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Five Under 40: Landscape Architect Chris Turner

Colorado Homes & Lifestyles' Class of 2018




Portrait by Jennifer Olson

IN A WORLD where so many people who embark on any home-improvement project find themselves bewildered by construction schedules and cost overruns, Elevate by Design’s co-founder Chris Turner and his business partner Paul Wrona take a revolutionary approach to creating outdoor living spaces. “It’s completely transparent,” says Turner. “We listen to our clients and how they want to use the space. Then we do the design work. At that point, we choose two or three of the best-suited contractors from a pool of about a dozen we work with and send them a package for bidding.” When the bids come in, they comb through and negotiate pricing before handing the options over to the homeowner to select and contract directly with the one they prefer. If the client wishes, he adds, “we can also provide construction administration for the duration of the project.”

Turner and Wrona worked together at Designs By Sundown before founding Denver-based Elevate in October 2012. “To go back to a client and see kids swimming in the pool and the husband at the grill, you know that what you do is going to impact the children who grow up there and make the family’s lives better and more fun. That’s priceless.”


An Observatory Park landscape.
"We’re not just planting a front yard. We design extensions of people's homes and lives.
— Chris Turner

WISE COUNSEL: “My very first day of college, I met with my counselor, who asked me, ‘What do you love?’ I said, ‘I love art. I love golf. I love sports.’ And she said, ‘Have you ever heard of landscape architecture?’ At first, I thought I wanted to be a golf-course architect, but I eventually became a landscape-design major. I also learned a lot about business and always knew I wanted to have my own company.”

IT’S ALL ABOUT HUSTLE: “In high school, I played on the basketball, football and baseball teams, and spent a year on the track team. I still play in a men’s basketball league on Monday nights. But at 5 feet 9 inches, I was never the tallest guy on the team, so I was always the first one in the gym and the last one to leave. My parents pushed me to be a good listener and mindful of others, and to work hard. I always worked harder than the other guys and that carried over into my business.”


A lap pool designed for a Denver Country Club home. [Photo by Mark Woolcott]

SUCCESS BY INTENTION: “My parents also taught me to visualize success, whether getting a hit in baseball or making shots in basketball. I still use visualization like crazy. I write down my goals every year, both personal and business, because writing it down makes it real. Finally, I attribute a majority of my success to my wife, Raquel, who owns a beauty boutique, and our 3½-year-old daughter, Charlie; and we’ve got another child on the way this December. They’re my biggest cheerleaders of all time.”

LA DOLCE VITA: “After Raquel and I got married, we went on a 17-day trip to Italy, where my mother’s family originally emigrated from. Seeing how all the people there just love outdoor living, love food and love life was a total epiphany for me. I completely soaked it in. I came back and said to Paul Wrona, ‘I’m ready.’ I quit my job, 
and we started Elevate a few months later.”


A Nisho fire pit. [Photo by Trevor Brown]

INTRODUCING NISHO: “In 2016, Paul and I went on a trip to Modernism Week in Palm Springs. We were inspired by the Midcentury Modern design and began asking ourselves what one thing we could bring to our industry. Almost everyone wants a fire feature in their outdoor spaces, but 95 percent of the time we would have to design custom pieces because nothing out there was really nicely designed or well put together. We began sketching on the plane home, and that was the start of our new business, Nisho. Our sculptural fireplaces look good whether they’re off or on, and they have special burners with really good, big flames—120 to 190 BTUs.”

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