Clarkston pool house sets serene summer tone

The Detroit News


When it comes to beating the summer heat, the DeLuca family of Clarkston doesn't have to travel far. Or at all. The perfect oasis is literally right outside their back door.

Beautiful outdoor furniture surrounds the pool at the newly constructed pool house. 
Rita O'Brien, interior designer, created a balinese style pool house for Clarkston homeowners Jim Deluca and his wife Karrie as the newly built structure has a full kitchen and is filled with many items from the Deluca's travel to Asia as seen on Tuesday, June 12, 2018. 
Max Ortiz, the Detroit News)

Just off Jim and Karrie DeLuca's back patio, two sets of stairs lead to a picturesque pool and pool house. Finished last July, the Balinese-inspired pool house, decorated by interior designer Rita O'Brien of the Rita O'Brien Design Group in Troy with landscape design by Zaremba & Company of Pontiac, is not just a place to change and lounge but a serene spot for guests to stay overnight in a lower level bedroom suite.

Karrie says her three grown kids, all in their 20s, often fight over who gets to stay in the pool house's bedroom when they're home. And it's also an incredible place to entertain. Just beyond the pool and pool house is another patio area with a fire pit, surrounded by Zaremba's designs.

"My favorite time of the day to entertain is starting at dinner time around 6 or 7 because when the sun goes down and the lights come on and the pool and trees are illuminated, it's really amazing," said Karrie.

And it's amazing inside as well. The 300-square-foot pool house is filled with artifacts and sculptures from when the family lived overseas for six years in southeast Asia.

Still, as much as Karrie knew she wanted a Balinese style in the pool house, she had trouble describing her vision to the couple's builder. Rita helped interpret that style.

"What Rita did is take exactly what I wanted and make it a happen," said Karrie. "I'm really, really happy."

To create just the right look, O'Brien used a clean white color palette that contrasts beautifully with dark wood beams in the 20-feet ceilings of the pool house. Interior doors are stained a deep walnut. She used a mix of tiles and textures to create visual interest, all while making the Asian artifacts, including hand-carved wood panels around one set of doors, stand out.  

And who better to set the mood for the entire space than a 350-pound Buddha statue perched in the corner? O'Brien found the statue at North Carolina's High Point Market. It took two people and scaffolding to get him perched in just right spot above the galley-style kitchen, overlooking the entire first floor. 

"We wanted to make sure Buddha is happy," O'Brien said. 

Built-in niches

To give Karrie's artifacts the space to shine, O'Brien worked with the builder to create a series of niches built right into the main back wall. There's also a series of built-in niches in a wall in the lower level bathroom.

"We didn't want things just sitting on a table," said O'Brien. "We thought how can we display them -- they're all special to her -- so every nook and cranny (is) special?"

The idea to display the art in niches was Karrie's but again Rita and the builder helped bring the idea to life. They measured each piece to determine the right size for each niche and even created a computer-assisted design to guide construction.

And it took some editing. They changed the height of size of the niches to make sure they weren't too high.

"We moved them several times," said Karrie. "Some of them were way up high so you couldn't see them. It took awhile to get it all designed."

But now each pieces has its space and really stands out. There are bowls from China, sculptures from Indonesia and other pieces from Bali. And some of the art, including two Buddha heads, were purchased locally.

"I was buying things way before we actually had to the pool house, in anticipation of putting them in there," Karrie said.

'Young-adult tolerant'

Given that the DeLucas' kids would be spending a lot of time in the pool house, the materials and furniture had to be both fun and functional.

"It just needed to be young adult-tolerant," laughs Karrie.

Rather than install wood floors, O'Brien and Karrie opted for a tile that looks like wood since it would hold up better with people coming in and out of the pool house with wet suits and feet.

The kitchen counters, meanwhile, are quartz from Ciot. 

"We knew this would be a party house," O'Brien said. "They have three kids in their 20s.  We wanted something that was easy to work with so we found a neutral quartz."

And in the living room area, indoor outdoor furniture from Gloster blends perfectly with the Balinense-vibe. Karrie wanted a sofa big enough for someone to lay on. 

"We kept it very contemporary," O'Brien said. "...We selected furniture for a very long time."

The only color in the pool house is in the art, sculptures and some candles. That can be challenging as a designer, admits O'Brien. 

"How do I make it look special and unique and not plain?" said O'Brien. "You bring in texture, unique pieces. You create an interest and use unusual accent pieces."

Lighting is key too, she said.

Two large sculptural metal light fixtures are perched above the kitchen.

"They make a statement," she said.  


The same zen vibe inside the pool house continues outside with the outdoor furniture and landscaping.

Two sets of stairs lead from the DeLucas' walkout down to the pool with landscaping connecting it all. Cut-out planters break up the travertine tile around the pool and create the perfect nooks for several Henredon chaises.  

"There’s so much hardscape there, it would really lack intimacy and a sense of scale" without those niches, said Zaremba, who also chose three kinds of trees, including hornbeam and flowering pears, because one doesn't produce fruit and the other requires little maintenance and holds it leaves until late fall. "We needed to create some sense of scale and soften it." 

Just beyond the pool there are at least three more areas for entertaining, including an outdoor kitchen and dining space with a large table underneath a pergola with a fireplace and TV. There's also a raised patio area down a staircase on the outside of the pool retaining wall with a propane fire pit surrounded by circular outdoor furniture from Kingsley Bate.

O'Brien said she spent days at High Point Market looking for just the right indoor-outdoor furniture.

"There's a lot of different grades of indoor outdoor," said O'Brien.

Looking back over the entire back of the house, taking in the raised patio, pool house and pool, Karrie loves what she sees. And she should.

"It's gorgeous," she said. "It's really pretty."

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Twitter: @mfeighan