They Lost Their Home, but Found Hope
A short history of Molly and Tyler Thrasher’s past year:
- Bought first house early June 2016
- Married July 30, 2016
- House Burned down December 9, 2016
- Lived with Molly’s parents’ home while rebuilding for six months
- Moved back into their house May 28, 2017
“If the universe says a house had to burn down, I am glad it happened to us.” - Tyler Thrasher, with a nod from his wife Molly.
Molly and Tyler Thrasher are obviously in love and dear friends. She’s a photographer with a poet’s heart, and he’s an artist whose medium is chemicals, bones, and bugs. I met Molly through a web of other small business owners in our town–a coffee-shop-owning friend whose wife co-owns a flower shop with a woman who is best friends with Molly. This is Tulsa, Oklahoma for you.
Her family portraits and videos and work with small businesses and makers is captivating–she makes the tricky work of capturing a toddler on film or showcasing the heart of a business in a one-minute video look easy and pleasurable. And for that, as someone who has hired her for both types of work, I am grateful and amazed. Tyler is energizing and knowledgeable. He knows so much about plants and is scientific with his art career. He’s best known, at this moment, for his crystallized cicadas, but I personally cherish a small painting of a mountain range of his that I have settled on my bedroom shelf. They are the cool kids who also happen to be nice and make you feel included.
The following photographs by Monica Burgess.
When I sat down to talk to them about their experience with their house burning down, I expected to hear mostly about how terrible and sad it was. And they did tell me it was scary (Molly has strong anxiety over a potential future fire.) and they did experience deep loss (from family mementos to collections and clothing to Tyler’s pet hedgehog Margo), but the majority of our conversation centered on how they and their home are better for the experience, and how deeply they feel a sense of debt for the way they came out of this event on the other side.
I saw Molly and Tyler the night their house burned down. They attended an event at my shop, then went to dinner with some visiting friends, and came home to emergency vehicles on their street. I still feel sick thinking about how quickly my friends went from an average day to the day their home was ruined.
The evening after the house fire, Tyler had an event planned to celebrate the completion of his new art studio. Close friends encouraged them to keep the celebration and those same friends set up a GoFundMe site that raised money to support the Thrasher’s immediate needs–clothing, food, toothbrushes, etc. Their funding goal was met within hours. Tons of people from the community came to the opening and purchased art and offered hugs.
The following photographs by Molly Thrasher.
Most people harbor the knowledge that stuff is just stuff, and love and family are what matters, but not everyone has such an extreme experience to underline that sentiment. As draining and traumatic as losing all your possessions is, Molly and Tyler seem settled by knowing that all that grand talk is actually true. Who they were before the fire wouldn’t have hoped for it to happen at all, but who they are after is relieved to know that great tragedy is accompanied by great knowledge. Knowledge of how loved they are and how even when they lost everything, people rushed in to replace it and offer help of any kind.
The night of the fire, they just held one another saying, “I am so glad you’re ok,” over and over.
After the Fire
Their rebuilt house is now up to code, unlike many 1930s homes. It’s freshly painted, precisely put together, and full of hints to the events of the past year. They salvaged what they could of the original wood floors, and in their shared office space, you can see burn-marks that they wanted to keep. It’s part of their story. Some of their artwork survived because it was framed in glass. Molly’s mom spent hours cleaning surviving family heirlooms, a beautiful marble side table and a teapot that belonged to her great-grandmother.
They had to tally their belongings for the insurance company, and Molly says it was a grueling process remembering every single thing they owned. It was an 84-page spreadsheet by the end. She and Tyler were able to see clearly what they once owned versus what they cared to replace. And it left them committed to having fewer belongings and to owning things that are useful and meaningful. It’s strange to say, but things they’d actually want to replace if they lost it all again. Their new sofa was handmade and upholstered by one of their best friends, Jake Fowler. He fashioned their dining table too. Molly made some of their new dishes herself.
The daughter of a gardener and “houseplant hippie” and the son of a landscaper, their house is also slowly being filled with plants of all kinds. This may be my favorite thing about their space. All the life their plants add. How nurturing this couple must be to keep them all thriving. The way it represents both their childhoods.
“Home to me means a safe place to be completely relaxed in. And a warm place to host others and make them feel welcome.” -Molly Thrasher
Once word spread to the online world, Tyler’s vast community of artists and fans started sending artwork. Molly says they received gifts of art every day for months, “from the kindest souls who contributed to rebuilding our sense of home.” And they have that art hanging in their house now, all grouped together in the back sunroom where the fire started. A room they had more windows added to and that allows them a view of their greenhouse in the backyard–the feature they bought the house for (that and their best friends who live five doors down the street.). You can feel the fullness of their past year in this room.
“Art is a community based thing, and I've never felt more connected to others than when I have their work in my house. It's like having friends over for dinner 24/7.” - Tyler Thrasher
The artwork, the thoughtfully chosen furniture, these are ways they’ve made their home feel like home again. Molly says they are still overwhelmed by the generosity of their community, locally and online. Tyler describes the aftermath as a “web of humanity that acted as our safety net. We never fell.” I thought this would be the story of something terrible being balanced by something beautiful, but this story doesn’t end there. The Thrashers are humbled and ready to give back for all the kindness they were shown. They are people armed with the knowledge of what individuals can do for others.
Molly + Tyler photographed by Monica Burgess
After the Fire Photographed by Molly Thrasher
Home Tour photographed by Molly Thrasher
Full Story Details + Credits
Story and Creative Direction by Retro Den Tulsa Contractor, Sparks Construction Sofa, Dining Table and Coffee Table by Jake Fowler Pink Chair and Grey Chair from West Elm Dining Chairs from Target Bed from All Modern Bed Linens from IKEA Bedroom Planter from Southwoods Nursery in Tulsa Molly's Desk and Chair from IKEA Tyler's Desk from Target Tyler's Chair from West Elm Sunroom Sofa from Walmart Sunroom Coffee Table from Toews Handcrafted
Living room: Christina Mrozik (mantle snake piece and dead bird pencil sketch above couch) Chanelle Blackburn (green girl painting above couch) Mab Graves (kids lined up on dino piece) Kit Rutter (no website, algae piece next to dino one)
Hallway: Kim Kei
Office: Jenny Kiker (ferns)