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A close up of a white marble contemporary luxury kitchen designed by Nikki Chu.

7 Elements of Designing Contemporary Luxury Kitchens

by nikki chu

Designed by Nikki Chu. Photo Credit: Stacy Markow Photography

December 12, 2023 | 14 min read

A well-designed kitchen creates a sense of style in your home and makes cooking more enjoyable. A well-equipped kitchen is very important for healthy living and food preparation.

As an interior designer, Nikki Chu bases the beginning of the design process on research and an understanding of ever-changing home trends. Chu has designed and remodeled homes and kitchens for over 15 years and kitchens remain one of her favorite spaces to design. When building a new home, the ultimate dream kitchen is on every client’s list of requests. These kitchens not only have to look beautiful but also need to be personalized based on the homeowners' needs. 

Not only is it the space where we spend most of our time entertaining, cooking, or working, it is one of the most important upgrades to a home that will increase the resale value. As kitchen styles evolve, we are seeing more people lean into the contemporary luxury aesthetic, the perfect balance of high-end materials, premium fixtures, and state-of-the-art appliances. 

For the last decade of contemporary luxury kitchen design, we’ve seen Carrera marble, white cabinets, and subway tiles. But now, even in the smallest of kitchens, we are starting to see contemporary luxury reimagined. Designers are mixing light and dark wood tones, introducing pops of color, removing traditional-style cabinets, minimizing upper cabinets and creating larger door panels for a much cleaner look.

What is contemporary Luxury Design?

A contemporary luxury kitchen design is both modern and luxurious and has unique features that make it the ultimate expression of status. This design style tends to exude sophistication and opulence while using premium and long-lasting materials such as marble, granite with warmer hues, and solid woods. This style utilizes a minimalistic approach with clean lines, cutting-edge aesthetics, and detailed craftsmanship. Often, you will see designers blending different wood tones and installing large marble slabs as the backsplash instead of tile. 

Most Contemporary Luxury kitchens have the latest in technology and use smart appliances and faucets. They are designed for entertaining with plenty of seating and usually have an open concept with ample countertop space.

A series of three images depicting the Obsidian interior of a JennAir® built-in refrigerator, a series of custom cooktops in a countertop, and a close up of RISE™ design knobs. A series of three images depicting the Obsidian interior of a JennAir® built-in refrigerator, a series of custom cooktops in a countertop, and a close up of RISE™ design knobs.

These types of kitchens can be characterized by a focus on a neutral color palette, simplicity, minimal décor, and refrigerators that are often built-in or concealed behind custom panels that blend with the cabinetry. With an emphasis on innovation over excess and quality over quantity, the modern aesthetic, mixed with timeless luxury elements, like JennAir NOIR or RISE design expressions, is the perfect way to create a kitchen that will work for everyone. 

Contemporary luxury kitchens also have thoughtfully chosen statement pieces of furniture and decor that become the focal point in the space and embrace a less-is-more ethos, which allows those pieces to stand out.

Elements of Designing a Contemporary Luxury Kitchen

Crafting the perfect contemporary luxury kitchen is more than just selecting the right colors or materials. It's about harmoniously blending each design element, from the layout to the statement pieces, ensuring the space is functional and aesthetically striking. Delving deeper into the design, various crucial elements come into play, each contributing to the overall ambiance and functionality of the luxury kitchen.

Layout: Creating the Perfect Foundation

Kitchen layouts have evolved and have taken on a much more important role in our lives. Whether your kitchen is small or large and expansive, the layout of a kitchen is critical to its functionality, workflow, and lifestyle. 

As the kitchen continues to be the heart of the home, it demands a well-thought-out foundation to maximize space. Every kitchen layout requires a “working triangle”—which is the clear path between the area for:

  1. Cooking (stove)

  2. Cleaning (sink)

  3. Food storage (fridge) 

A good working triangle is a great place to start your design, and be sure to give a lot of thought to your kitchen layout because there's much to consider: comfortable movement, placement of furniture, prep space, a coffee/tea bar area, work surfaces, hidden pantries, and ample storage. All these factors contribute to the enjoyment of the space. 

