Laura Yeh and Zach Jenkins are driven by creative expression. In 2020, the couple put their heads together to create Tête Studio, a Brooklyn-based design company that focuses on both form and practicality. “We want to bridge the gap between function and art and try to bring some of that beauty and preciousness of the art world into the product world,” Jenkins tells Business of Home.
The two met as interns at Williams-Sonoma and have been together for 11 years. Both had an educational background in industrial design—Yeh from Parsons School of Design and Jenkins from the Rhode Island School of Design. Their career paths eventually parted ways: He stayed in the furniture and design realm, first working for Pablo Designs and now as lead designer at Hellman Chang; she moved into the beauty world, working in art direction for Rituals, Ilia and Glossier. Whether designing furniture or commercial products, Yeh always approached the work from a sculptural perspective.
This was the exact idea that inspired Tête Studio. “When you design for mass production, there are so many constraints like branding, so we started Tête with the idea of approaching things as art objects,” she says. “We’re not looking at them as commercial products or even thinking about the brand so much. It’s really driven by process and inspiration.”
While the official start of the studio was in 2020, the two have been collaborating on decorating and designing their own spaces as long as they’ve been together. The studio’s name was inspired by this dynamic, coming from the French phrase tête-à-tête, meaning a private conversation—and literally “head to head.” “We’re married partners, and we work together professionally,” says Jenkins. “It’s a very deep connection, and a lot of our work is based on conversations and inspiration we have day to day, living and working together.”
It’s those daily inspirations that drive their work. The ideas begin in the natural world, then get sketched on paper, then morph into clay models to “push the idea as far as we can,” says Jenkins. Two of these concepts became the mounted Droplet mirror and hand-blown Puddle mirror, part of the studio’s Puddle collection. Influenced by the line’s splashy namesake and a simple glass of water, the couple aimed to capture those natural moments permanently through art; the resulting pieces resemble rain droplets on a window.
These are not your traditional mirrors. “When you work with glass, it feels really cold and really rigid, and we wanted to do a take on it where it felt alive,” says Yeh. “That’s something I always look for when I’m designing or creating something: I want it to look like it was worn or already made, and not like something that’s man-made.” The mirrors are currently sold through 1stDibs, and the pair are also in talks to put them up in a few showrooms so viewers can see the interactive pieces in full effect.
Looking ahead, the couple are working on some new designs, namely light fixtures made with natural materials like tatami and large seashells. While designing original products together has been their focus, they have also begun designing interior spaces for clients—an offshoot of their work curating their own homes. With the likes of Ilse Crawford and Kelly Wearstler as guiding lights, they hope to someday design not only their clients’ homes but also the objects within them. “A total work of art,” as Yeh calls it. “Our goal is to have a space that’s ours in every way.”