Happily shipwrecked at Warren oasis
Summertime is tiki time at Eric Roos’ home in north Warren.
Eight bar stools sit ready for guests at his large tiki bar, painted an island blue. Faux palm trees sway in the breeze. Water trickles down a custom-made waterfall and into the in-ground pool. Nearby, Bob Marley’s “One Love” flows from a window in what Roos calls his DJ booth, setting just the right relaxed mood.
“I wanted a place to hang out and have fun at home,” says Roos, who built the bulk of the backyard retreat, like something right out of the Florida Keys, himself. “I love going on trips to the Caribbean and I love going up north but that’s a weekend thing ... if I want to have friends over here, it’s not as much of a commitment. People love it. They don’t want to leave.”
Who can blame them? Roos, a design sculptor for General Motors, has remodeled and reworked every aspect of this 1962 ranch, from the outside bathroom (yes, outside) with a metal bucket sink to a cabana and built-in day bed for lounging.
But the backyard’s focal point is the tiki bar. Named “Shipwrecked Island Tiki Bar” — a handmade sign by Roos, stenciled by one of his colleagues, is perched at the top — a mix of bar stools give it just the right vibe. The roof is covered in authentic tiki thatch from Mexico. Behind the bar, a collection of wood masks, an old surf board and a vintage map hang on bamboo fencing.
And how often does Roos entertain? “Every weekend,” says Roos, who built it last summer.
Roos is used to transforming old houses. Growing up in Macomb County, he was the kind of kid who loved learning about home construction and remodeling. When tile got installed in the bathroom, his parents let him stay him from school to watch.
“I was taught when I was young that it was cooler to make something than to just buy it,” says Roos, whom I met several years ago through a close friend. “... My dad was always a do-it-yourself-er. I was always working with my dad on things around the house. He taught me how to wire my first outlet when I was 11.”
But it was working with his former father-in-law, Tony Mork, a commercial wallpaper installer and painter, that took his remodeling skills to the next level. Together, the two flipped a house in Sterling Heights that had 6 feet of water in the basement. They completely remodeled it room by room.
“After doing this one, he told me, ‘There’s nothing else you have to be afraid of from now on,’” says Roos. Now, “nothing about a house scares me.”
Roos bought his house — originally a modest red brick 1,000-square-foot ranch — five years ago. Intended to be a flip, it was after a divorce that Roos decided to downsize and keep the three-bedroom house and call it home.
“I started thinking about all the possibilities for the house,” says Roos.
He says living in Warren has been ideal. He’s within minutes of his job at GM’s Tech Center, where he sculpts cars out of clay. He can come home for lunch and let out his dog, Gino. And Warren officials have been very supportive of all his projects.
“When I first started and I went to Warren, I had two lots and had to do a lot split, they were very good with me,” says Roos. “They showed me what I had to do. They were very patient.”
And just as Roos has meticulously transformed the outside, he has done the same thing inside, where he tore down the original house to the studs and started again.
He added a 700-square-foot great room with 13-foot ceilings. He also bumped up the rest of the house to 10-foot ceilings.
Roos says gutting a house is almost harder than starting from scratch.
“You have to deconstruct everything and then build another house,” he said.
The house has a Tuscan-Venetian vibe throughout. Even the staircase leading to the basement looks like something right out of a small Italian village. Enclosed with a wrought iron gate, Roos hung wrought iron shutters and a custom-made window painted a green above the staircase to make it look like a balcony.
Nearby, the large open concept kitchen flows right into a dining area and the 18-by-26-foot great room.
What looks like exposed brick in the kitchen and dining area is actually a brick veneer that Roos created with real brick, mortar, plaster and drywall mud. But Roos doesn’t want to reveal too much about his technique because “nobody needs to know my secrets. That’s my thing,” he says with a smile.
Throughout the house, Roos has added his own touch. He faux-painted the lower half of the kitchen cabinets to give them a distressed look. In the master bedroom — which Roos doubled in size and converted a nearby bedroom into a walk-in closet and bathroom — stencils add a unique visual detail. To create a more contemporary look, the walls and bedding are black.
The house is so dramatically different that Roos, who has invested tens of thousands not including labor, says the only way passers-by can tell it’s the same house is the fire hydrant outside.
In the front, Roos installed columns along the front porch to give it more prominence and tore down the old red brick. The new brick is Glen-Gary’s Silverbrook.
“I had the whole plan of what I was going to do in my head,” says Roos.
The only element he didn’t originally plan was the tiki bar. He got the idea from his brother who had a small one.
“When I put the pool in, I just thought, ‘I’m going to go all out.’ I like building things,” says Roos.
Through every single project, Roos’ first mentor — his dad, Don Roos — has been by his side. He may have been skeptical at times, but he was there.
“No matter what crazy idea I have, he’ll always go along with it,” says Roos, who plans to build a basement home theater next. “He sticks with you.”
The entire house — from the Tuscan brick to the tiki bar — isn’t about being showy or over the top, says Roos. It’s about creating a space for people to enjoy.
“I like people to enjoy things that I’ve made,” he says. “That’s why I do it. It’s fun to create things and to see people’s reactions to something I’ve built.”