After Losing Everything in a Fire, This Family’s Home Remodel Is a Story of Resilience

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Sunroom with dining area and blue tile floors
Credit: Emma Leggat

Name: Emma Leggat, husband, and two daughters
Location: Napa Valley, California
Type of home: Single family mountain home
Size: 1,920 square feet
Years lived in: 4 years, owned

Tell us a little (or a lot) about your home and the people who live there: I’m writing to share my story with you in the event you feel this may be of interest to your readers. It’s a story of a remodel but also a story of loss and resilience. My husband, two little girls, and I live in the Mayacamas mountain range on the western side of the Napa Valley. We purchased our dream home on a four-acre property four years ago. This unique plot of land features stunning vineyard and valley views, redwood forest, and striking redwood groves throughout the property. It was just magical, surpassing our wildest hopes for a place to raise our children attuned to nature.

Credit: Emma Leggat
View from our kitchen.

In 2017, less than two years after we purchased the property and mere months since we completed some extensive remodeling, our home burned down in the Nuns Fire, which crossed over from Sonoma and devastated the Mt. Veeder area where we live. We lost everything — baby photos, wedding mementos, family heirlooms. Easily $150 thousand in recent improvements also went up in smoke. In the following year, we bounced from hotels to family and friends’ homes, to rentals as we tried desperately to create normalcy for our girls while also holding down two demanding jobs and navigating the insurance process.

Credit: Emma Leggat

When we purchased our property, there was a secondary, 75-year-old home on the same lot. A true tear-down if there ever was one, the house was a Frankenstein of terrible, amateur, and unsafe home “improvements” on the part of a previous owner. In fact, the condition of this home had scared away most other buyers and was in hindsight the reason we were able to purchase the property at a price that fit our meager budget. As luck — or misfortune depending on how you look at it — would have it, that house survived the fires with minimal damage. In truth, we would have been better off collecting insurance on this home than having it survive when our own home and property were already lost. Nonetheless, these were the cards that we were handed in life and we did our best to turn it into an opportunity.

Credit: Emma Leggat

Three years later, we have fully remodeled this home not only to fit our taste and address its idiosyncrasies, but also with the absolute highest levels of fire resistance possible. We did this on our own, acting as our own general contractors on the side and doing whatever work we were capable of doing ourselves.

Credit: Emma Leggat

I’m half Swedish so I wanted something that was clean and minimalist and yet bright, cozy, and inviting for children — not too fussy.

Describe your home’s style in 5 words or less: Family-friendly modern farmhouse

Credit: Emma Leggat

What is your favorite room and why? The sunroom is a bit ’80’s, but I love it. We redid the floors with this beautiful cement tile from Lili Cement Tiles. I love how the stars can be thought of as reflecting the night sky above. In the summers, the girls like to camp out in this room and the large table is perfect for arts and crafts.

Credit: Emma Leggat
I love how bright and cheerful my daughter's room is.

What’s the last thing you bought (or found!) for your home? I absolutely love the artwork from Below the Boat that is featured in our living room.

Credit: Emma Leggat
Stairs built by my husband and his father.

Any advice for creating a home you love? Don’t forget to think about safety. I have a wealth of advice to offer when it comes to reducing fire risk. Even if you don’t live in a wildfire zone, house fires are more common than most people realize.

This submission’s responses and photos were edited for length/size and clarity.