All photos courtesy of Peace Cabin

Peace Cabin is a unique cushion brand that focuses on comfort and sustainability. They source and incorporate eco-friendly materials to make cushions that are both comfy and minimize impact on the environment. Based in Pennsylvania, started by Angela and Daniel in 2020, the brand has brought an outdoors inspired, fashion forward focus to the humble cushion.

Daniel and Angela kindly shared with us what it’s been like starting and running a business as designers and creatives, a bit about their process, and how they work to bring the most sustainable comfort to your posterior, whether interior or exterior.

Sanpo Studios: Can you briefly share what Peace Cabin is about and what folks can expect from your products?
Peace Cabin (Angela & Daniel): Peace Cabin is about the connection between your indoor and outdoor living experiences. Our concept is multi-use cushions, designed to function in the many different ways you might use them, outside or in your home. You can expect a super comfy cushion, hand-crafted and filled with a custom blend of natural and biodegradable filling materials. They are so much comfier to sit on than foam or nasty polyester.

SS: You’ve shared that your careers prior to starting Peace Cabin were within fashion design – what drew you into fashion, what did you love about that work, and how does that now influence your work with Peace Cabin?
PC (Daniel): I think fashion maybe seemed like a rebellious path to explore compared to the scene I was surrounded by growing up in Ireland. My world and personal style was mostly driven by my involvement in sailing, so my look was a steady rotation of event-based tees, jeans, sailing jackets, boat shoes etc. As far as other influences, both of my parents are individually creative in their unique ways. Growing up there were often clothes and costumes being sewn, boats being built, and various other crafts happening, so maybe that also guided me to fashion too. I ended up going to design school in the UK, and when I got there, I needed to figure out what aspects of fashion resonated for me in terms of studying it at school. It was the mid-90s, and you had such a mash-up of things happening at that time - grunge, Brit-pop, electronic music and club culture, skate and snowboarding - all these things were happening at once. It was an exciting time to be getting into fashion with all those influences affecting menswear. That also meant that roles in the industry were broadening, especially with streetwear and active-based brands expanding at that time. So for a guy with my background, the fashion/menswear world was becoming a lot more accessible and exciting to be in.

Some things that I loved about the work would include playing my part in helping brands evolve and grow their menswear footprint, which has become so much bigger over the last couple of decades. As a designer, I always love vintage pieces and their unique details coming from eras when people couldn’t easily access each other’s work as a reference. I also had the privilege of leading teams and mentoring the next generation coming through. I’ll always be very grateful for those experiences, they taught me so much about myself, good and bad. It was rewarding work for a long time but eventually became mostly people and calendar management and less hands-on creative work. I started to feel pretty disconnected in terms of why I was doing the work every day. I was ready for a new challenge but also tried to resist it, so what typically happens in corporate roles, when you are giving off that vibe, is change comes to you. So I left a design leadership role that I’d held for a long time and that gave me a chance to recalibrate. I think those pause periods are just as important in a career, it’s a chance to reflect and ask yourself if you’re being true to yourself and what do you want to do next.

All of these experiences and influences affect our brand and products, whether that’s a menswear background coming through in our fabrics, we use a lot of denim based on Angela’s work as a denim designer. I think my sailing background and appreciation for more primitive outdoor gear are reflected in our Wanderer cushions. The heavy nylon, color-blocking, and leather trims that you could imagine finding on an old backpack for example. A friend described our work as ‘familiar, but you haven’t seen it before’, we love that, the idea that what we make is timeless, maybe even future vintage… 

SS: I love that idea, that something can be familiar, yet new at the same time. Perhaps that is the magic that lies behind strong connections to pieces of art and design. Your journey to, and through fashion is interesting in that it seems to have mapped closely to some significant growth in interest in menswear – especially through an era that regained popularity.

SS: I can relate to the career pause and pivot – One of the reason’s Sanpo Studios was started was to connect with others and build community around shared passions coming out of the pandemic – What drove your decision to start Peace Cabin during the pandemic? How has it impacted your sense of community since?

PC (Daniel): Yes, same! At the time I was looking for something new and we were already trying new creative approaches, but then the pandemic happened and suddenly we had our two kids in virtual school, couldn’t see family, and had an immediate family member in hospital in the UK with a non-covid life-threatening illness. It’s fair to say it was a pretty heavy chapter! I don’t know if Peace Cabin would have emerged in quite the same way or timeline without those unique circumstances, but regardless of those factors, I think overall I really wanted to make stuff again, and like many people during the lockdowns, we were spending more time outdoors and wanted new gear (that we could afford) to enjoy while doing that!

Peace Cabin has been an incredible catalyst for finding a common community, we’ve met so many great people, whether we’ve met in person or know each other digitally, the value of that new expanded network can’t be understated. If you are seeking change, you definitely need the support of folks you already know to cheer you on, give critique, or catch you when you’re falling. Yet, it’s equally important to find new collaborators and allies to help you facilitate the journey forward.

SS: Running the day-to-day of a business can require you to do many things that don’t necessarily feel “creative” and don’t always involve “making stuff” – How do you maintain your creative energy?
PC (Daniel): I tend to suffer more from too many thoughts and ideas. Pivoting to creative entrepreneur mode has been less about maintaining creative energy, and more about trying to use that energy in the right places at the right time. Executing our vision with just the two of us, without the support teams we were used to at brands presents a significant learning curve. Of course, selling and marketing require a distinct skill set compared to product design, so for us it’s very much a work in progress, some days we feel we’re getting somewhere, and others feel like we’re not.

