Creating a Safe Gathering Space Within a Polynesian-Inspired Home

The Fifita family has generously opened their home to dozens of friends and family members in Hawthorne, California. To transform their small house into a space that better allows them to continue caring for others, the design team reinvents their floorplan, adds more square footage and updates the backyard as an extension of the home.

March 29, 2020

Photo By: Casey Durkin

Photo By: Casey Durkin

Photo By: Casey Durkin

Photo By: Casey Durkin

Photo By: Casey Durkin

Photo By: Casey Durkin

Photo By: Casey Durkin

Photo By: Casey Durkin

Photo By: Casey Durkin

Photo By: Casey Durkin

Photo By: Casey Durkin

Photo By: Casey Durkin

Photo By: Casey Durkin

Photo By: Casey Durkin

Photo By: Casey Durkin

Photo By: Casey Durkin

Photo By: Casey Durkin

Photo By: Casey Durkin

Meet the Fifita Family

Brian and Lisa Fifita stand alongside the Extreme Makeover: Home Edition design team, host Jesse Tyler Ferguson and two of their five children outside their California home. The family has worked hard to accommodate friends and family from the community in an effort to create a safe space. After suffering the loss of a loved one due to gang violence, the family leaned onto their native Tongonese values to foster a welcoming, loving and helpful culture among their children and their friends. Recipients of a local Parents Hero Award, the family has made a big impact in their community, but the condition of their home had fallen by the wayside.

In making repairs and upgrades, the team hopes to make it easier for the family to continue to give back, and offer their home and property as a safe space for others. It's time to see the modern Polynesian dream house for yourself!

MEET THE DESIGNERS: Meet The New ‘Extreme Makeover: Home Edition’ Design Team

Curb Appeal, Before

The Fifita's former home sustained roof and gutter damage over the years, and lacked privacy from their neighbors. The team sought to update the appearance of the brick and stucco facade, add architectural details, improve the landscaping and add security to allow the family and visitors to feel comfortable. This small 820-square-foot home was about to be transformed into a 1,600-square-foot tropical oasis.

Curb Appeal, After

From the road, the Fifita's new home appears more guarded due to the new, modern fence and gate. Tall tropical plants peer over the fence and smaller plants adorn the sidewalk to breathe life into the front yard.

Curb Appeal, After

Inside the gate, a redesigned facade and peaceful garden greet the family and their visitors. Sage green painted brick and stucco, recycled siding, modern warm wood accents and lush tropical landscaping work together to create a tranquil retreat. Still out of sight, the home also received a 780-square-foot addition to create more space for the family to relax together. Down the driveway, visitors are welcomed into the backyard by new outdoor living and dining areas, and a resurfaced basketball court.

The Entryway, After

Inside the gate, visitors are welcomed by an updated entryway. Though the existing stone steps were repurposed and left unchanged, the refreshed, painted exterior and wooden accents completely transform this house into a peaceful, safe retreat. New landscaping featuring tropical plants will thrive in this California yard, allowing the family to enjoy a taste of their native Tongo every day.

The Water Feature

To add tranquility and more privacy to the front yard, the design team and special guest Anthony Anderson installed an enclosed garden with a water feature at the front window. This statement piece greets visitors approaching the house, inviting them to visit the babbling fountain and relax amongst the tropical plants. With room for seating, this quiet, outdoor retreat offers more outside space for the family to relax and entertain.

SEE MORE: Get Excited: There Are Amazing Guest Stars Coming to 'Extreme Makeover: Home Edition'

The Entryway and Living Room, Before

Inside the entryway of the Fifita's home, one was greeted by a shared living room, family room, dining room and office. So much oversized furniture in such a small area restricted the layout of the space, and made it difficult for the family to make the best use of it. They needed a living room that would make it easier for them to spend time together.

The Entryway and Living Room, After

Inside the front door, grasscloth wallpaper and tropical decor welcome the family to their newly renovated home. Soft, modern furnishings make better use of the available space, and allow more room for the family and friends to congregate.

The Living Room, After

Creamy upholstery and area rugs contrast against the grasscloth wallpaper and natural wood accents in the new living room. The room now has plenty of options for guest seating, and offers enough space for Brian, Lisa and their kids to relax and watch movies together.

