Outside hatmaker Nick Fouquet’s sun-dappled home in Topanga Canyon, California, there are fruit trees bursting with figs, plums, lemons, apples, limes, and grapefruits in the winter. From the wraparound deck of his geodesic dome—originally constructed in the late 1970s by a bohemian couple with utopian architect Buckminster Fuller’s designs in mind—Fouquet can gaze out at Los Angeles’s rolling, sage-dotted mountains and relish its pinkish sunsets.
Only eight minutes from the Pacific Ocean and perched atop a steep, winding road, Fouquet’s wooden dome is his sanctuary. He was drawn to the canyon’s relative isolation—an antidote to the buzzy pace of his Venice Beach flagship store and his globe-trotting lifestyle. (In January alone, he traveled to Paris to show the hat collection that he designed for Givenchy and also to New York to check in on the Gramercy Park Hotel’s Rose Bar, which he redesigned two years ago.)
“Topanga is its own microcosm,” Fouquet says of the hillside town. “It’s a special place; it’s sacred. And the town has hidden treasures.” (Think spiritual centers, taverns, general stores.)
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The dome was built by Arline Goldberg and Jerry Saltzman, a therapist, for their family of four using pentagonal timber and concrete columns. The canyon was full of “hippies, middle-class snobs, stars, and potheads [in the ’70s],” recalls Saltzman, who now lives in Bellingham, Washington. “It was a place that drew out your playful side—if you had it in you to begin with.”
After Saltzman and Goldberg sold the dome in the mid-1980s, it fell into disrepair and was almost torn down. “This is such a rare craftsman house,” Fouquet says. “I see myself as its steward.”
The renovation will take several years, in large part because of the structure’s unusual dimensions. “There are no 90-degree angles,” Fouquet says. “Everything is a little bit uneven.” Installing basic items like a refrigerator or kitchen countertop requires careful planning and custom-crafted designs. “Homes are like breathing organisms—they expand and contract with heat,” says Fouquet of the old wooden beams.
Since our last dispatch in September 2019, contractor Timothy McCarthy has replaced the wraparound deck with new wood planks, rebuilt the interior staircase, and expanded the bedroom by a couple of feet. “I see this as an art project,” says Fouquet, whose namesake brand includes bespoke beaver-felt hats and leather goods that evidence their process. “I work with my hands, so I feel a close attachment to that process.”
He is also putting down roots in the neighborhood. His sister lives down the street, and his neighbor will often swing by to bring honey that he harvests on his property. “He is a special dude and has become one of my closest friends,” Fouquet says. “I love him—he feels like family.”
Fouquet’s Top Eco-Friendly Reno Tips
Cultivate Natural Heat
Built for energy efficiency, the dome’s expansive triangular windows allow the sun to regulate heat during the day.
Streamline Water Sources
Fouquet is working on a gray-water system that would reuse shower and laundry water to irrigate the garden and surrounding landscape.
Make Use of Reclaimed Wood
“What’s being changed is the guts of the dome,” Fouquet says. “But the bones are still there.” The original telephone-pole base of the house will complement new redwood planks.
Grow Your Own Food
“I have my own little Garden of Eden, and when it’s popping off and blooming, I can just go and pick,” he says.
Go Off the Grid
Fouquet plans to power the house with solar energy. With help from a neighbor’s independent water system, he anticipates a time when he could be “totally off the grid.”