In Conversation with: Echo and Tre
Interview by Durga Chew-Bose
Here is a list of satisfying stuff. Clean sheets and come summer, the miracle of a cool breeze; the movie ending when it should; socks that don’t slide down; pouring hot coffee over ice cubes; steam when you need it most on your face; a quiet room in a crowded house; a good stretch; a good (much-needed) big, fat laugh; the last puzzle piece, fitting where it should, just so.
Now, imagine for a moment, what the collective noun of satisfaction might be? Like a whole assortment or greatest hits of satisfactions. A cluster, a parade, a sweet package of satisfactions. An Ordinary Habit of satisfactions.
Tre and Echo, the brilliant (mother-daughter) duo behind Ordinary Habit are experts at many things, including avoiding the spotlight. They do what they love (designing, producing, baking, hosting, flower arranging…there’s so much more!), without making a fuss. They are invested in details and the big picture—and somewhere along the way, puzzles, among other projects. And not just puzzles, but puzzles that celebrate artists whose work is at the center of Ordinary Habit’s maiden voyage.
While I’ve known Tre and Echo for years, learning about this new project in their lives, and how they went about creating it, has only made me admire them more. Theirs is a commitment to the little things while also prioritizing what’s important—their collaborators and the stories being told through their work.
For now, meet Tre and Echo.
Let’s start with the name. Ordinary Habit. How did you decide on it and what does it mean to you both?
Echo: For both of us, it was the idea of a really simple habit that wasn’t daunting. Mine started at work, working on puzzles while taking short breaks, and my mom’s puzzle habit started during those quiet morning moments, over tea. It’s the opposite of making yourself go for a five-mile run every day. Working on a puzzle can exist as a five-minute interlude. A beautiful thing you can do, anytime, anywhere. The name comes from our want to create everyday things.
Tre: The name represents something simple that gives you a tiny little bit of joy. It’s not about doing something spectacular.
Social media often overwhelms. It’s so oriented towards results, achievements, growth. For both of you, I know this type of performance isn’t really your thing. I was hoping you might speak to this sentiment.
Echo: Starting a company—especially now—that we hadn’t been broadcasting, even to our larger group of friends, has been interesting. Puzzles, which are the first product we’re creating for Ordinary Habit, are a very humble pastime. They’ve become trendy, but they’ve been around for a long time, and they embody a quiet modesty that resonates with me and my mom.
Tre: Yes. I mean, I have an Instagram and Facebook but if you go on them, there’s rarely anything there other than, for instance, a really pretty tomato. Social media has never really been important to me.
Echo: There’s absolutely no pressure with a puzzle.
Tre: Something you can return to at your leisure.
Let’s talk about ways you reset and any rituals you might have that keep you grounded.
Echo: Cooking. It’s always been cooking for me. Growing up, it was a family joke that you could tell when I was stressed out because there would be a lot of baked goods in the house. There’s puzzles too, all kinds. Crosswords that I have to give my entire attention to—I always feel better afterwards.
Tre: Yoga, for years now. But my routine is: puzzle in the morning with tea, yoga, shower, then work. I like to start work late. We used to have a vegetable garden, and I would go every afternoon before dinner and play in the garden. These little transitional gestures help to reset.
What’s it been like working together?
Echo: Despite being incredibly similar, we both bring completely different things to the table.
Tre: It’s been surprisingly easy to work together.
Echo: We have a really solid foundation, obviously, from homeschooling when I was a kid to my figure skating days.
Tre: There’s this level of comfort between us and more importantly, there’s trust that doesn’t have to be learned.
I’m curious about deliberations you’ve made in this process that have surprised you. You’re both so detail-oriented, but I’m sure there have been moments, especially during exploratory stages, that gave you pause. Any highlights?
Echo: There’s lots!
Tre: I mean even just finding the right box, one that we really liked, brought a level of unexpectedness to the process. Our box journey was long.
Echo: I’ve never made a product before—I never dreamed of having to manufacture a product. When we started, we had this vision and we knew what we wanted. But finding the right people to help you get as close to what you’re thinking as possible…that’s a whole other thing.
And then there’s the curation aspect. Trying to make something that feels cohesive and feels like your brand, but you’re also wanting to cater to the people who are going to buy it. Striking that balance and finding a balance between my taste, my mom’s taste, and other people’s tastes—all of this was very new and challenging, in a good way.
Tre: And that’s where your art history background really played a part!
You both have really strong design backgrounds, you as a graphic designer, Tre, and Echo…well you have design…opinions. Good and very elevated opinions!
Tre: We definitely wanted to make an elevated product! Design has always been important to us, even in our house. Everything in our house has a reason it’s there. Even our plants, for instance. Maybe it’s a curse? I don’t know. But we are always aiming to make everything aesthetically pleasing to us. And with our puzzles, easy on the eyes and lovely to touch.
How did you go about selecting the artists you collaborated with? How did you find them?
Tre: We found them in lots of different ways. I would be reading a magazine and see an illustration.
Echo: We ended up with this big spreadsheet! And luckily, all the artists we reached out to were already puzzle lovers! What sets us apart, too, is that we’ve put the artists front and center, literally. Down to the size of their names and placement on the box. The artists have the headline.
Tre: We really want to highlight them. Every box includes a bio and a blurb about the artist’s piece.
Switching directions a little, I’m curious, is there a word or turn of phrase you hadn’t previously used and is now part of your lexicon since starting this company? Since diving headlong into puzzles?
Tre: Yeah! I’ve only got inches in my brain. But I speak in millimeters. I have to convert everything on my computer.
Echo: “Touch” and “anti-glare” came up a lot. Like “soft touch.”
Tre: Hmmm…cadence. Cadence is a word I didn’t use a lot before but now I do. And then there’s the funny stuff, like the different type of puzzle pieces. We refer to them by made-up names like…
Tre: “Wonky arm” or “flat head.”
Echo: “Angel wings”
Before wrapping this up, one more question for each of you. Echo, how would you describe your perfect Friday night in?
Echo: Cooking something kind of ridiculous, like totally over the top that takes too long while drinking a martini, and then probably a bottle of wine at dinner. The night would not end, like it would go late, mainly because dinner took three hours to make. A super complicated meal and good wine is my perfect Friday night.
And Tre, describe your ideal Sunday morning.
Tre: Putting on the kettle, some tea, puzzling for a little, and then looking through cooking magazines. Or sometimes I pull out cookbooks and just research recipes that I want to make in the week. Oh, and maybe some toast. An egg.