After losing his home in a fire on May 8, 2016, Jason Brustuen had one simple request to include in a new home at 106 W. 6th St. in Morris.
Some may find his request a little silly, he said with a smile. He wanted a refrigerator with an ice and water apparatus on the door.
"I got it," he said with a laugh.
Brustuen can smile now after losing his home and most of his personal belongings inside it in that fire. Thankfully, he said, he was out exercising both of his dogs, Smedley and Rebel, on the day of the fire.
"I usually take one out a day to work with them," Brustuen said."It happened to be a nicer spring day so I took both of them."
When Brustuen returned home, there was smoke coming from his home's windows. "(The dogs) wouldn't have made it."
It took time to recover from the shock of losing his house and belongings. Brustuen said he went through a grieving process.
"The worst stuff is going through the stuff that was wrecked," Brustuen said. "It may not be of much value but it has personal value."
He spent hours trying to wash the soot from items to salvage them. The soot becomes a gum-like substance while cleaning. "You just can't get the stink out," Brustuen said.
He was able to salvage his round kitchen table and two small shelves that sit in his new living room.
"(The fire) started in the kitchen, (the table) would have been in the middle of the storm," Brustuen said. "I was surprised at how nice it came out."
Brustuen was also able to use the foundation of his house as the foundation for new construction.
"We basically pretty much used the same floor plan," said Cory Evink of Evink Construction of Morris.
But, they were able to make some changes that had big results.
"We tweaked a few walls and in the basement,...we opened that up," Evink said.
Brustuen said Evink and Morris Lumber suggested a small closet in a hallway that used what would have been wasted space behind his shower in the main bathroom. The closet holds towels, paper products and other items. He also likes the storage closet that uses the space on the main floor above the steps to the basement.
A partially furnished basement became a fully furnished basement. Evink built the house with new trusses on the main floor so the basement did not need support walls or beams that broke up the space.
Brustuen had knotty pine on the walls and used the wood for a bar. "That's one thing I'm really glad I did," Brustuen said of the light-colored wood.
He's not finished with furnishing or decorating the basement but it will have several TVs mounted on the walls and two poker tables.
"The basement was half carpet and half concrete (before)," Brustuen said. Now, he has a fully carpet basement that's spacious.
The basement also has a half bath, laundry area and storage closet.
"The basement was fun to do," Evink said. "He wanted to do the pine. We were able to use a different floor plan because of those trusses."
The lower level is brighter with new lighting and the knotty pine but the main floor is also brighter overall with larger windows in the living room and bedrooms.
The changes didn't stop in the inside. Brustuen removed brick paving and installed a concrete patio area that includes his hot tub. A new deck is connected to the main bedroom.
Brustuen is pleased with the rebuild and the process.
"Cory was on time and he got things done," Brustuen said. And, "You could talk to him. Sometimes it's hard to talk to contractors."
"I think he liked to know what was going on," Evink said. "It helped us to know how he liked to do things."