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Reclaimed and rebuilt
New home rises from the ashes of a farmhouse fire

Photos by Tricia Shay

October 2014

Firefighters were able to put out the fire before it destroyed the second story of this Burlington house. Nonetheless, the master bedroom sustained smoke damage and was restored in the rebuilding of the home. The wall behind the bed is made from wood found in an old barn on the property; the stone wall is part of the original structure.

Reminders of the 2013 fire that destroyed their 1800s farmhouse are scattered throughout the rebuilt Burlington home of Richard and Sharlene Pasko.

"We lost a lot that insurance could not give us back; the sentimental things you lose in a fire," Sharlene Pasko says.

But during the months-long reclamation process, Pasko uncovered objects that could be salvaged.

"She personally put in a lot of hours cleaning off all of the old brass doorknobs (and other things) that were fire damaged," says Cheri Ware, whose Delafield firm, Ware Design, undertook the cleanup and rebuilding of the home. "These things survived the fire, so we thought we wanted to honor them."

Rustic elements of the original farmhouse, such as the fireplace and 2-foot-thick stone walls, meld with the modern kitchen, complete with stainless steel appliances and granite countertops.


Above the kitchen table, which was also salvaged from the fire, is a charred piece of barn door and a lantern. Including these and other objects in the new home helped the couple as they recovered emotionally from the tragedy.

"This was not your run-of-the-mill remodel," Ware says. "We had to be so careful because they were grieving. We had to allow them to cry, to be upset, to start to put the pieces back together."

"After the fire it was like, ‘What is going to happen to my life? Where am I going to live?’ " Pasko says.

A charred section of barn door hangs above the kitchen table. Both were salvaged from the fire. The fireplace mantel is made from a barn beam.

The couple have been on the farm for 22 years and "live close to the earth," as Ware says. They have a menagerie of animals, including championship Clydesdales, Scottish Highland cattle, pigs, 50 chickens and three family dogs. There is also a large organic garden that Pasko tends, from which she cans vegetables and dries herbs for the winter.

The exterior of the 1800s Burlington farmhouse, which was virtually destroyed in a 2013 fire, is similar to the original style of the house. "The outside is still the same modest, humble house that it had always been," says designer Cheri Ware. "It just happens to look really cool on the inside." The couple raises championship Clydesdales and Scottish Highland cattle.

The Paskos decided to rebuild their home with the help of Ware Design. Steve Ware took the lead in the restoration, working with the insurance company and bringing in an engineer to make sure the foundation was stable. The house was burned, with smoke and water damage. The master bedroom, Ware says, was caked with soot. "It hangs off the ceiling almost like cypress branches," she says.

The outside of the house looks very much like the original structure, but on the inside, the design is an eclectic mix of old and new. "I didn’t want to lose the feeling of the old farmhouse, yet I wanted to make things more modern," Pasko says.

The original 2-foot-thick stone walls are a backdrop to the contemporary elements, most notably among them, the very modern cook’s kitchen.

"The house still has all character and legacy that they wanted to have," Ware says.

About 10 months after the fire, the Paskos moved back into their home, feeling grateful to friends and neighbors, and to Steve and Cheri Ware for helping them through the experience. "Through it all, I understand we were clients, but we met two new friends," Pasko says. M



This story ran in the October 2014 issue of: