Square is so Square: Somerville Man Goes for Round House Instead

By Andrew Ashby

HOME ON THE RANGE: Somerville resident Bob Hawley, who's been retired for the past 20 years, chose to build a circular home because of its unique layout and panoramic views. The company that manufactures homes like his identifies Hawley and another owner in Dyer, Tenn., as the only West Tennesseans on its customer roster. -- Photograph By Andrew Ashby

Despite being a hot Memphis-area real estate market, Fayette County boasts another unique housing trait: the paneled round house. Based in Asheville, N.C., Deltec Homes Inc. sells circular housing kits. The company lists two round homes in West Tennessee: one in the town of Dyer and the other in Somerville.

Bob Hawley, a former tool-and-die maker who retired 20 years ago, owns the Somerville home, which overlooks an eight-acre lake. He said he wanted to be near water so he would have a place to sail his model boats. Hawley wants to sell the house because his wife died a few years ago and he's thinking of moving to Lexington, Ky., to be near family.

"It's a lot of room for one person," Hawley said.

Room of one's own

Hawley first became interested in a round home when he read about one in a newspaper article in 1992. He got in touch with Deltec and decided it would be a good fit for his property on Kentucky Lake in Murray, Tenn.

However, Hawley and his wife moved his mother-in-law into a retirement home in Cordova, which is a three-hour trip from Murray. So they sold the lot and moved closer, buying the property in Somerville in 1995. He decided on a 2,850-square-foot house design that was featured on the Deltec catalogue cover. The three-bedroom, three-bathroom house has a round area that has 14 sides and takes up 1,061 square feet on each floor. The first floor opens into the yard, while the second floor has a slightly vaulted ceiling and wrap-around deck that faces the lake. The house also has a square wing with a two-car garage as well as the master bedroom and a bathroom.

Deltec delivered the outside walls, roof paneling and floor joists. The exterior package cost around $50,000. Hawley said the total cost of the house generally is about three times the cost of the Deltec kit.

Stymied workers

When he started looking for contractors to build the house, Hawley encountered a small problem.

A Home in the Round
- Deltec Homes Inc. supplies pre-cut building exteriors,
which include roof and floor systems.
- Circular design offers panoramic views and resistance to wind.
- Homeowners may get a commission if they show the house
to potential buyers.
- Houses have 6-inch thick walls, instead of traditional 4-inch walls.
Phone: (800) 642-2508
Web site: www.deltechomes.com

"They had never seen one of these and they naturally had never built one," he said. Because of their inexperience with the design, the contractors couldn't give him an estimate, so Hawley had to pay them by the hour during the building process. He kept tabs on how many supervisors and workers were on site and how often they worked - and labor costs ran around $150 an hour.

Crews started building the house in September, and Hawley let the contractors go in December so he could finish the sheetrock, plumbing and electrical work by himself. He estimated that doing those jobs saved him about $12,000.

Hawley said the round house has several fringe benefits, including six-inch exterior walls instead of the traditional four-inch walls most builders use. Each of the walls is eight feet wide and interchangeable, and may be blank or have doors or windows, depending on what buyers prefer.

Roundhouse concept

Deltec offers set floor plans, but Hawley designed his own to include extra features. For example, he used glass blocks on parts of the bottom instead of windows to provide both light and privacy.

Besides offering round homes, Deltec has a program in which company representatives call current owners when someone in the area wants to see the home. Hawley said he has had three people visit over the years to see if a Deltec home was right for them. If they order one, he gets a commission.

Joseph Schlenk, Deltec Homes' director of sales and marketing, said customers usually buy circular homes for one of two reasons: They like how it looks or they like what it does.

"Some people come to us and they just want a round house because they want something different and unique," he said. "Other people choose them because they are wind resistant, energy efficient and offer better views in scenic areas."

The company started in 1968. About a decade ago, it sold around 250 homes a year, but now is up to 500 a year, Schlenk said.

"Deltec customers are typically baby boomers who are retiring and looking at homes different than what they've lived in their whole lives," Schlenk said.

Panoramic and more

Hawley said the first comment he usually gets from visitors is about the view. The house has several windows and a sliding glass door facing the lake, providing plenty of light.

"From the time the sun comes up in the morning until the sun sets, generally I don't have to turn on a light unless there's a storm out," Hawley said.

The windows are double-glazed vinyl, which makes the house quiet.

"The jets go overhead, but you won't hear them unless I've got a window or the patio doors open," Hawley said.

Another feature of the circular house is its resistance to high winds. Hawley said the wind is diverted around the house, making it less susceptible to storm or hurricane damage than a flat or square structure would be.

Hawley owns a telescope and uses the deck for stargazing. Because no big cities are close by, he said he can see many stars. He also has binoculars to watch the ducks and geese that frequent the lake.

Because the Deltec kit only includes the exterior of the house, Hawley was able to design the interior to his liking. While it was different to design a circular interior space, he was able to make room for special spaces, such as a place to put his collection of model boats, trains and airplanes.

"There's not a lot of wasted space if you're creative enough to use it," Hawley said.