The Dining Room, Before

The dining room table had previously been pushed against the back wall to make extra space for entertaining, and that rendered it generally unusable by the family. Damaged drywall and lack of storage were also an issue throughout the home, and the large tile floor didn't exactly add warmth. The design team sought ways to give them a better place to spend time together.

The Dining Room and Kitchen, After

The new open concept kitchen space provides more countertop surface for prep work and serving food, accessible seating for dining and entertaining and plenty of storage. The kitchen is double the size of the previous floorplan, and it's brighter, too, as new windows on both walls draw more natural light into the room. While the countertops along the edge of the room are butcherblock, the island itself is topped by a single piece of large stone. Plank flooring extends from the front door to the back of the house, helping to make the whole space feel unified.

The Kitchen, Before

The family's former kitchen worked hard, routinely delivering meals for the Fifita's immediate family and upwards of a dozen friends, but it was small. Closed off from the rest of the house, there was less opportunity for those cooking to spend time with visitors, and build upon the importance of community. Prep space was limited, storage systems were full and spilling out into other rooms of the home and expected wear and tear had taken its toll on the kitchen's overall condition.

The Kitchen, After

Removing the wall between the former dining room and kitchen allowed the design team to customize a space better suited for the family's needs. The kitchen itself was doubled in size as part of the remodel, and the family's new island was designed to accommodate counter seating. Whether it's dinner for two or 20, the open concept main gathering room makes it easier for friends and family to spend time together.

The Kitchen, After

In lieu of upper cabinets, the design team maximized storage space for the family by installing glass drop-down shelving units. The ceiling-mounted system adds function to the kitchen without blocking the natural light that streams into the space through the new windows. The shelves are also perfect for potted plants; pops of green are used throughout the home to complement the neutral color palette and add tropical appeal. Modern appliances promise to help the family efficiently cook bigger meals. The custom vent hood cover ties into the butcherblock countertops, and coordinates with the wooden plank floor that runs throughout the house.

The Kitchen, After

For added convenience, a washer and dryer were installed on the opposite wall of the kitchen. A new frosted glass door leads to the new addition, a bunkhouse space with six beds.

Brian and Lisa's Master Bedrooom, Before

The "master" bedroom belonging to Brian and Lisa was cluttered with storage bins and belongings, making it anything but a retreat for this couple. The design team identified ways that they could improve the couple's private space, and extend it to become a full master suite.

Brian and Lisa's Master Bedrooom, After

A wooden bed is a statement piece in the couple's new, tranquil, tropical retreat. Natural design elements were used to create a peaceful atmosphere, and Tongonese design details were incorporated to remind them of their family's native heritage. Wooden floors extend through the room, topped with a textured area rug. Light walls and white bedding helps to make this space feel like a relaxing oasis — finally, a place they can claim for themselves.

Brian and Lisa's Master Bedrooom, Before

Storage systems were scattered in the couple's former bedroom, and their belongings lacked organization. In addition to modernizing the space to make it become a tranquil retreat, the team leaned towards offering plentiful built-in storage solutions in the new master suite.

Brian and Lisa's Master Bedrooom, After

By reconfiguring the bedroom into a complete master suite, the design team was able to build in storage behind closed, louvered doors that contribute to the room's airy, tropical feel. Organized closet space is plentiful behind the white closet doors, while the chocolate brown door secretly leads directly to the master bathroom.

Brian and Lisa's Bathroom, Before

The family's former bathroom was shared by all family members and their guests. Dark and outdated, the room also had plumbing issues that needed to be repaired for everyone's benefit.

Brian and Lisa's Bathroom, After

A far cry from the former bathroom, this new master bath has all new plumbing, tile and a luxurious walk-in shower with glass surround. Added storage behind even more louvered doors extends closet space for the couple, making it easier for them to keep their most-used belongings neatly organized and out of the way.

Brian and Lisa's Bathroom, After

Built-in storage was a must throughout the house, so behind every set of louvered doors, the design team incorporated drawers, shelves and rods for hung clothing items. In the master suite, the bathroom includes a walk-in closet with floor-to-ceiling storage, making the bathroom an easier area to get ready every morning and relax at the end of every day. The chocolate brown color is rich, and lends nicely to the neutral wood tones used throughout the home.

