Sonoma County family rebuilds home lost in Tubbs fire with sleek, modern design
When they sit down to Thanksgiving dinner on Thursday, Jill Richardson and Tim Landerville and their son Blair will have much to be grateful for.
There is the new double oven — a first-time luxury — that will enable Jill to roast a turkey and bake a pie at the same time. There is also the giant true-cook’s island in the kitchen that has made food preparation so much easier. There are the big new windows that have opened up views of the hills surrounding their “Hidden Valley” in the midst of Santa Rosa.
But more than appreciating the creature comforts that come with a new house, they will be thankful simply to be home after two years as nomads. Their home of more than 20 years was incinerated in the Tubbs fire of 2017. There was little question they would rebuild.
“This is my little piece of the planet. This is my spot on this earth. This is where I just belong. It’s where I need to be,” Richardson explained. “Between that and needing to get our son back home — I gave birth to him at Memorial and we brought him home to this house — there was very little discussion about not rebuilding.”
This modest subdivision, built in the 1970s, has been their home since 1991. They celebrated their wedding reception in the backyard, dancing their first dance on a brick patio they created for the occasion.
During their nearly two years of displacement, Jill would come by almost every day. Knowing so much habitat had been lost to the fire, she wanted to make sure the bird feeders were full and the birdbath — one of the only things they owned that survived the heat and flames — had water.
“I would bring gallons of water up every day,” Richardson said. “I reinstalled my bird feeder. I did everything I could to maintain the small bird population.”
Their new house sits on essentially the same footprint as their old house, a typical, 1,800-square foot, three-bedroom, two-bath house built in 1973. But the architecture/design team of Ken Berman and Clare Monteschio, of Red Maple Workshop in Sebastopol, created a fresh new interpretation that reflects post-millennial living, from a courtyard in the front yard to high ceilings, an open living area inside and elements of universal design to buy the couple more years in their home as they age.
“The thing we were always anticipating is that once they moved into their home, it was to be their forever home, the home they wanted to have but didn’t have a chance to have,” said Berman, a licensed architect.
The fire, added Monteschio, who like her husband has a master’s degree in architecture from The New Jersey Institute of Technology, was a terrible event that, nonetheless, presented an opportunity for those who lost their homes to come away with something positive — a house that may better meet their current needs.
Richardson and Landerville both enjoy outdoor living.
He’s king of the grill and smoker. Along with the birdbath, his grill is one of the few things that withstood the inferno that blowtorched through Hidden Valley and nearby Fountaingrove that night in October 2017.