Whistles x Cold Picnic: meet the New York couple behind the brand
Peter Buer and Phoebe Sung are the husband and wife creative duo behind Cold Picnic, the cult interiors brand loved for its contemporary, irreverent textiles. Founded in 2010, the label’s breakout moment came with the release of its witty ‘private parts’ bath mats: abstract renderings of the female form that quickly became an Instagram sensation.
Since then the couple’s success has continued to skyrocket, most recently dreaming up a standout quilt for our Whistles x Cold Picnic collaboration. To mark the launch we spent a humid July day together in Ridgewood (between Brooklyn and Queens) where the couple live and work from an apartment-come-studio, with their two adopted dogs – Daisy and Phillip.
In-between eating peanut butter bagels, walking the dogs and admiring various trinkets and idiosyncratic art works that fill their home, we sat down with the pair to chat all things Cold Picnic. From what it’s like working together as a couple to their favourite places to be in Brooklyn, read on for an insight into the wonderful world of Phoebe and Peter.
How would you describe Cold Picnic?
Peter: Well, we’re officially a soft home goods brand. Right?
Phoebe: Yes. We do rugs, bath mats and quilts. We use a lot of bright colour but we still think of our style as quite minimal.
Peter: Even though everything is abstract, I do think it’s got a sense of humour. Especially when it comes to the private parts!
How did you meet?
Phoebe: I grew up in DC and after studying a number of things like journalism, Chinese and sculpture, I went back to school for fashion design and that’s where I met Peter.
Peter: We’ve basically been working together ever since!
Phoebe: We did each other’s homework back in school and we always had the same jobs after that – working in fashion and print design before we started Cold Picnic.
Peter: I’m originally from Brighton in England and did everything from interior design to illustration and then got into fashion. I moved over here with my family in 2004, met Phoebe, and we kicked off from there.
How do your different skill sets come together?
Peter: We have pretty different ways of designing, but they always sit well together. Phoebe does a lot of work with pencils, pastels and collages, but my experience is with CAD (computer automated design) – so I can scan them in and clean them up.
Phoebe: Yes, you have a broader experience in illustration, architecture and CAD to make everything look perfect…
Peter: You know how to make everything sort of not perfect, which is good for our designs as they’re more organic and abstract.
“Colours are a really big influence. We look at the way colours work together in movies in a way that defines the collection.”
What’s your design process like?
Peter: Every time it’s coming up to a new collection we watch a bunch of movies right?
Phoebe: Yes and we sketch on and off for a few weeks.
Peter: We get inspired by those movies. And then we probably design maybe like 100 designs and we pull them all together and kind of just pick and choose to form a collection, and then we put them into the computer.
Where else do you get inspiration from?
Phoebe: Colours are a really big influence. We look at the way colours work together in movies in a way that usually defines the collection in the end. But also just anything, our neighbourhood…
Peter: Yeah, one of our collections was based on our honeymoon. So we just looked through old photos and got inspired by colour and the landscape. And national parks, nature, it could be anything.
Why did you choose to collaborate with Whistles?
Peter: I’ve always been a huge fan of Whistles. Coming from England, I’ve known about them for a long time. When I told my family about it they all freaked out!
Phoebe: I have known about Whistles for a few years and always like what they do. I like the imagery and feel like everything is a bit more conscientious and thoughtful than a lot of other brands.
What’s it like living and working together?
Peter: Living and working together is surprisingly easy – we’ve been doing it for 12 years…
Phoebe: We don’t know much else: as soon as we met we moved into a studio apartment with a twin bed!
Peter: Like 3 months later.
Phoebe: It’s the only way of working and being adults that we actually know.
What would you both be doing, if you weren’t doing this?
Peter: Well, I can’t really imagine doing anything without Phoebe. So I mean, hopefully we’d have another company together… maybe like a dog sanctuary would be pretty nice?
Phoebe: I’d like that.
Peter: But I think I might also still be in fashion as that’s my background. Same with you?
Phoebe: I think same with me, I went to school too many times to go back again.
Peter: I could never go back to school.
Phoebe: So it’d have to be something that you can teach yourself or…
Peter: But together, we have to stick together.
Peter & Phoebe’s Top 3 Tips For Brooklyn & Queens
1. Red Hook
You can find a huge football field in this neighbourhood with food trucks selling amazing lobster and arepas. Then you can walk to Steve’s on the pier to eat a little key lime pie overlooking the water and the Statue of Liberty.
2. Franklin Avenue
This is a stretch in Greenpoint with so many great vintage furniture stores. It has a fancy hidden tea shop that looks like a beautiful grey gardens living room with lots of restaurants and bakeries.
We love the Noguchi Museum in Long Island City. It’s amazing and has all these sculptures and installations. Nearby there’s also Astoria, which is a big Greek neighbourhood – you’ll eat the best Greek food in New York here.