7 Tips from Denver’s Outdoor-Living Pros
The duo at Creative Living talk style, sustainability and customizing your space
Look back over the lives of husband-and-wife team Jeff and Micheline Stone, and it makes perfect sense that they now—as of last year—work together to create comfortable, stylish outdoor-living spaces. The high-school sweethearts both grew up in Pennsylvania, being outside more than in—Micheline on a farm and Jeff on a large property with lots of room to roam and multiple patios for al fresco enjoyment. After high school, she studied graphic design and education, while he pursued finance and marketing.
Their career trajectory from there was not linear—dipping into corporate consulting, marketing, graphic design, custom homebuilding and more. They landed in Colorado in 2013, with their then 7- and 9-year-old boys in tow. Jeff’s background in high-end custom cabinet-making eventually inspired him to open his current business: Artisan Outdoor Kitchens. “It was a natural progression,” Jeff says. “The technology has advanced so much in the past few years that you can now do almost anything with an outdoor kitchen that you can do indoors.”
Then in April 2019, the couple bought Creative Living, a modern outdoor-décor shop in Denver’s Art District on Santa Fe. Micheline draws from her design and marketing background to oversee the store and three other designers, while Jeff uses the space to display and sell his next-level, powder-coated stainless-steel outdoor kitchens. Together, they are outdoor-living evangelists.
“It’s an easy sell,” Jeff laughs. Micheline chimes in: “When people come in here, they get excited about what’s possible. They see that the outside space can be an extension of your indoor style and make your home that much more enjoyable.” Here, a stroll through the Stones’ process:
FIND YOUR FOCAL POINT. “The first question we ask is: ‘How do you want to use your space?” Micheline says. “‘Is it for entertaining? Dining? Cooking? Kicking your feet up after work?’ From there, we can decide what the centerpiece will be—a dining table or fire pit or kitchen or even some custom art. Everything else flows from there.”
DRAW IT OUT. “Next, we get it down on paper,” Jeff says. “That way people understand the scale of their space and what fits.” And don’t underestimate small spaces, he adds. “We’re designing tons of them—little patios, rooftops. There are furniture and kitchen options to fit whatever size space you have.”
RESPECT THE CLIMATE. Consider the particulars. Which direction does your space face? Is there wind/sun protection? If not, opt for heavier furniture, perhaps without cushions. And be wary of wood. “Wood struggles in the dryness here,” Jeff says. “Fortunately, there’s been a huge evolution with sustainable up-cycled and recycled plastic furniture. It’s weather-resistant, heat-resistant, stylish and great to sit in.”
“Colorado is going one direction—MODERN—from the mountains to urban settings, even in more traditional homes.” — Jeff Stone
CUSTOMIZE YOUR KITCHEN. Artisan Outdoor Kitchens exclusively sells powder-coated stainless-steel cabinets, which are sustainable to make, recyclable at the other end and extremely durable, Jeff explains. And when it comes to configurations, he attests, options are boundless—from a recent kitchen his team designed with 30-plus linear feet of outdoor cabinets and nine appliances, including a kegerator and an ultra-luxury grill, to—on the small end of the spectrum—a 3-foot counter and a grill with a built-in rotisserie and a side burner, plus an under-counter fridge.
ADD LIGHT AND HEAT. For light, the Stones recommend Les Jardins solar lanterns, which are moveable, come in a variety of styles and all run off of a single battery pack. And for heat their pick is infrared. “With gas heaters, you lose all your heat if there’s any sort of breeze,” Jeff says.
TAKE A CHANCE. “People are having more fun than ever,” Micheline says. “They’re moving away from neutrals, adding pizzazz, colors, even polka dots. We also love to add pieces from local artists.”
LET IT GROW. Allow your space to evolve over time. “Start with just the basics,” Jeff says. “Then enjoy a couple of weekends with friends and family, and come back and say, ‘You know what we were missing?’ And wait to find interesting pieces.” Case in point: their own outdoor-living space. “Um, we’ve added a few fountains over time,” Micheline confesses. “I’m a fountain addict—shoes and fountains.”