Founded by longtime friends, Eviana Hartman and Monica Khemsurov, Tetra is an online retail platform dedicated to raising the aesthetics of the smoking experience. The idea came to the ladies during a day spent relaxing at a beach in Malibu, while using a substandard pipe. They saw an opportunity to not only enhance the ritual of smoking but to build a lifestyle and culture around it. Today the brand specializes in designer smoking objects like pipes, ashtrays, and lighters — most of them custom-made exclusively for Tetra in limited editions — as well as unique home fragrances, rare vintage finds, and accessories. Their approach references the artistic exchange from the mid-century period when design icons such as Dieter Rams and Marianne Brandt were creating one-of-a-kind smoking accessories for the home. We joined Tetra for a conversation about brand ethos, inspired style, and how they are cultivating unique lifestyle experiences.
What was the first incarnation of Tetra?
We came up with the idea one day on the beach in Malibu. We were talking about an ugly glass pipe I had, and how we knew so many designers who could create something better. A lightbulb went off, and a few months later, the site was live.
What is the background of the founders?
I am a journalist and editor and my background spans fashion, culture, wellness/spirituality, and design. For 4 years, I also designed Bodkin, one of the earliest fashion labels to revolve around the concept of sustainability.
Monica Khemsurov is a design journalist and editor who co-founded Sight Unseen, the online platform for contemporary and emerging design, which puts on a must-see fair every year during New York Design Week.
You say you are celebrating the new rituals of smoking through a lens of great design. Can you elaborate?
We love the idea that smoking can be a ceremony, just like having tea or a great meal. Beautiful instruments and accessories that are a pleasure to look at and hold create a richer experience, bringing you and your senses into the moment. Through great design, we are seeking to take this ritual – which has so many benefits for so many people – out of the shadows. Or out of the junk drawer or shoebox, as the case may be.
How do you go about curating the featured designers?
Some are people we know – many are designers that have been featured on Monica's site and have exhibited at her fair. We commission many items or exclusive versions of items. Other items are existing objects we've found and loved, whether from contemporary designers or classic collections (as in the Marianne Brandt for Alessi ashtray we carry). When we travel, we like to source vintage objects as well.
Tetra is more than a platform for high end smoking accessories, it’s a lifestyle. How have you cultivated that?
We like to inspire and educate people through our Instagram and blog with great design and travel imagery, and profiles and studio visits with designers. We have held pop-ups to create a more immersive environment for our objects, and hope to have a brick-and-mortar store in the future.
What's one of your favorite items?
Personally, I love and use the Fundamental Berlin Kugel ashtray. It holds everything from keys to spare change to sage smudges.
What's one of your top performers?
Lindsey Hampton's Ring Pipe is super-popular – it looks even more striking in person! Tetra's Fog Pin is a great little item as well – a perfect tool for picking and packing that looks great on a coffee table or tray.
How are you aiming to elevate the aesthetics of the smoking experience?
We are constantly seeking out objects that you'd be proud to display on your coffee table or mantel or shelf. We believe that little details make a big difference.