Few designers get to work from their living room every day surrounded by a fiancé and three adorable pets while binging on Netflix. In fact, as far as we know, there are a whopping total of two: Phoebe Sung and Peter Buer, the lovely couple behind Cold Picnic, make a shocking variety of colorful, playful products—jewelry, wall art, rugs, plant hangers, watches, and handbags—and mostly in their Greenpoint home.
After moving from fashion careers in Boston to Brooklyn, the duo expanded from clothing to home goods by teaching themselves new techniques through thrifted DIY craft books from the 70's. "We look at everything we've done and try to think of what's missing," Sung says when asked how they decide what to create next. "And then we usually buy a lot of yarn." Adds Buer: "We start designing from the palette."
We recently spent an afternoon in their home, which for now doubles as their studio space, where they discussed opening (then leaving) their Williamsburg store, how Netflix help them to make plant hangers, and what the hell else they possibly have time for when not working on their line (spoiler: they cook, too!).
Phoebe: "We were living in Boston, both working in jobs in 'missy fashion.' And then we got a little bit—I wouldn’t say fed up, but we got a little bit discouraged from our corporate jobs."
Peter: "It was pretty rough."
Phoebe: "We started the brand as a way to blow off steam, and it just kind of took off on its own.”
Phoebe: "[A friend] found this space that was really cheap, across from Pies n' Thighs, so we opened a store. We didn’t have the money to stock it the way we would’ve liked to, so we just started making more and more things."
Peter: "That's how we branched out into plant hangers, wall hangings—
Peter: "We just taught ourselves on the way. We had all these great old books from a lot of book sales we went to in Boston."
Phoebe: "[Urban Outfitters] picked us up when we used to do watches. They introduced us to other departments, and that's how we got into the cold weather stuff, like the bags. They've been really great to work with."
Peter: "In the beginning of every collection, we'll talk about and design everything together."
Phoebe: "You do more leather, and I do more jewelry.”
Phoebe: "Having a store is a full-time job, and we didn’t really prepare for that. So after a year, we realized we had to make a decision between, 'Do we want to be store owners, or did we want to be making things?' We really enjoy making things, so we slipped out ... Ever since then, we’ve pretty much been working full-time here.”
Phoebe: "We usually do [the plant hangers] in batches, so we'll do maybe 20 a day. It's very low-budget. We set up the computer to TV shows."
King's Canyon ring, $110
Phoebe: "We were working a lot with concrete, and trying to get the effect of rocks that had been worn down by wind or the ocean."
Peter: " We would make all these lovely bits with cement first, and then have them cast."
Old Fort ring, $99
On outside hobbies:
Peter: "Yeah, we're pretty obsessed with food, so we try to cook as much as possible.”
Malpais bucket bag, $308
Phoebe: "The wall hangings are imaginary landscapes—well, real places, but also our interpretations of them."
Wall hangings, $506 to $1,122
Peter: "We would love more space than we have right now. But that's pretty much it. We love being in Brooklyn.”
On White Cat, pictures:
Peter: "The shirt compresses him and it's supposed to make them feel relaxed. He's been sitting by the window, just yelling out of the window. He's got a really strange voice.”
The Caves of Hans-Sur-Lesse rug, $1,210
Peter: "We make pretty much everything here. We have two bag styles that we have made in the city, and then our jewelry is cast in Manhattan as well."
Colorblock leather totes, $187