If you’ve ever felt smug about Colorado’s fantastic weather—when your friends in the Midwest decry their humid summers or your family in New England weeps about a spring that doesn’t arrive until June—you’ve probably realized that your home’s outdoor living spaces are worth investing in. And since you just lived through the weird year that was 2020, you’ve probably joined a whole lot of homeowners in revamping their properties for maximum comfort and style.

With that in mind, we asked Micheline Stone, owner of Creative Living—a trove of modern outdoor furnishings and decor and custom al fresco kitchens—to share her best solutions for bringing new life (and beauty and function) to your patio, deck, or yard. Here, her top five:

Photo courtesy of Creative Living

Outdoor kitchens and pizza ovens  

“We’ve noticed a huge trend toward more modern kitchens outside—less bulky, not built-in,” Stone says. “People are looking for kitchens to match their interior style.” To meet that demand, Creative Living carries cabinetry lines that allow shoppers to choose from more than 40 colors—from pastels to stainless-steel wood grains—from manufacturers Danver and Brown Jordan Outdoor Kitchens. Homeowners are tricking out their al fresco cookspaces with appliances beyond the traditional grill, such as flat-top griddles (Creative Living carries a brand called Evo), fridges and freezers, kegerators, and even grills with griddles (cook your pancakes and bacon outdoors!), rotisserie attachments, and sear zones for steaks. Best of all, Stone says, the newest cabinetry lines can be stand-alone—not built into your patio walls or another structure—so you can add on if your entertaining needs change in years to come.

She has also seen an uptick in demand for pizza ovens. “They’re as easy to use as grills,” she says, “and they’re a lot of fun.” Creative Living carries Italian brand Fontana. Stone says people love the “true domed look” of the ovens, and they’re an excellent option for those who want to create a cook zone outdoors but don’t have room for a full kitchen.

Photo courtesy of Creative Living

Outdoor artwork  

“Think about your interior walls: What’s on them?” Stone asks. “Outdoor art serves that same purpose—it adds beauty, color, interest.” And privacy. Creative Living’s custom art panels, which can be as large as four-by-eight feet, are increasingly popular, Stone says, and she surmises that the pursuit of beauty and the desire to not see right into the neighbor’s yard are both driving demand. (The shop also works with local artists who craft gorgeous sculptures and fountains for shoppers who just want pretty outdoor decor.)

Photo courtesy of Creative Living

Metal firepits  

Because they extend the use of outdoor living spaces well into the chilly months, firepits are a popular choice—but instead of buying something online, shoppers are opting for Creative Living’s in-house versions, which can be customized to match cabinetry colors and meet almost any style or size requirements. Bonus: The shop’s versions “put off a boatload of flame and heat,” Stone says. Your standard firepit purchased online reaches about 65,000 BTUs, while Creative Living’s burners start at 150,000 BTUs—an obvious boost to warming up cold fall nights.

Softer and cozier outdoor furnishings  

“Think of old-school outdoor furniture: It was hardwood Adirondack chairs and wrought-iron settees,” Stone says. “Those days are, thankfully, gone.” Today, manufacturers are creating al fresco furnishings that deliver much more comfort while mimicking the lines of interior pieces. “Frames are powder-coated aluminum, and many of them have a woven, rope-like body, which is so much more comfortable [than previous generations of outdoor seating],” Stone says. “Cushions have a more tailored look, not so overstuffed anymore, so they’re more enjoyable.” Hard-wearing fabrics such as options from Sunbrella and materials designed to withstand the Colorado sun mean that shoppers can feel confident that their pieces will last for many years.

Solar lanterns  

Like camping lights, but prettier, solar lanterns range in size from small tabletop versions to larger options designed to glow-up a garden or plantings in the yard. They come in a range of colors—green, red, blue—or in more muted wood or metal tones, and “they all give off a soft yellow glow, not like the harsh, blue, LED light,” Stone says. Her shop’s versions—from a French manufacturer—run off solar batteries that last about three years. “They’re such an easy way to add ambiance to your outdoor spaces,” she adds—and are one more reason to stay outside a little longer this year.

Hilary Masell Oswald
Hilary Masell Oswald
As the former editor for two of 5280’s ancillary publications, Hilary Masell Oswald split her time between the vibrant design-and-architecture scene in the metro area for 5280 Home and the always-changing field of health for the annual 5280 Health.