For those with the luxury of space, newer homes incorporate butler’s pantries/kitchens, allowing homeowners to have more storage and cooking space to hide the mess. This allows you to preserve a more designer and open look for the main kitchen, which is better suited for entertainment.

Aesthetic: Material Choices that Define Contemporary Luxury

In the realm of luxury kitchen design, the materials selected play a monumental role in defining both the aesthetic appeal and the enduring quality of the space. Chosen materials resonate with personal tastes, practical needs, and a vision of sophistication. From the opulence of natural stones to the warm embrace of premium woods, the tactile and visual allure of these materials creates a contemporary luxury atmosphere that is both inviting and grand.

A beautiful white marble contemporary luxury kitchen designed by Nikki Chu. A beautiful white marble contemporary luxury kitchen designed by Nikki Chu.

Stone

A kitchen with a contemporary luxury design typically features a range of high-end materials that define its look. Every dream kitchen begins with stone—be it marble, quartz, or granite—which sets the tone for the color palette. The rarity and natural beauty of these stones make them highly coveted and often unique. As waterfall islands and full slab backsplashes continue to trend, this material is usually the starting point for a stylish kitchen. 

 

Your choice of color, the amount of movement or veining in the slab, or its simplicity, dictates the theme for all other materials. It's important to note that each stone option has varying durability factors. Marble remains at the top of the luxury materials list due to its resistance to scratching, and, when properly sealed, it can last a lifetime.

 

Designed by Nikki Chu. Photo Credit: Stacy Markow Photography

Stone

A kitchen with a contemporary luxury design typically features a range of high-end materials that define its look. Every dream kitchen begins with stone—be it marble, quartz, or granite—which sets the tone for the color palette. The rarity and natural beauty of these stones make them highly coveted and often unique. As waterfall islands and full slab backsplashes continue to trend, this material is usually the starting point for a stylish kitchen. 

 

Your choice of color, the amount of movement or veining in the slab, or its simplicity, dictates the theme for all other materials. It's important to note that each stone option has varying durability factors. Marble remains at the top of the luxury materials list due to its resistance to scratching, and, when properly sealed, it can last a lifetime.

A beautiful white marble contemporary luxury kitchen designed by Nikki Chu. A beautiful white marble contemporary luxury kitchen designed by Nikki Chu.

Designed by Nikki Chu. Photo Credit: Stacy Markow Photography

A midcentury modern kitchen featuring wood paneled JennAir® Column Refrigeration. A midcentury modern kitchen featuring wood paneled JennAir® Column Refrigeration.

Wood

Exotic woods play a pivotal role in contemporary luxury kitchen design. They are used for custom panels to conceal refrigerators to match cabinets and as the foundation for kitchen islands. Herringbone patterns add an artistic flare to the front of an island or serve well as an accent on pantry doors. Premium woods like oak and walnut are durable, robust, and can handle the true wear and tear of a busy kitchen, thanks to their ability to withstand significant moisture. 

 

Cherry wood boasts beautiful variations and is resistant to cracks and warping. It's also recognized for its warm rich hues and is typically used in modern spaces because its wood veining presents streaks and interesting knots that impart a weightier feel when stained. Due to the shift in popular stain colors for contemporary kitchens, designers are gravitating towards warmer and more natural tones, combining contrasting stain colors with a muted color palette to create interest.

A midcentury modern kitchen featuring wood paneled JennAir® Column Refrigeration. A midcentury modern kitchen featuring wood paneled JennAir® Column Refrigeration.

Photo Credit: Aim Media Group

Wood

Exotic woods play a pivotal role in contemporary luxury kitchen design. They are used for custom panels to conceal refrigerators to match cabinets and as the foundation for kitchen islands. Herringbone patterns add an artistic flare to the front of an island or serve well as an accent on pantry doors. Premium woods like oak and walnut are durable, robust, and can handle the true wear and tear of a busy kitchen, thanks to their ability to withstand significant moisture. 

 

Cherry wood boasts beautiful variations and is resistant to cracks and warping. It's also recognized for its warm rich hues and is typically used in modern spaces because its wood veining presents streaks and interesting knots that impart a weightier feel when stained. Due to the shift in popular stain colors for contemporary kitchens, designers are gravitating towards warmer and more natural tones, combining contrasting stain colors with a muted color palette to create interest.

