The backyard at Julia and Tony Favorito’s Linwood Avenue home has paths that take you through a formal garden. A side section that takes you into a potager (kitchen garden). And a hand-built sphere that takes you back to geometry class.
Triangles. Hexagons. Pentagons. When you study the round structure or, better still, step inside it – and, yes, you can do that – that’s what you see.
The structure, which measures 15 feet in diameter, is built from more than 300 pieces of marine-grade plywood, which has some flexibility to it for bending. An inside deck of pressure-treated wood measures 12 feet in diameter.
Julia Favorito, a freelance designer, built the structure with help from the couple’s friend John Canna. Tony Favorito, director of design and content at Fisher-Price, helped with the deck. Their teenage daughters chipped in as well.
The couple moved into the house 21 years ago, and they have been working on the property ever since – building and enlarging a deck, putting in a stone patio, building gates and a pergola, designing and adding gardens.
Their garden is on Garden Walk Buffalo from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. July 28-29.
The sphere, which is furnished with Adirondack chairs, sits at the back of the property in front of an ivy-covered wall. The Saturn Club’s squash courts are on the other side.
The sphere, which has a spotlight on it at night, replaced the girls’ playhouse that was removed after 15 years, leaving behind a big empty space.
“I looked out at the backyard and just wanted something super interesting, something sculptural, and something that would be interesting to look at even in the wintertime. I was looking at geodesic domes and said, ‘Oh, I could build something like that,’ ” said Favorito, who is drawn to geodesic architecture, such as the famed domes of the late R. Buckminster Fuller.
She found plans for a half-dome on eBay for sale by the man who had made it. The price: $50.
“I bought the plans and went through them all. I thought, ‘Well, this is cool,’ ” she said. She got back in touch with him and asked if it could be built as a full sphere and scaled down.
His answers were yes and yes, and he provided her with further information for modifications. The assembly was the same, but the number of pieces changed, she said.
“It wasn’t some company selling these. It was just some guy who had done it. So consequently I was not 100 percent convinced that this would come together correctly. I'm thinking, ‘OK this is some guy who figured this out and I am hoping that his geometry is correct,’ ” she said.
She bought 12½ sheets of marine-grade plywood and took them to a friend who has a wood shop equipped with a CNC machine (Computer Numerical Control) so he could digitally cut the pieces.
“All the pieces were cut with the holes in them. There are actually four different length pieces, but they are very similar. Trying to tell them apart was tricky,” she said.
She stained them with waterproof deck stain and let them dry before the assembly began. She also decided to add the interior deck.
“What was funny is that we started building the sphere, but then I had to be able to crawl inside of it through one of the triangles in order to build the deck inside. There was no other way to get in,” she said.
“My friend would stand on the outside and hand me all the pieces. We had to do the entire deck structure and the decking on top so we could put the ladder on top and build the top of the sphere. Otherwise you couldn’t reach it,” she said.
The completed sphere has an entrance. The project took about two weeks to complete – just in time for Tony Favorito’s 50th birthday party in early June.
“It just looked so cool going up. When I put the last five pieces on top, I was dumbfounded. I was shocked. I was like, ‘This is amazing that this worked,’ ” she said.
* Take a look at an Outdoor Spaces feature from earlier this month:
Story topics: Instagram