SS: What excites you about building a brand at the intersection of the outdoors and the home? How do these spaces inspire you?
PC (Angela & Daniel): There’s so much energy around biophilic design and lifestyles right now, where people value their time in nature and it’s positive gains for their well-being. Our Wanderer cushion can go on a camping trip, be used at home around your coffee table and then you might use it in a nearer-to-home outdoor space to meditate, read or just hang with friends. We also consider the benefits of multi-functional products for people living in smaller spaces, as well as the opportunity to own fewer things. Seating that takes up less space and can be used indoors and outside makes sense for both of those factors. The idea of bringing the outdoors in was so foundational to the 50’s modernist architecture movement, we definitely draw a lot of inspiration from that ideal. We’re also big fans of Frank Lloyd Wright’s work, keen observers may notice a few of our cushion names reference his buildings. We also got married at the barn at Fallingwater here in Pennsylvania.

SS: We’re big fans of the Wanderer and have a handful at the ready in our livingroom for guests or their kids when visiting – we also love to bring a couple along on camping trips to sit on top of storage bins for extra butts. Also no kidding, the Wingspread is one of the most beautiful cushions I’ve ever seen.

SS: How did the design for your first cushion come about? How did you define what it needed to be?

PC (Angela & Daniel): First, a good old-fashioned sketch, then prototypes, that lead to conversations like ‘oh, what if we added a handle’, or ‘let’s make it big enough to fit on a cooler’. We field-tested them on camping trips, at the beach and in our home, so they evolved again from use in those environments. We found pretty quickly that the bottoms of the original all-canvas cushions got dirty and damp, so our friend Matt gave us some deadstock Gore-Tex, we used that on the base, then that turned into using Cordura nylon. We still make our Ennis cushion with a Cordura nylon base, but the upper fabrics are cotton for folks who are mostly using them indoors. The Wanderer cushion came about from wanting true outdoor capabilities, as we started to test them we loved how you could beat them up, get them dirty or wet and still be able to clean them off for using back at home.

SS: You’ve recently done a few collaborations - We love seeing creative businesses come together to make something shared and unique. Can you share a bit about how those came about and if there are plans for more in the future?
PC (Angela & Daniel): Most of our collaborations have been pretty organic, some folks coming to us, others we’ve pursued. We look for meaningful intersects of lifestyles, or a perspective rooted in fabrication, but overall we’re feeling our way through how broad our collaborations can be. How far can we stretch it without losing people’s understanding and relationship with our brand in the process. We think of our products as being for anyone, that we aren’t just an outdoor brand, we’re not trying to own meditation, or trying to create products for the latest interior trends. Part of that rationale comes from our motto ‘For Insiders & Outsiders’, being outside can mean everything from camping, visiting parks, your backyard, canoeing, skateboarding or gardening! So yes, there are more partnerships on the way and we are exploring that relationship of how to connect peoples indoor and outdoor lives.

SS: Can you share a bit about future products you’re exploring? Any ideas you’re excited to explore in the world of outdoor gear?
PC (Angela & Daniel): More multi-use cushion concepts, we like the product focus for now as it helps us resist throwing out a bunch of new stuff and losing sight of the consistent messaging, maybe we’ll finally make some cushions for non-humans. We're aware that Peace Cabin has untapped potential as a brand. I think people love what the brand name evokes as a mindset, so that’s something we continue to discuss.

SS: Non-humans, eh? 👽

SS: For folks who are considering starting their own business, or creative venture – any advice / thoughts you’d like to share?

PC (Daniel): It’s so unique to the individual, but I would say be prepared for it to take longer than you think to reach your goals or expectations. Overtime, work towards truly understanding why you are pursuing your idea, because that’s your daily fuel to keep going through the guaranteed low spots. For folks who might be moving from a corporate role to an entrepreneurial one, seek out allies in the same situation you are now in, learn from and advocate for each other and share resources openly. You are now most likely trying to accomplish more with signficantly less budget and resources than you may have had before.

SS: Not going to lie – this was a bit of a selfish question, but one that I think will benefit others. Super helpful thoughts. Low spots galore. Many highs too! Thanks for being a friend to Sanpo Studios!

SS: Finally – a few lightning round questisons – Cordura vs. Dyneema?

PC (Angela & Daniel): Based on our products we’d have to be team Cordura. 

SS: Philly Fanatic vs. Gritty?
PC (Daniel): Gritty, but I’m more of a rugby fan so that’s an issue living here… 

SS: More comfortable, floor vs. sofa?
PC (Angela & Daniel): Funnily enough, we have a lot of floor cushions in our house, so either works! 

SS: Favorite piece of gear in your life right now?
PC (Daniel): I pulled out my 70’s North Face brown label parka the other day, I hadn’t worn it for a few years, and it still keeps me toasty!

We thank Daniel and Angela for the time they shared with us along with all the work they put into creating fun, high-quality, and functional products for home and away. Their commitment to sustainability is present in both the materials they source, and their mission to offer products that last your life-time, wherever you choose to sit yourself down.

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