A JennAir® RISE™ Professional-Style Range in a white and gray contemporary luxury kitchen. A JennAir® RISE™ Professional-Style Range in a white and gray contemporary luxury kitchen.

Metal

Combining different metal elements and finishes in a kitchen yields a more modern appearance. Nowadays, contemporary luxury kitchens and appliances are blending metal colors. 

 

JennAir brand, for instance, offers appliances in the RISE design expression package, which incorporates brass knobs to control the range. This allows for coordinating premium plumbing fixtures. Introducing metal details and fixtures in kitchen design—such as gold, polished silver, brass, or copper—not only adds another luxury material but also helps reflect and distribute light. 


Experimenting with metallic colors and materials infuses elegance and boldness into the space. For instance, simply installing a copper or cast-iron sink can lend an air of opulence to a kitchen. Custom or hammered metal vent hoods can serve as eye-catching statements that elevate the overall aesthetic of your kitchen.

 

Photo Credit: Aim Media Group

Metal

Combining different metal elements and finishes in a kitchen yields a more modern appearance. Nowadays, contemporary luxury kitchens and appliances are blending metal colors. 

 

JennAir brand, for instance, offers appliances in the RISE design expression package, which incorporates brass knobs to control the range. This allows for coordinating premium plumbing fixtures. Introducing metal details and fixtures in kitchen design—such as gold, polished silver, brass, or copper—not only adds another luxury material but also helps reflect and distribute light. 


Experimenting with metallic colors and materials infuses elegance and boldness into the space. For instance, simply installing a copper or cast-iron sink can lend an air of opulence to a kitchen. Custom or hammered metal vent hoods can serve as eye-catching statements that elevate the overall aesthetic of your kitchen.

A JennAir® RISE™ Professional-Style Range in a white and gray contemporary luxury kitchen. A JennAir® RISE™ Professional-Style Range in a white and gray contemporary luxury kitchen.

Photo Credit: Aim Media Group

A close up of a grey ceramic sink in a marble island with black and gold veining. The faucet is also in gold. A close up of a grey ceramic sink in a marble island with black and gold veining. The faucet is also in gold.

Other Materials

Your kitchen sink is undoubtedly the most used appliance in the entire kitchen. There are tons of sinks you can choose from to achieve a modern luxury look, including oversized stainless steel drop-ins and cast-iron sinks. The sink should be a piece that pairs nicely with the stone on the island, adding a sense of luxury and sophistication.

 

Designed by Nikki Chu. Photo Credit: Stacy Markow Photography

A close up of a grey ceramic sink in a marble island with black and gold veining. The faucet is also in gold. A close up of a grey ceramic sink in a marble island with black and gold veining. The faucet is also in gold.

Designed by Nikki Chu. Photo Credit: Stacy Markow Photography

Other Materials

Your kitchen sink is undoubtedly the most used appliance in the entire kitchen. There are tons of sinks you can choose from to achieve a modern luxury look, including oversized stainless steel drop-ins and cast-iron sinks. The sink should be a piece that pairs nicely with the stone on the island, adding a sense of luxury and sophistication.

Colors: Painting a Contemporary Luxury Story

The color palette in contemporary luxury kitchens tends to lean towards neutral and muted hues. This approach creates a timeless appeal that can transcend ever-changing design trends. These classic hues still dominate the contemporary space, allowing the marble to be the focal point. Neutral colors exude elegance, and when paired with dark shades of brown and black, they produce a rich contrast that looks upscale.

Contemporary kitchens, typically characterized by sleek and minimalist layouts, often incorporate a mix of wood tones and textures. The colors grounding this design can vary, but the use of muted yet rich colors remains common. Sandy tones and soft beiges are resurgent, slowly replacing pure white. Neutral and monochromatic color schemes establish a setting of refined opulence. Trending colors, such as deep, dramatic hues of green and blue, blacks, neutrals, creams, and softer shades of brown, continue to be at the forefront of design.

Personally, Nikki Chu is drawn to subdued color palettes and monochromatic color schemes that experiment with texture and contrast polished with matte surfaces, all harmonized by warm wood tones.

