A home is a structure, with chosen belongings, and most importantly the people inside, inspiring the deeper meaning of the word.
Our homes are a place where we surround ourselves with things that become part of us. Our things bring us comfort. Stability. We collect things in our lives.
We display trinkets that trigger past memories. Carefully selected clothes reflecting personal style fill drawers. Dishes await meals in kitchen cupboards. We stow sentiments in boxes to infuse holiday seasons with spirit. Bookshelves might house loved pages and photo albums documenting time.
So imagine, for a moment, what it must be like to lose all those things in an instant. To return to your home one day only to discover it no longer exists. Along with those things inside, it has been erased.
Such was the reality for the Reynoldses in 2008 when the Valley View fire tore through 1200 acres and destroyed 13 homes.
The people were safe. The things, not so much.
Catherine and her husband Branden received word of the fire while at their lake home in Hayden. They rushed back to the Spokane Valley only to find they could not pass the barricade to save any things. Their 17-year-old daughter Valerie and 9-year-old son were absent on summer activities.
The calculated loss of inventory, much of which insurance could not replace, was both overwhelming and heartbreaking. Three of the family’s beloved pets—the cat, dog and a corn snake, sixteen years of catalogued photos of the kids, Valerie’s newly upgraded pedal harp to list a few. It was a devastating summer to say the least.
Yet the world refused to slow down in the face of this slow-motion tragedy. Insurance demanded a 12-month action plan. So despite their grief, the Reynoldses forged ahead and began to rebuild.
The family, along with their surviving Lab Marley, moved into a South Hill rental home for the 1.5 year construction. A new cat joined the family, a bud of newfound ground and healing.
Catherine divided her hours listing lost items for the insurance company and working with the original builder of their home to construct the walls again.
“The silver lining was getting a new home,” says Catherine. Though she adds she felt a bit numb orchestrating design and decor under the circumstances. In fact, Catherine mostly relied on the builder, saying they simply wanted to mimic the original daylight rancher with upgrades. Designing a significant number of built-ins throughout the home, like a full dresser flanking the onyx tile glass fireplace in the master bedroom and a built-in kitchen desk with a pocket door to hide any mess when not in use, infused the home with character while minimizing furniture replacement needs.
Overall the family is pleased with the finished product. Catherine says her “husband’s only qualm is he wishes he could have made the garage bigger.”
She’s referring to the 12-stall garage, with 24-foot ceilings, connected to another four stall garage via somewhat of a post-hunting suite for the boys. (When they come home from trips, the boys can clean up, wash clothes and clean winnings in the kitchenette, powder room and laundry facility that make up this suite.) It’s a nice perk for Catherine, a member of PETA.
On that note of humorous contradiction, the Reynoldses’ ability to embrace differing personalities within the family is evident throughout the home.
“It’s a mutt! We were in a rush to build and there’s a little bit of everything, something for everyone,” says Catherine describing her home.
Well it’s a loveable mutt.
The great hall greets guests with bold modern decor (Branden’s style of choice,) while the adjacent kitchen bears more traditional patterns and woodwork (Catherine’s go-to approach.) A vibrant red keyboard set inside a baby grand frame sits on the edge of the kitchen, tying the two rooms together.
The traditional decor continues into the master suite where cozy ensues with an in-room fireplace, plush warm copper carpet, and a strategically placed armoire to enjoy expansive valley views out the window. The suite extends into a smaller room, potentially a nursery, but now a small gym eliminating any excuse to skip the workout due to the commute.
Luxury drapes the master bath with a seven spout shower adjacent to a soaking tub perched under a chandelier at the top of a set of stairs.
Traditional northwestern decor reigns prominent downstairs, a deliberate choice to warm the physically cooler temperature of the basement. Yet some traditional spaces hold secrets. Various sized tiles, installed vertically to depict a New York skyline, literally twinkle at night with embedded fiber optic lights. The wine cellar contains a secret door to storage space.
When asked about home highlights, James and his mom, perched atop two of eight plush bistro chairs surrounding the granite island in the spacious kitchen, begin describing experiences rather than things.
At first the memories trickle as they reminisce about memories created in the new home.
The roller skating birthday party in the 12 stall garage (complete with a disco ball) comes to mind.
The older sister “tearing it up on Guitar Hero in the basement” stands out to James.
The day James got a new snake, this time a python.
And then the memories gush . . .
Countless shared s’mores around the fireplace on one of the many covered porches overlooking the Spokane Valley, with views stretching to Mt. Spokane on a clear day.
Family golf games at Pebble Beach, or another world famous course, via the full golf simulator downstairs. Further golf competitions on the backyard putting green.
Branden and his son James heading out on a crisp cool morning in an attempt to bag a bird on the huntable property within walking distance before school.
Tending gardens, and then reaping harvests—especially strawberries rewarding efforts with juicy bursts by the mouthful.
Elementary-aged James channeling Harry Potter and setting up camp in the wine cellar carved out beneath the stairs.
James’s slew of adventures on the near nine acres of property extending beyond the home, like building bike trails and catching lizards. (He fondly remembers Cosmo and Wanda, two favorite reptile field friends.)
The flames erased matter, but couldn’t erase what mattered most to the Reynoldses. Though the photos burned, the images and memories remain impressed upon mind and heart like a fossil, reminding that memories and time can never be erased by a natural disaster. Those you will always carry with you.
Their memories still stood, and they built upon these in a new home on the same plot of land.
They’ve started to collect things again. Catherine chose custom rod iron french doors from Texas, a piece of her hometown roots anchoring the entrance and symbolizing strength. The strength to begin again and the courage to keep going.
James is now a senior at Gonzaga Prep making college plans. Valerie lives in Colorado where she is studying to be a veterinarian. The python has doubled in size. Any other home is a distant memory for the cat. Catherine and Branden, soon to be empty nesters, are putting their home up for sale to embark on a new chapter.
“Of course I’ll be sad to leave,” says Catherine. The family loves the location, which they describe as an isolated, but connected, hideaway.
“But I’m ready. I kind of have the eight year itch now, and it would be fun to build under pleasant circumstances.”
An avid traveler, Joni Elizabeth constantly snaps photos to document inspiring architecture and design. Writing about such spaces melds Joni’s love for design and decor with that of sharing an individual’s story. She’s also convinced no space is complete without a dog.