Home is Where the Art is

Dustin Nyhus designs unique – and chic – housewares, and supports independent artists along the way.

Publish Date: October 17, 2014

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DENY Designs' product line is designed entirely in-house and incorporates the work of independent artists. PHOTO: Courtesy of DENY Designs

EXPLORE The world of DENY Designs

The founder of Denver-based DENY Designs is a man of many firsts.

The company — an abbreviation of owner Dustin Edward Nyhus’ name — began as an online boutique in 2011 and now sells more than 1 million quirky items for the home on the Internet and in stores.

“Every product we offer is the first of that thing that has ever been done,” said Nyhus, who graduated from MSU Denver with a bachelor’s in industrial design in 2003. “I’m heavily involved in the product-development side.”

The company’s product line, which is designed entirely in-house, includes clocks and coasters, tapestries and trays, and everything in between. Ordinary household items are embellished with original — and often eclectic — images created by independent artists who receive a percentage of each sale. Roughly 150 artists contribute to the product line, and Nyhus is constantly searching for new talent in order to offer housewares that are truly one of a kind.

Just how unique are DENY products? How about a throw pillow with an image of a headphone-wearing otter spinning a record on a turntable while clutching a New York City skyscraper? A Baroque-style kitchen clock that says “kiss my grits” on its face? Or an electric green shower curtain that sports a life-sized image of a grizzly bear?

Nyhus is an accomplished multitasker who honed those skills while a student at MSU Denver. He earned his degree while working — sometimes two jobs at once — and tending to his family. “The most important lesson I learned is how to balance all that … how to juggle in the professional world,” he said.

Nyhus and DENY have attracted national attention from publications such as Better Homes and Gardens, InStyle and Interior Design magazine, and products are for sale in Urban Outfitters, Nordstrom and other retail stores. “We’re a good fit for retailers because we’ve got thousands of pieces that target a range of demographics, and we’ve got the capability to produce items quicker than most manufacturers,” Nyhus said. “They come to us and say, ‘We are looking for this’ and we say, ‘Is this perfect for you?’ And then our team moves forward.”

But perfection is in the eye of the beholder. And Nyhus advises those just starting out to avoid allowing a quest for perfection to stall the creative process.

“If you wait for perfection there’ll be 10 other companies that will pass you by,” he said. “When you have a shape, launch it and get it out there. Let the audience decide what’s perfect.”