Nikki Chu instantly comes to mind when you think of thoughtful and impactful celebrity interior design. With over 20 years of experience, the Carribean Toronto-born, Los Angeles and Dallas-based interior designer has curated interiors for Gabrielle Union, Tisha Campbell, and Tyra Banks, including Nicole Ari Parker’s posh and eclectic, neutral-based, pied-à-terre. In addition to spearheading her design firm, Chu serves as a lifestyle and design expert for several TV networks such as HGTV, E!, Oxygen, and OWN, and starred in her makeover show called UNBOXED with Nikki Chu on the Aspire network.
She also has her home collection, “Modern Globalism,” a sublime mix of global and traditional motifs that have been simplified to create hand-drawn geometric patterns. Chu mixes modern lines with updated ethnic patterns to create her unique vision. Her mission is to design an aspirational and attainable assortment of elevated furniture, textiles, and home decor that asserts style and comfort. Her fashion-fused style offers sophisticated designs that represent the best of today’s trends in accessible, livable, ”go-to” items that effortlessly layer into anyone’s home.
Chu approaches interior design from an informed global perspective, as she believes in pulling from diverse textiles and home decor that asserts style and comfort. She leverages patterns and materials rooted in ethnic and tribal concepts that have been simplified and modified to create a new look. She likes to take traditional tribal patterns by updating them in monochrome tones, offering a sleek and stylish way to add handcrafted patterns, embroidery, and texture to a home. She adds a combination of geometric designs that embodies mixed and matched influences from different cultures. However, her main design goal is to curate glamorous interior design rooted in accessible luxury.
“My goal is to design an aspirational and attainable assortment of elevated, livable furniture, textiles, and home decor that asserts style and comfort while offering amazing value. I typically work with neutral color palettes that allow my products to work with any decor style because, as a designer, I like layering texture and patterns,” she says to ESSENCE.
Recently we’ve tapped Chu to dish on how to execute a spring refresh in your home, how she refreshed her kitchen for the spring with the help of JennAir, and the power of intentional storytelling through design. Check out her design tips below.
ESSENCE: Can you share an overview of your design style and approach?
Nikki Chu: I just completed a renovation for myself. And Dominique, it’s, it’s fascinating because, for the most part, I’m working on everyone else’s home. So I’m like the hairdresser that still needs to get their hair done, but this time, I took a year and renovated a house I owned and partnered with Jenn Air for that home. And what’s fascinating is that the kitchen is the heart of this home. And I know you hear people say that, but that was the main focus of this house for entertaining for cooking. When approaching design, I dig deep into my clients. I think through how do they operate at home? What do they do? Do they like to entertain?
As a designer, functionality is my main objective of a home because we spend so much time there now. We work and entertain from home; everything is from home nowadays.
How do you define an interior spring design refresh?
When decorating a space, I pick classic pieces, like a linen sofa, then build around that. Switching out some of the pillows or the rugs to get a refresh is one way to do it. Another way to spruce up the home is a small light cosmetic renovation because we spend so much time at home and in the kitchen.
Although replacing appliances can be a significant investment, it is a major space design shift. What I love about JennAir is that they allow you to customize your pieces. They also have two different design expressions. One is called NOIR, and the other is RISE; they’re so specialized in how they come across and look and change the space completely. A refresh could be simply updating your appliances and custom-looking kitchen.
What are some easy tips for someone who wants to do a spring refresh in their home?
Pillows and rugs are one of the two easiest things to get an entire refresh. People overlook art, while it’s a huge opportunity to shift the space. If you can’t afford a large-scale piece of art, try doing a wall gallery, where you have multiple works of art that you can get at a more affordable price point. But then you can create a large installation. I also love to do installations on walls with mirrors. So if you are buying a mirror that’s a rectangle, try buying three of them and putting them together in a grid, which creates a much larger real estate on a wall that makes the space feel enormous.
I recently put six mirrors together in a grid; it created an eight-foot, nine-foot mirror that looked expensive and wasn’t.
Also, light fixtures could be a great way to uplevel your space for the spring. A lot of people overlook the impact of great lighting. Try removing that old ceiling fan that came with the apartment, and you’ll instantly elevate a space.
How can our readers develop a wellness approach to design?
There’s a massive crossover between wellness and how you live. Think about how you are using your exterior spaces for serenity. Colors also play a significant role in health. Are you choosing vibrant and bold colors, and it doesn’t feel peaceful? Or are you picking softer tones?
Are there specific color palettes that we should be looking at for this spring?
People are moving into more monochromatic spaces. I think it was trendy and easy for people to do black and white to feel contemporary and updated. But what’s fascinating now is that even as a designer, I would probably stay away from browns and beiges and stay in the grayish and neutral color palette as it’s very soothing. It feels very light. It’s timeless. These colors allow you to refresh to add an accent color to an already excellent existing design foundation. So as you start to build your home decor, start thinking in that neutral palette, nothing jarring, nothing bold.
Then you can insert a vase, throw pillow, or candles with colors to refresh your home. However, I see a lot of more monochromatic neutral color palettes as opposed to the starkness of black and white.
In your design practice, you lean heavily on your intuition. How can people new to design tap into their intuition and Spirit to guide them to curate their own space?
That’s a great question, Dominique. Because when I started designing and being intuitively led, I moved furniture around a lot. It is more of a practical application, meaning you buy something, put it in space, and see how it feels and resonates with you. And that’s how you make your decisions because the way a home is set up should be based on flow and energy.