A contemporary luxury kitchen in white marble and light wood featuring a suite of JennAir® appliances. A contemporary luxury kitchen in white marble and light wood featuring a suite of JennAir® appliances.

“Neutral colors exude elegance, and when paired with dark shades of brown and black, they produce a rich contrast that looks upscale.”

Appliances: Integrating Technology with Aesthetics

As our homes become increasingly intelligent, the rapid advancements in home technology are prompting designers to view kitchens in a new light. One of the most significant trends in the contemporary luxury kitchen realm is the fusion of innovative technology with aesthetics. The kitchen of the future leans heavily towards automation, energy efficiency, and Wi-Fi/voice-activated controls.

It's crucial to incorporate tech at the outset of the design process. This ensures appropriate placement of outlets and custom cabinetry to accommodate various devices. With the latest tech, we can now monitor our roast cooking while we're away at the movies, ensuring it doesn't burn. Meanwhile, electric kettles can boil water in under a minute. While it's clear that technology aims to simplify and enhance our lives, its incorporation into the kitchen is proving indispensable.

One noticeable result of this tech integration is the ability to make both small and large appliances "disappear." With the influx of devices on the market, the kitchen, as the heart of the home, is evolving into a space that's seamlessly and efficiently voice-controlled.

In the realm of contemporary luxury kitchen design, the emphasis isn't solely on aesthetics and functionality, but also on the artistry of the appliances themselves. There's a growing trend towards incorporating unique statement piece appliances that not only serve a purpose but also act as limited-edition art pieces in the space. These designs elevate everyday kitchen equipment into tactile and visually stunning centerpieces. Exploring such appliance statement pieces can be an avenue for those keen on integrating singular design elements into their culinary spaces.

Furniture: Marrying Comfort with Luxury

When it comes to crafting a stylish and luxurious kitchen, the keyword is "custom". Elements like open shelving, concealed appliances, task lighting, and chandeliers all contribute to crafting a meticulously designed space. In the kitchen, texture holds as much importance as it does in any other part of the home. 

Materials such as smoked glass & brass, metal mesh, leather panels, and mirrored elements infuse the space with a luxe appeal. A hallmark of luxury is an organized and streamlined appearance, achieved by concealing many of the smaller appliances and designing custom cabinet spaces equipped with outlets.

Flooring has a substantial impact, serving as a bridge between comfort and luxury. Wide wood planks or herringbone floors elevate the space while imparting warmth. Statement pieces — be they bar stools, dropped dining benches, sculptural tables, restaurant-style booths, or upholstered dining chairs — effortlessly combine elegance with minimal décor, striking the perfect balance between comfort and luxury. 

The kitchen island, often the room's centerpiece, should be grand and feature a distinct design that sets the tone for the space. Opting for a darker shade or tone on the island compared to the rest of the cabinetry can give the illusion of a larger kitchen. Finally, lighting is key to creating ambiance. Incorporating task lights, art lights, or even a singular chandelier over the island, rather than multiple pendants, establishes both mood and style in the kitchen.

“ In the kitchen, texture holds as much importance as it does in any other part of the home.”

Accessories: The Devil is in the Details

A well-designed kitchen zeroes in on the details, and styling it is crucial to amplify the overarching vision. Placing a large vase on the island, filled with a dramatic floral or decorative branch arrangement, instantly elevates the space. Sleek fixtures not only provide visual appeal but also make a grand statement. Creative lighting designs add layers of luxury, spotlighting architectural features and playing with light and shadow. Hardware can entirely transform the look of cabinets, and its reflective glow, especially when using a mix of sizes and more petite-scale pieces, enhances the luxe ambiance.

In designing a contemporary kitchen, the principle of "less is more" holds. It's essential to allow individual elements to shine and make a statement. The focus should be on a select few decor elements, furniture, and lighting solutions rather than cluttering the space with numerous items. Consider introducing a sculpture, or craft a tablescape on the island using a large tray, a collection of bowls, or candles.

Chandeliers are not only perfect for illumination but also for setting the mood. Artwork, too, can elevate a kitchen, especially when paired with art lights that emphasize the piece. Large-scale mirrors or abstract art infuse a luxe feel and create the illusion of a more expansive space. A finishing touch to any kitchen is the window treatment—softening the walls, it lends additional styling, especially in a breakfast nook. This can be complemented with throw pillows and fresh flowers.

