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There’s a lot to love about indie design studio Cold Picnic.
First off, their products — ranging from quilts and hand-tufted rugs to pillows, cloth napkins, and wallpaper — are gorgeous. Inspired by national parks, film, interior design, and art, they perfectly straddle the line between playful and grown-up, with abstract prints rendered in unusual color combinations that look as if they were chosen by a pair of master color theorists. It’s as if Cezanne and Matisse collaborated on a line of modernist home goods.
The company works with a small, family-run factory in New Jersey to make their blankets, and they produce the rest of their products (with the exception of their wallpapers) in India, where they work exclusively with GoodWeave-certified manufacturers, ensuring that their goods are produced without child labor, forced labor, or bonded labor. They use domestically-sourced, recycled cotton yarns for their blankets and color all their raw materials using eco-friendly dyes. Their wallpaper is made with water-based latex inks and eco-friendly grounds and their rugs are manufactured using 100 percent solar energy.
Cold Picnic’s co-founders (and life partners), Phoebe Sung and Peter Buer, design all the brand’s products out of their home/studio on the border of Brooklyn and Queens, which they share with their two young children and their two dogs, Phillip and Daisy.
“Phillip is sort of old and grumpy, but very good and gentle and well-behaved,” says Sung. “Daisy is our bad girl — very sweet and charming, but bad. She’s just crazy. We’ve been through three trainers! Still, she’s so loving. I love her.”
When Sung and Buer first got together, Sung had two cats from a previous relationship and the couple got a third cat together before adopting three-year-old Phillip. “Our one cat, Johnny, was very jealous when we got Phillip,” she says. “He’d never do anything — he was always very gentle — but you could tell he was upset just by the way he’d stare at us.”
As is common with many devoted pet parents, Sung and Buer’s lives revolved around their dog those first few years. “In a way, Phillip really primed us for parenthood,” says Sung. “When we first got him, we didn’t leave him, ever. And if we did, we’d come back early because we were worried about him being lonely. We’d go to restaurants and sit outside into November, just so we could have him with us.”
The couple adopted Daisy a few years later in an attempt to scratch their puppy itch. “She’s a failed foster,” says Sung. “We wanted to foster a puppy just to get it out of our system, and then we decided to keep her. Her mom came from a feral dog colony and Daisy and the rest of the litter were born in a foster’s home. But the mom was so freaked out — living inside for the first time and being around people — that she was always trying to climb up the curtains and escape and never taught the puppies anything or spent any time with them.”
Sung added that Daisy is the main reason Phillip still has the energy of a young pup: “He’s 14 now, but he’s a lot younger than other 14-year-old dogs and I think she’s why.”
Daisy and Phillip also love Sung and Buer’s kids. “Daisy can be a little rough in her enthusiasm, but she tries to bring it down around babies, and we’d always seen that, so we weren’t too worried [about having her around the kids],” says Sung. “And because Phillip is so old and grumpy, we thought he might just be like ‘Oh my god, another living thing!’ But he was into it. Especially in the beginning when there was so much just sitting around, when I was nursing. I’d just sit in the same spot pretty much round the clock and he loved that.”
The six of them now share an apartment in Ridgewood, where they were fortunate to ride out the worst months of the pandemic in relative comfort. “We’ve worked from home for a long time, so we didn’t have to make the same dramatic shifts that some people did,” says Sung.
As one might expect, their home/workspace — which is featured here and there on the company’s Instagram page — looks almost impossibly cool and features lots of their Cold Picnic designs, not to mention their lovely babies (both human and canine). It’s also startlingly clean for a place that houses two small children and two very furry dogs. “It’s a never-ending battle,” says Sung when asked if she has any tips for how to keep dog hair at bay. “Back when we used to fulfill orders out of the house, we were just constantly lint-rolling everything, because the dogs would walk by and you could see the hair just flying off of them!”
Before the pandemic, the couple considered moving their business into a separate studio/showroom space. “We actually got the space and even did a bunch of renovations,” says Sung. “But, eventually, we realized that wasn’t what we wanted, even without the pandemic.” No. They’d rather be at home with their kids and their dogs, making their super cool rugs and pillows and blankets.
And, really, who could blame them?
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And did Cowboy and Alfie just inspire a pet product line?
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The designer on creating a trippy wonderland in the LES and making sparkly dog accessories:
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