The Fife family9/4/2019
Making a house into a home.
A blank slate.
That’s what Darren and Dena Fife saw in the Windsor Heights home on Sunset Terrace. The house needed renovating, and its huge backyard needed a vision.
“That’s what we both enjoy — taking a space and making it your own,” says Darren Fife.
And they have. It’s been three years since they moved into their home, which sits about a block away from Cowles Montessori School. Its close proximity to Cowles was key, so they could walk their kids — Olivia and Rylan, now 14 and 13 — to school.
Most of the work they did was in the first year. It was a complete overhaul, says Fife, and they tackled everything themselves (other than what required professionals).
They redid the kitchen, putting in poured concrete countertops along with a pebble path using stones from New Zealand, where Dena is originally from.
Two bedrooms and a big hallway previously occupied the second floor. Now, it’s a master bedroom.
Initially, many of the changes to the house were aesthetic. Structural changes are coming soon, though. They’re just realizing how poorly the addition on the back of the house — where their living room and kitchen are located — was constructed, Fife says. They plan to raise the ceiling 6 feet. They’re also going to loft the master bedroom so it overlooks the living room.
The family converted the entryway to the home into a music room. Rylan plays the piano, Dena is teaching herself the guitar, and his ukulele collection is housed there, Fife says.
Many indigenous Maori art pieces, a nod to Dena’s Maori roots, are on display. The meditation pergola in the backyard has a Maori feel to it as well, he says.
The backyard also features a full-size bocce ball court, hot tub, native prairie, a shed made of 100-percent-recycled materials and a water feature that “rains,” with water falling from tall timbers.
They also planted 75 hybrid poplar trees, which are now an average height of approximately 25 feet. They grow extremely fast — they were the size of a straw when they were planted two years ago, says Fife.
“It’s very zen,” he says of their backyard space.
This is the third location the Fifes have lived in since moving to Windsor Heights 15 years ago. The city still has that small-town feel, and is “everything you hope a community would be,” says Fife.
That includes its environmental work, with the City partnering in the efforts of the Walnut Creek Watershed Coalition, a nonprofit Fife started 12 years ago. Fife even relocated his business from downtown to Windsor Heights.
“I love this town,” he says. ♦