Walk into any Brooklyn home goods boutique and you’re bound to stumble upon whimsical designs by Cold Picnic—cushion covers and woven bathmats emblazoned with casually sketched body parts, hand-knotted macrame plant hangers, plush rugs in desert-landscape palettes, quilted throws in abstract colorblocks. Launched in 2010 by husband-and-wife team Phoebe Sung and Pete Buer, the label has evolved from its early years as a women’s accessories line to a full-fledged interiors endeavor (though you can still score some of their jewelry and bags at their online “Sample Sale”).
We caught up with Buer and Sung (and their two fluffy rescues, Phillip and Daisy) in their Ridgewood, Queens apartment/studio where they make the magic that is Cold Picnic.
You guys were on the boobs-on-things train before the trend really blew up. What is your take on it now?
Phoebe: I feel like women are taking back boobs, which [are] typically sexualized. Our Private Parts collection started as a joke because everything we were designing looked like a big penis or boobs. We started the collection because it made us laugh, but people want boobs on everything now. Someone recently asked if we can make a yoga mat with boobs on it. We’ve decided to stick with the bathmats.
Two years ago, you moved from Greenpoint to Ridgewood, in a spot that you now own. How has the move evolved Cold Picnic?
Peter: Our old apartment was a railroad that was very narrow. We didn’t have space for a studio so we did all of our work on the living room floor. It was so cramped that it was hard to get excited to get down to work each day. But our apartment now has a basement, which is the Cold Picnic studio. It’s been amazing.
Phoebe: We were looking for a house for so long that we put off getting a studio. Now that we have the space, we’ve started shedding. We have the room to make more stuff if we want to. Our old apartments were always used for something else, aside from living—we’d cut off the living room and basically live in the kitchen and bedroom. This is the first time we’ve been able to live with the things we’re making. We can have our own rugs out!
I’m inspired by your handmade plant hangers and all the greenery you’re surrounded by. What plants do you recommend for small New York City apartments?
Peter: We never had great light in any of our apartments—not in this one either—so we’ve actually done a pretty bad job of keeping plants alive. You need to get plants that are hard to kill! We have a lot of cacti. There is a large succulent that hangs from the ceiling in our bedroom.
Phoebe: Hanging ferns also look really nice with the way they drape. Pothos plants are pretty hard to kill. We have a big Swiss cheese plant in our living room that is low maintenance.
Peter: But most of them will die at some point.
Phoebe: And when they do, we’ll try to save the last living leaf and put it in a vase.
Speaking of greenery, do you feel a shift in the home goods industry with concerns over climate change?
Phoebe: There was always a level of awareness built into the line as a small-scale designer. Personally, I’ve noticed a broadening of that awareness. Larger companies and retailers are now looking at the way smaller, independent labels present themselves.
Peter: It was assumed when we first started that [being resourceful] was important to the brand, but it’s gotten more important to talk about it now.
What’s it like being married and business partners?
Phoebe: I wouldn’t know how to work with anyone else. We can disagree as partners and get over it quickly because it happens all the time. We also have different ways of working and designing, but our aesthetic is similar. We’ll sketch separately and then we see what the other person is doing, and we’ll end up copying each other. It’s never that one of us wants to go in a completely different direction. It’s always like, “I was thinking that, too,” and everything clicks really quickly.
Peter: We’ve been together for 10 years so we have all the same experiences and influences now. We met in college where we had classes together, after that we had three fashion jobs where we worked together, and we’ve always lived together in really tiny spaces. Literally since we first met in school, we’ve spent pretty much all of our time together. No complaints over here.
Photography by Sasha Turrentine, product photos courtesy of coldpicnic.com