When Laurie and Lonnie Tiesiera started building their “forever” home in 1999, one thing was clear—they wanted an open floor plan with plenty of space to host family and friends, both indoors and outdoors. After building two previous family homes, they shied away from anything too extravagant or grand, so the design was inspired by their love of comfort, hospitality, and a great outdoor space.

For Lonnie, the latter aspect was of most importance. As a former pool builder with a history in construction, he had always enjoyed working outside with his hands, so having an outdoor space that could serve as a creative canvas was his dream.

“I’m an outside guy,” said Lonnie. “I’ve always enjoyed landscaping and designing my own stuff. So when we came out here, it was fun to see what I could really do with this property. I enjoy doing it, so when I had a big enough canvas, I just went with it.”

Thanks to Lonnie’s hard work over the years, what used to be two acres of dirt has been transformed into a backyard oasis. From the expansive lawn and par-3 golf hole to the picturesque pond, each corner represents a piece of Lonnie and his passion for landscaping.

“It was so fun to watch him because it really is his gift,” said Laurie. “We’ve been here 17 years, and you could almost say every little part of the yard represents a different year. There was a year when he did the pond, there was a year when he did the golf hole. I have pictures of him on a tractor with a cigar hanging out of his mouth working on the backyard,” laughed Laurie. “It has been a dream project for us.”

The dream they’re living now, however, wasn’t always part of the plan. In fact, the Tiesieras had purchased a completely different property where they were planning to build, when Lonnie suddenly stumbled upon an empty lot in Tulare.

“I was literally in the Uhaul moving stuff from our previous home to a rental, thinking we were going to build at the other location,” explained Laurie, “when I got a call from Lonnie. He said, ‘I just passed by an empty lot with a sign down covered by brush, I called the company, and I’m buying it. We’re not moving to the other house.’ At first, I was devastated.”

But it didn’t take long for that devastation to turn into one of the best things to happen to the Tiesieras. Not only were they able to build their forever home, but Lonnie finally had enough space to create an outdoor paradise where their growing family could gather.

When they first moved into the house in 2000, they had a daughter graduating from high school and a son who wasn’t far behind her. Since they didn’t need many extra bedrooms with two kids getting ready to go off to college, they focused on creating a home that would serve as a great place to host and entertain their extended family and friends. Now with four grandchildren, they are able see that dream come to fruition.

“We have a lot of family who live out of the area, but my mom and dad still live in Tulare, so when everyone comes out for a family function, we come to this property because it’s able to handle the whole family,” said Lonnie.

In fact, during the week of Lifestyle’s photo shoot, they were preparing to host dozens of family members and close friends at their home to celebrate Lonnie’s parents’ 90th birthdays.

“Tomorrow we have a 90th birthday party for Lonnie’s parents,” said Laurie. “They both turn 90 within a two-month period, so we will have 60 family members here. Having this yard really helps with such large groups, plus we do some fundraisers here and open up our yard to charity events as well.”

One of those upcoming events will be a “Harvest in Paris” fundraiser for Tulare and Kings County Senior Care, which is part of AMP Ministries. Since Laurie sits on the steering committee for the ministry, she thought she would open up their backyard for the annual fundraiser. The “Harvest in Paris” theme for the event was actually inspired by a very unique feature in the Tiesiera’s backyard: a 45-foot-tall Eiffel Tower, which they won at a fundraiser auction for Kaweah Delta Hospital.

While Lonnie and Laurie never intended to have a Parisian-influenced backyard, their inadvertent winning bid on the Eiffel Tower structure has resulted in a beautiful addition to their yard, as well as a really great conversation piece.

“At the fundraiser, they had this huge Eiffel Tower set up in the Visalia Convention Center for everyone to take pictures under, and to our surprise, they were going to auction it off,” said Laurie. “I knew what our budget was, and since I like to drive up bids at fundraisers, I raised my fan first. But nobody else bid, so we got it, which turned out great because we have a fabulous place for it.”