Series of images depicting rustic decor, Maximalist wall paper in contemporary luxury kitchens. Series of images depicting rustic decor, Maximalist wall paper in contemporary luxury kitchens.

“A well-designed kitchen zeroes in on the details, and styling it is crucial to amplify the overarching vision.”

Designed by Montana Labelle (top left). Photo Credit: Aim Media Group (right)

Technology: The Silent Enhancer in Contemporary Kitchens

The primary objective of a designer is to craft a home that exudes luxury, a goal further refined by the specific tastes of the client. Today, no home feels truly complete without the integration of interior technology, be it tech gadgets in the kitchen and bathroom or a centralized smart home hub. Incorporating these features lends the home a sophisticated aura and fosters a contemporary experience. Intelligent functionalities are fast becoming the standard—voice-controlled appliances, state-of-the-art oven temperature adjusters, drawers that double as charging stations, and touch-activated faucets are just the beginning.

Given the kitchen's pivotal role in our lives, intelligent lighting systems are replacing traditional switches and remotes. As this technology evolves at breakneck speed, it presents even more avenues to elevate the modern home. Individuals are increasingly seeking solutions that not only optimize efficiency but also infuse convenience into their bustling lives. In the realm of home automation, entertainment reigns supreme. Integrating advanced tech into your kitchen might sound futuristic, but it's becoming more commonplace by the day. For instance, smart refrigerators can propose recipes based on their contents, while warming drawers and wall ovens or professional-style ranges can be preheated remotely.

Visual Inspirations by Nikki Chu

Modern luxury kitchens eschew ostentation, instead embracing an elevated sense of refinement and elegance. They harmoniously meld sleek minimalism with premium materials, exuding an understated sophistication that makes the space truly welcoming. Islands have become a hallmark of luxury kitchens, often acting as the social hub where everyone congregates. Given its role as the room's focal point, an island should boast thoughtful design and cleverly integrated storage solutions for a pristine appearance. In more expensive luxury kitchens, the trend of having dual islands is gaining traction. 

While such customizations abound, certain standard guidelines—regarding choice of appliances and fixtures—remain pivotal in crafting a luxury ambiance. From glossy to matte finishes on countertops, the emphasis is on achieving a sleek, clutter-free look. Flat-panel cabinets, either with concealed handles or no handles at all, contribute to a seamless design. Neutral hues provide a calming backdrop, allowing standout elements like statement lighting or bold accessories to capture attention. Minimalist kitchens benefit from touches of greenery, such as potted plants or herb gardens—a feature Nikki Chu personally adores for its culinary implications. The inclusion of textured materials like wood or stone injects depth and character.

A series of images of contemporary luxury kitchens designed by Nikki Chu. A series of images of contemporary luxury kitchens designed by Nikki Chu.

Designed by Nikki Chu (All). Photo Credit: Stacy Markow Photography (Left, Right).

In today's world, a beautifully crafted kitchen is paramount, setting the tone for impressions of one's home. Contemporary designs lean towards open layouts, minimalist traits, simple color palettes, and a streamlined appearance. Modern kitchens also harness technological innovations to craft a functional space, adding a layer of futuristic elegance. With the integration of smart appliances, luxury kitchens often prioritize concealed devices for a sleek look, using cabinets and drawers to house items like microwaves, toasters, coffee machines, and blenders. This approach not only declutters countertops but also leverages technology to refine and enhance culinary pursuits.

Achieving that luxe ambiance hinges on using top-tier materials, premium finishes, and judiciously selected decor. Nikki Chu's design arsenal includes artistically crafted accessories like sculptures for island tops, touches of verdant green—often a towering tree in an elegant pot—and strategic lighting, which instantly elevates a space from mundane to exquisite. Nikki is also partial to thoughtfully curated statement furniture pieces that marry aesthetics with utility.


Written by Nikki Chu

DESIGNER

Nikki Chu's designs often incorporate high-end finishes and sophisticated elements for a luxurious and modern look. Famed for breaking the rules, she believes that interior design is a compilation album; a client’s stories are murmured in objects, belted out in colors and texture.


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