If you scroll through any home tour from the last few years, you are likely to find a cheeky boob-printed bathmat by Phoebe Sung and Peter Bauer, the designer couple behind Cold Picnic. The pair runs their trendy textile business from their home in Queens, NY, which they have renovated into an amazing work/live flat that they share with their two pups. If you have ever seen the married duo's pieces, you wouldn't be surprised to see how the space is chock full of creative designs, eclectic details, and cool curated finds.
“I liked our house right away,” says Sung. “It had high ceilings, original fireplaces, hardwood floors, a fair amount of light on the first floor, a finished basement, and a real backyard.”
“I actually wasn’t crazy about it at first and for a really silly reason,” remarks Buer. “I didn’t like the tiles covering the kitchen floor, not thinking we could tear them out and replace them. Phoebe finally talked me round and we did exactly that. But what I really love about it is that it looks like a little country house plopped down in the middle of Queens — porch and all.”
After renovating and renting out the second floor, the couple divided the remaining two stories into their flat and a studio space to run their business. We had the designers invite us into their home to share their decorating process, their inspiration behind Cold Picnic, and how they balance working and living in their home.
While many might consider the space's aesthetic leaning towards maximalist, that wasn't the pair's original intention. “We lived out of boxes in the second floor apartment while our contractor did a few renovations to our ground floor,” explains Sung. “We had a mattress on the floor, a few plants, and oversized mirrors against the walls. That simplicity felt so chic to me. We said we’d make our actual apartment look just like it, but when we moved and unpacked all our stuff and things got a lot less minimal.”
While most of the items in the couple's home are scored hand-me-downs and thrift store finds, their own works and those by close friends filled in the holes. "Decorating is an ongoing process, but it felt very clear to us where everything should be,” says Sung. “Since we already had most of our things, once every room had a purpose, decorating was almost an afterthought.” She adds, “Before we bought our house, I made up Pinterest boards of everything I wanted it to be. There was a board for every room and every piece of furniture. Then you move, and if you’ve got limited funds for renovations, you let the space dictate.”
Both Sung and Bauer agree that their bright bedroom is one of the best spots in the house to hang. "Our bedroom, which is an extension at the back of the house, has three windows and gets so much light. It is really lovely to wake up to," shares Bauer.
Sung adds, “It’s our treehouse! We used to take all our meals in there — a habit left over from when we were students in a studio apartment where the only piece of furniture we had a twin bed which had to double as kitchen table and a sofa. We tend to neglect the living room, but we’ve started to branch out.”
While they did complete some mild renovations, the couple made sure to work with the bones of the home. “It’s a first floor apartment, so there isn’t enough light to have thriving plants covering the walls,” Sung explains. “We’ve got orange-y wood floors, so we avoid too much wooden furniture. Our main objective is to utilize the natural light and the space we have."
While there is fun art and potted plants throughout the home, one of the biggest standouts is the incredible wall of books in the dining area that Buer built himself.
“That was best renovation we did and it was all Peter,” explains Sung. “I was so proud of him. He got along really well with our electrician and our contractor and used to help them out sometimes. By the time work had finished on the house, he had learned so much. He’s a true handyman at this point.”
“We have always wanted floor-to-ceiling built-in bookcases. So when we first saw this place and saw the wall was set back on either side of the fireplace, we knew it was the perfect place to do it,” says Buer. “We have a lot of books! So Phoebe made a diagram for me of how high each shelf would be to perfectly fit them all. Then I built them — which is actually way less impressive than the diagram Phoebe made for me.”
The best part of the Queens abode? The designers can pop downstairs to Cold Picnic headquarters whenever they need to get to work. “The studio is not especially glamorous, but it’s very convenient! It hasn’t got any windows, so to brighten the space up, we painted the floors white and painted some of the pipes and doors different colors that make us happy — chartreuse, pale coral, mauve,” says Sung.
“As our needs change, we change the studio. When we first moved in, we were still making some items in the line — plant hangers, bags, and wall hangings — and it was more of a work space. Now we use it to store some of the smaller stock items, but it’s mostly where we pack and prepare orders. When we have a larger project, like the dioramas we worked on for a few lookbooks, we work on them in the studio. But for designing and emailing, we work ‘remotely’ (aka from the apartment).”
“Since our studio is only down a flight of stairs, even when it's the weekend, we find ourselves working,” shares Buer. “We either go in the basement, or sometimes we bring our work up to our flat. And when things get busy, sometimes we don’t leave the house for a few days.”
“Over time we’ve worked our way to more structured workdays and work weeks, but Cold Picnic still creeps in most of the time,” explains Sung. “The biggest part of work is email, and that follows you everywhere. Especially because if we’re watching a movie on our laptop, or cooking dinner and listening to music, you can still hear or see every time a new email pops up. But we’re working on it. Unless it’s an urgent factory matter, we try not to read or write emails on Sundays or after 9 p.m.”
For folks also living that work from home life, Sung has a few tips:"“Go for a walk, even if you don’t want to. Get dressed (once in a while). Wash your face and brush your teeth. Take advantage of being home all day and drink as much water as you can. Work from bed when you really want to (but not excessively or exclusively!).”