. When she first got the listing, she said, she called a real estate agent in another state who had sold a treehouse, to get some advice selling a nontraditional home.

“This is definitely the most unique property I have ever listed,” she said. So far, prospective buyers have remarked on the brightness and open feel of the home, which was perhaps a bit unexpected in a dome of concrete.

Since listing the property four months ago, Power has had “lots of interest,” she said, from people looking for a unique home with lots of land.

It may take a special buyer to see all of the dome’s charms. Pulsifer knows them well: Even after she sells the property, she and her family will think back fondly on their time together under the dome, playing games in the woods and having picnics on the ledges that dot the land.

“We all will always remember those things as very, very special,” she said.


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