July 11, 2014 at 7:00 am

Novi homeowners throw grand backyard fete every year

Sitting outside on their spacious deck, surrounded by lush green foliage, birdhouses and trellises, Yiannis and Pat Karimalis of Novi often have just one problem. Yiannis won’t sit down.

“He just keeps popping up,” Pat says. “ ‘Oh, I have to get that’ or ‘Just let me cut this.’ ”

You can’t blame Yiannis (pronounced Yee-ON-ee). The well-known local stylist who has fixed the tresses of everyone from Queen Noor of Jordan to Joan Rivers is a man of many interests. He’s an avid gardener, artist, chicken farmer, cook and chocolate maker (I’m still dreaming about his dark chocolate with almonds).

All those interests converge each year for Yiannis and Pat’s massive backyard party, scheduled this year for late July. There, Yiannis and Pat will roast not one, but two lambs on an electric spit right in their backyard and cook all the fare (mostly Greek) themselves for their 150 guests.

“I have such great clients,” Yiannis says. “They’re like friends. It’s fun.”

“Everybody knows everybody,” Pat says.

In fact, Yiannis and Pat, who have been hosting the party for more than 30 years, have party-planning down to a carefully tested and tweaked science. They have a separate kitchen off their main kitchen where much of the cooking is done, and the day of the party they’ll start early, prep, rest and then jump back into party mode.

Pat Karimalis, who met Yiannis when she was visiting family in Greece more than four decades ago, says a friend once told her brother she planned to go to the party early to help. Her brother said she’d probably find Yiannis and Pat sleeping.

“And we were,” says Pat. “We work hard all morning, and then we’ll go and lay down for an hour, and then we start up again. We’ve got it down where we can actually do that.”

The party, like the Karimalis’ home, has evolved organically over the decades. It started with a celebration to mark 10 years in the United States for Yiannis. Yiannis was born on the Greek island Lesbos and raised in Athens. After meeting Pat — who grew up in Detroit near Palmer Woods — he moved to Michigan at 22.

They lived near family in Lincoln Park before deciding to head north to Novi in 1979 because Yiannis wanted to be near water or in the country. They, like most people at the time, “didn’t even know where Novi was,” Pat says.

“There was nothing here,” she says.

Pat’s parents weren’t happy about it. But Yiannis and Pat loved their two-acre, tree-filled lot and its proximity to Interstate 696.

Slowly, Yiannis and Pat began making the 5,600-square-foot house their own. Once more rustic with almost a cabin feel, they tore down a wall and added space. It now has an open concept with 14-foot-high ceilings and floor-to-ceiling windows that overlook their ever-changing backyard.

Yiannis, who works at Salon Edge in West Bloomfield Township but used to own his own salon, and Pat live in the main area of the house. Their son, Phano, lives in an attached but separate 1,700-square-foot portion with its own living and dining area and bedrooms.

Over the years, they’ve completely redone the master bathroom and the living room. They overhauled the kitchen five years ago. Fresh eggs from the couple’s backyard chickens rest in a wire basket on the granite counter.

Yiannis says their first renovations started with new gutters. Soon, they’d torn down a wall.

“We didn’t have a plan, anything,” Yiannis says.

Eventually they turned their attention to the gardens. Yiannis started gardening about 25 years ago — again learning as he went. He quickly learned that some plants take over so “you have to have a system.”

“Every couple weeks you have different colors,” says Yiannis, who also built trellises throughout the backyard, many now covered in wisteria. “People think it’s a lot of work but it’s not. We have a lot of perennials.”

Decks span both sides of the house. They’re so spacious that Yiannis and Pat once hosted a party for 150 on just one side of their home.

But the house was never about the size. It was about the lot, Yiannis says.

And the decor is a mix of contemporary and traditional. Yiannis loves old world treasures — sculptures, water jugs, religious icons and art — but there are more modern elements, such as the living room sectional sofa.

A china cabinet in a hallway holds Yiannis’s collection of religious icons and other artifacts, which he calls his “dowry.” There’s the small clay head that dates back to 300 B.C. that he bought in Paris, Russian religious icons and what looks like a brass mirror he found in Greece as a child.

“I found it in the ground,” he says. “Who knows how old it is.”

There’s also a piece of petrified tree from a forest in Lesbos and a piece of the Acropolis, which Pat, unbeknownst to her, took home in her purse.

“My son stole this from the Acropolis and put it in his mother’s purse,” Yiannis says. “He wanted a souvenir.”

Throughout the house is Yiannis’ artwork. Large, abstract paintings with different shapes and materials rest on easels and hang on walls. Yiannis, who has been painting since he was a child, used to do more classic oil paintings, but says abstract art pushes him in a different way.

“I’m working on it all the time,” he says. “I use different materials. ... It takes a lot of imagination and you have to think a lot more.”

One large oil painting in the living room has almost a Dick Tracy vibe. Yiannis bought it from a woman in Birmingham. Originally too expensive, “I told her I’d do her hair for life.” She sold it to him.

But trying to get the massive painting home was an even bigger challenge. Too big to fit inside his car, he strapped it to his SUV’s roof. Unfortunately, it was a windy, rainy day, and it flew off.

“I stopped the car, and I yelled, ‘Stop, stop!’ ” Yiannis recalls.

Luckily only a corner was nicked, and Yiannis was able to stretch the canvas back over the frame.

Nearby is a massive stallion bust bought from Northland Mall decades ago and a large tusk from the Michigan Design Center.

Yiannis says simply: “I like everything.”

And in a matter of weeks, it’ll all be on display for Yiannis and Pat’s guests at their annual party. They’ll be ready — and rested.

“It’s fun,” Pat says.

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A spacious deck provides plenty of seating in Yiannis and Pat Karimalis' backyard in Novi. Later this month, the couple will host a large backyard party as they do every year. They'll roast two lambs and cook all the food themselves, mostly Greek. / Charles V. Tines / The Detroit News