Standing tall on the west side of the property, the tower lights up at dusk, reflecting serenely in the water garden below. “At night it is absolutely beautiful,” said Laurie. “We’re really happy that we have it and get to feature it at different fundraisers and events.”

With all of the events and family functions hosted at their home, and in an effort to be environmentally conscious, the Tiesieras installed a 148-panel solar structure in their yard, which has powered everything on their property for the last nine years.

“It’s a green home,” said Lonnie. “Honestly, I wouldn’t build a house without solar. It has been the best thing we could ever do. It has kept our costs way down, and our monthly energy bills are zero.”

That savings has been invaluable, especially for people who entertain as much as the Tiesieras. From outdoor lighting during fundraisers to the use of their kitchen’s three ovens during holiday gatherings, they haven’t looked back since.

When initially designing their home 17 years ago, the couple constructed many aspects of it with the holidays in mind. For Laurie, it was important to have a kitchen that opened up onto the family room.

“I love my kitchen, especially during the holidays,” said Laurie. “I’ve got three ovens and warming drawers. The best part is that the kitchen is open and I can be part of the party while I’m cooking. Especially when we have 35 of our closest friends and family over, I do not want to be stuck in a galley kitchen in another room.”

Other features in the kitchen include unique quartz countertops with pounded edges, a glass block subway tile backsplash, and “perfectly imperfect” pendant lighting above the island.

Many aspects of the house have been updated over the last five years, including the kitchen, family room, flooring, and the master bedroom and bathroom. When the home was first built, the Tiesieras implemented several of the designs that were popular in the early 2000s, including nitches in the family room, round pillars in the hallway, and a stone hearth for the fireplace. As styles have changed, Lonnie and Laurie replaced the nitches with built-in cabinets, swapped out round pillars for square pillars, traded carpet for hardwood flooring, and installed a modern electric fireplace in the family room. During the renovation, they were also careful to make sure the home had a cohesive look throughout, so when they redid their flooring in the family room and kitchen, they implemented hardwood borders into the preexisting hallway tile.

“We really wanted to bring everything up-to-date, both in the kitchen and in the family room,” said Laurie. “Back in 2000, everything was nitches, so last year we added the built-in cabinets when we redid the family room.”

When it comes to the style of their home, the Tiesieras say they just go with what they like rather than any particular style or genre. Some might say the interior of the home has an old-world flair with its pillars, rustic kitchen features, and wrought iron decor pieces.

Looking back at their home and how they got to this point in their lives, the Tiesieras say they can see God’s careful handiwork in bringing them to where they are supposed to be.

Originally from the Bay Area, Lonnie and Laurie came to Tulare County in 1983 when Lonnie’s dad, Will—of Will Tiesiera Ford in Tulare—needed work done on his car dealership. Only planning to stay short-term, Lonnie and Laurie never imagined they would be here nearly 35 years later. While adjusting to life in Tulare County was difficult at first, Lonnie’s natural business sense turned out to be a great fit for running a car dealership, and Tulare eventually became a great fit for the Tiesieras.

“I’m telling you, Lonnie has such a business mind, so it was really a God-thing,” said Laurie. “At first it was of course difficult because I moved away from my mom and my siblings, I had an 18-month-old and was pregnant, and Lonnie was building his business. But then as our kids got into school, it got better, and I always say it was a great place to raise children.”

Laurie also became immersed in the Tulare County community while working for the UPS Corporate Credit site for 30 years and participating in the Visalia Sunset Rotary Club. In fact, both Laurie and Lonnie have served as rotary presidents throughout the years, furthering their involvement in Visalia and Tulare. Through their work and service in the community, they feel it has been a privilege to open up their home to co-workers, friends, non-profits, and of course, family.

“We really wanted to make our yard available for people to be able to raise money,” said Laurie. “And we wanted this house to be, not necessarily our ‘dream’ home— because it’s not huge or overly extravagant—but a really nice and comfortable place to be, both inside and outdoors. It’s our retreat.”