Nancy's Bedroom, Before

Brian and Lisa's daughter, Nancy, is a studious homeschooler. Though full of personality, her former bedroom was small and limited in space; she had grown accustomed to studying underneath a rack of clothes, and really deserved a better area to accomplish her work. The team sought ways to give her a more dedicated area to focus on her studies, and continue to grow as a young woman.

Nancy's Bedroom, After

The design team transformed Nancy's room from teen to young adult by updating the lighting, bed frame and methods of organization. Improved closet organization, a new dresser and a neutral color palette with wood accents and pops of green help to make this a space that's relaxing, whether it's time to read or study, or hit the hay.

Nancy's Bedroom, After

A bedroom desk is a must for any studious child, so the team gave Nancy a dedicated space to do her schoolwork, practice music, and organize her belongings. She won't have to share this bedroom, but it does have plenty of floor space in the event that she needs to offer room to any friends in the community looking for a safe place to stay.

The Bunkhouse, Before

The former house was very small with just 820 square feet, so the garage had been converted into a bunkhouse to provide Brian and Lisa's son, Salesi, and his brothers more space for beds and storage. The Fifita boys acknowledged feeling very separate from the rest of their family, so the team considered how the main house could be reworked to accommodate the whole crew under one roof.

The Bunkhouse, After

The home's new addition nearly doubled the size of the house, and made it possible to relocate the beds from the garage into the new bunkhouse. There's now plenty of room for Salesi and his family to relax together, and plenty of room for any friends and community members to sleep should they need a safe place to escape. The 12-foot ceiling makes it possible to accommodate four built-in bunk beds, while two additional murphy bed mattresses are stored on the adjacent wall.

The Bunkhouse, After

Comfortable seating makes the new bunkhouse a magnet for movie nights and watching sports. This bedroom/rec room/all-purpose entertaining space is also outfitted with a new 8K television, a drone, DSLR camera and computer equipment to optimize the family's creativity and connectivity.

The Bunkhouse, After

Designer Darren Keefe added custom Tongonese details throughout the home to incorporate significant touches for the family. To the bed frames in the bunkhouse, he used a woodburning tool to add symbols of longevity, community and family. Wall-mounted sconces and a library ladder on tracks add function to the bunks, and a black lacquer finish ensures durability.

A New Bathroom

Due in part to the addition that expands the square footage of the home, the team was able to build a much-needed second bathroom for the family and their guests to use. This well-designed space is full of subtle detail. Modern black and white tiles extend across the floor and up the walls, and plenty of storage is incorporated throughout.

The Backyard, Before

The home's backyard was used in a variety of ways — for storage, for entertaining, for play — but the design team saw its potential and maximized how it was used to give back to the family and the community they serve. Shown here, the back of the house was completely updated to accommodate a new addition to expand the kitchen and bring the bunkhouse under the main roof.

The Backyard, After

Kitchen windows overlook a new patio seating area at the back of the house. The new addition incorporates a sliding glass door at the new bunkhouse, which makes it easier to extend the boys' living space and funnel foot traffic directly into the backyard. New green siding on the back of the house is made using recycled materials, and a small fireplace offers extra warmth in this outdoor living room.

The Backyard, After

A large pergola was added to the back of the Fifita's home to offer outdoor seating for the family. This new extension of the home is outfitted with lush, tropical plants, a grasscloth awning atop the pergola, wooden and wicker furniture,and plenty of texture in cushions and other textiles. Easily accessible out the back of the house, the family can use it daily for themselves, or welcome larger groups into their backyard when they're ready to host friends.

The Garage and Basketball Court, Before

The garage and former bunkhouse were adjacent to the family's backyard basketball court. Much used and loved by many, it wasn't uncommon for entire teams of players to be in the backyard to play and spend time together. The entire area required maintenance, and the design team looked to improve the overall area to maximize its functionality. It was important to keep the backyard as a space that would serve their interests, and offer space to convene with their community of friends and neighbors.

The Garage and Basketball Court, After

The garage was refinished in green to match the house, and the entire basketball court was resurfaced to revive the court and give the family and community a new place to play. A new hoop was installed, too. The court is still in close proximity to the back of the house, and now accompanied by the pergola and outdoor seating area, making it easier to accommodate friends and comfortably entertain.

SEE MORE: Extreme Makeover: Home Edition

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