Civilian reorganises Bed-Stuy Townhouse to create family-friendly layout

The founders of the Brooklyn studio Civilian have renovated a historic townhouse for themselves and their young family, rearranged the layout and added modern elements for optimal functionality.


Nicko Elliott and Ksenia Kagner, who founded Civilian in 2018, renovated the three-story building in Brooklyn’s Bedford-Stuyvesant district, often abbreviated as Bed-Stuy.

Kitchen with marble island and bright red extractor hood
During the renovation of the town house, the kitchen and living room were moved into the living room

They now occupy the lower two levels of the row house built in 1895 after the program was adapted to the needs of them and their two children.

“The project draws on a diverse mix of references, from the rich palette of materials found in Milanese homes to the bold use of color in the work of French architect Robert Mallet-Stevens,” said the studio.

View through the mill block from the kitchen into the living room
A maple grinder block was added to divide the rooms and create storage space

“The resulting space puts the creative circle of artists and creators at Nicko and Ksenia in the foreground while maintaining a sense of comfort and ease that supports the daily rituals of their growing design practice and young family,” added Civilian.

The changes included the relocation of the kitchen and living room from the lower garden level to the salon level with three-meter-high ceilings and historical details.

Living room with dark red sofas and a restored fireplace
Historical elements have been restored in the living room

A floor-to-ceiling maple “block” has been added to divide the rooms, which remain connected by an aluminum laminate-lined corridor.

The mill work creates shelves on the side facing the living room and cabinets and a home office in the kitchen, while also integrating a guest toilet.

Powder chamber in the mill block
The mill block also houses a guest toilet

The living area is entered via an anteroom and has a restored fireplace, a decorative molding and a ceiling medallion. The new American oak floor refers to the original diagonal parquet.

In the kitchen, a steel island with a worktop made of Arabescatto marble separates the cooking and dining areas, while a red extractor hood adds a splash of color.

A central window has been replaced by a glazed door that allows direct access to the garden via a white-painted metal staircase.

An internal oak staircase follows a whitewashed brick wall to the lower floor, where Elliott and Kagner placed the bedrooms.

Family cave painted green
On the garden level, a family room doubles as a guest room

This level has been completely gutted and rearranged, replacing narrow corridors with cozy sleeping and relaxation areas.

The front is taken up by a cave that doubles as a guest room, which has been painted green and furnished with a mix of contemporary furniture.

Master bedroom with light yellow linen
The master bedroom is at the rear of the lower level and has direct access to the courtyard

“New shelves flank a folding table that is big enough to fit a double mattress for visitors,” said the team. “The ceiling has a high-gloss finish to reflect natural light deep into the room.”

A bright children’s room with a striped ceiling and a dramatic black and white bathroom are integrated into the plan.

Dramatic black and white bathroom
There is a dramatic black and white bathroom between the bedrooms

At the rear is the master bedroom, where original ceiling beams have been painted white and a custom-made upholstered headboard is upholstered in Raf Simons for Kvadrat fabric.

A new door provides additional access to the courtyard, which is paved with reclaimed blue stone slabs around a vegetable garden and a herbaceous meadow.

Town house painted white on the outside
The back of the townhouse has been painted white and includes new stairs from the kitchen

Brooklyn’s townhouses are being bought and renovated by New Yorkers looking for more space than Manhattan.

Examples of these creative makeovers include a Fort Greene home remodeled for entertainment, a Carroll Gardens residence with minimal interiors, and a Williamsburg estate doubled in size.

The photograph is by Brian Ferry.


Project Loans:

General contractor: Ameripride
Record architect: CH Arch
Furniture manufacture: Juarez Custom

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