F5: Nicko Elliott Shares a Favorite Coffee Shop, On-Going Research + More

07.01.22 | By
F5: Nicko Elliott Shares a Favorite Coffee Shop, On-Going Research + More

Nicko Elliott is the principal and co-founder of CIVILIAN, a building and interior design studio working with cultural institutions, forward-thinking companies, and creative individuals to tell their stories through design. Founded in 2018, alongside architect Ksenia Kagner, they work between scales and disciplines, designing environments, objects, and experiences with elegance, care, and levity. Nicko and the rest of the New York City-based studio are active in the residential, commercial, and workplace sectors. He tackles everything from traditional build-outs to creative direction, interior consulting to styling and staging. In 2021, they created Civilian Objects, a retail platform for home and office goods.

Nicko was previously Creative Partner at real estate development firm Macro Sea, where he led the design of innovative living and working development projects, including Newlab in Brooklyn and and CIEE’s Global Institute in Berlin. Prior to that he worked on projects ranging from Central Park penthouse renovations to a contemporary urban waterway plan in the medieval center of Fez, Morocco. Nicko holds a Masters in Architecture from the University of Toronto and an undergraduate degree in Musicology from Western University.

Today, Nicko Elliott is joining us for Friday Five!

light-skinned man with brown hair and black button-down shirt with hands clasped

Nicko Elliott \\\ Photo: Brian W. Ferry

cafe sidewalk covered in yellow gingko leaves

Photo: Civilian

1. Oliver Coffee

Best coffee near the studio. Tucked away in the lower edge of Chinatown on a quiet historic block, it has a beautiful bar, great coffee, excellent magazines, and people watching there always reminds me of how strange and wonderful Manhattan still is.

gloomy beach

Photo: Civilian

2. Fort Tilden Park

Our favorite summertime city beach is, in fact, a remarkably clean year-round refuge. You feel surrounded by the city, but totally buffered by the wild dune vegetation and surf. During the pandemic there has been no better place to go lower your heart rate as you stare pensively at the horizon.

wrinkled paper with a sketch of a dining space

3. Trace Paper

Every project begins with carefully tracing base drawings by hand. For me, reading information and drawing it at the same time, while slow, allows time to learn what I’m looking at and to think deliberately about design priorities. Farther along the process, iteratively drawing over 2D and 3D is the only way I’m really able to think about what is essential to solve design problems. It’s also saved the day for a retail display, as a backdrop for product photography, and even dressing a dining table.

light-skinned woman wearing a spacesuit

4. Michel Gondry

Ever since seeing Bjork’s Human Behaviour video in the early 90s we’ve been hooked. Throughout his work, we’ve always admired how technique and concept are one and the same, with the possibility that everyday objects and materials can be arranged and presented in delightful and surprising kinds of ways. Also, he gave us a quote we still draw confidence and inspiration from: “Every great idea is on the verge of being stupid.”

bucolic scene of cleaned lined building in the country with a blue sky

5. Design Research

We’ve recently fallen down a rabbit hole of the work of Kazuo Shinohara and its influence on Toyo Ito, Kazanari Sakamoto, and Itsuko Hasegawa – all such mind-meltingly talented designers whose work is richer when understood together. Just before that we were living in the world of Louis Sullivan, Albert Kahn, and early 20th century American architects around the Great Lakes. Prior to that, we couldn’t stop looking at interwar architecture and interiors from Flanders; before that it was the cadre of designers working in northern Italy after the WWII… we could go on and on. Point is, we love that design can be a conversation across time, and there’s always new ways to look at things.


Work by Nicko Elliott and CIVILIAN:

dining space with light wood table and chairs in front of classic fireplace with large modern art

Bedford-Stuyvesant Townhouse \\\ Photo: Brian W. Ferry

living space with olive green walls, blue sofa, chair, small table, fireplace, and art

Bedford-Stuyvesant Townhouse \\\ Photo: Brian W. Ferry

college dorm space with modern light wood bed, mirror, and wardrobe

Bard College Berlin \\\ Photo: Robert Rieger

interior space with light blue armchairs, a round coffee table, fiddle leaf fig, and yellow and green cabinetry

Bard College Berlin \\\ Photo: Robert Rieger

dark blue shelves filled with books

Fort Greene Townhouse \\\ Photo: Brian W. Ferry

sitting space with armchairs and very large wall mirror

Newlab 77 Washington \\\ Photo: Brian W. Ferry

Kelly Beall is Director of Branded Content at Design Milk. The Pittsburgh-based writer and designer has had a deep love of art and design for as long as she can remember, from Fashion Plates to MoMA and far beyond. When not searching out the visual arts, she's likely sharing her favorite finds with others. Kelly can also be found tracking down new music, teaching herself to play the ukulele, or on the couch with her three pets – Bebe, Rainey, and Remy. Find her @designcrush on social.