A civilian revamps the Bed-Stuy townhouse to create a family-friendly layout

The founders of the Brooklyn Civilian studio remodeled a historic townhouse for themselves and their young family, revamping the layout and adding contemporary elements for optimal functionality.


Nicko Elliott and Ksenia Kagner, who founded Civilian in 2018, renovated the three-story building in the Brooklyn neighborhood of Bedford-Stuyvesant, often shortened to Bed-Stuy.

The renovation of the townhouse consisted of moving the kitchen and living room to the living room level

They now occupy the two lower levels of the terraced house, built in 1895, after having reconfigured its program to meet their needs and those of 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 carpentry block from the kitchen to the living room
A maple carpentry block has been added to divide spaces and create storage

“The resulting space brings Nicko and Ksenia’s creative circle of artists and designers to the fore while maintaining a sense of comfort and ease that supports the daily rituals of their growing design practice and young family,” Civilian added.

The changes included moving the kitchen and living room from the lower garden level to the living room level, which features 10-foot (three-meter) high ceilings and historic details.

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

A full height maple carpentry “block” has been added to divide the spaces, which remain connected by a hallway lined with aluminum laminate.

The carpentry creates shelving on the side of the living room and cabinets and a home workstation in the kitchen, while also incorporating a powder room.

Shower room in the carpentry block
The carpentry block also accommodates a bathroom

Entered through a vestibule, the living room has a restored fireplace, moldings and a medallion on the ceiling. The new American oak parquet refers to the original diagonal parquet.

In the kitchen, a steel island with an Arabescatto marble countertop separates the kitchen and dining areas, while a red extractor hood offers a burst of color.

A central window has been replaced by a glass door, which gives direct access to the garden via a white painted metal staircase.

An interior oak staircase follows a whitewashed brick wall to the lower level, where Elliott and Kagner chose to position the bedrooms.

Family den painted green
On the garden level, a family den doubles as a guest bedroom

This level has been completely emptied and refurbished, replacing the narrow hallways with comfortable sleeping and lounging areas.

The frontage is occupied by a den that doubles as a guest bedroom, which has been painted green and furnished with a mix of contemporary pieces.

Master bedroom with bright yellow bedding
The master bedroom is located at the rear of the lower level and has direct access to the courtyard

“New shelves frame a folding desk sized to accommodate a double mattress for visitors,” the team said. “The ceiling is painted in a high gloss finish, to reflect natural light deep into the room.”

A bright children’s bedroom with a striped ceiling and a spectacular black and white bathroom are sandwiched into the plan.

Dramatic bathroom in black and white
Dramatic black-and-white bathroom is sandwiched between bedrooms

To the rear is the master bedroom, where the original ceiling joists have been painted white and a custom upholstered headboard is wrapped in Raf Simons fabric for Kvadrat.

A new gate provides additional access to the courtyard, which is paved with blue stone slabs recovered around a vegetable patch and perennial meadow.

Exterior of the townhouse painted white
The rear of the townhouse has been painted white and includes a new staircase from the kitchen

Brooklyn townhouses are occupied and renovated by New Yorkers looking for more space than can be found in Manhattan.

Examples of these creative renovations include a Fort Greene home reconfigured for entertainment, a Carroll Gardens residence with minimalist interiors, and a Williamsburg property that has doubled in size.

The photograph is by Brian Ferry.


Project credits:

General contractor : Ameripride
Reference architect: CH Arch
Furniture manufacturing: Custom Juárez


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