Sight Unseen and Tetra Founder Monica Khemsurov Talks WFH, Summer Style, & ASMR Videos

Plus, how creativity is connected to comfort.

monica khemsuro
Each week we’re checking in with friends to see how they’re working from home and leaning into the summer months. This week we chatted with the co-founder of Sight Unseen and Tetra, Monica Khemsurov. See how she’s staying inspired and filling her quarantine days, as well as her daily routine filled with bright-colored glassware, patchwork bike shorts, and dream ASMR!


How do you start your days?

“By working in bed, honestly. I don’t drink coffee or eat breakfast, so I wake up, check my email, check Instagram for messages, and dive right in. I generally work for an hour in bed and then get up and move to the sofa or do other things. On weekends I typically start my days by either reading in bed for a couple hours or going to yoga. Depending on how long my to-do list is, of course! Yes, there are certainly some upsides to not having kids.”

Talk to us a little bit about your work environment right now: Are you back in the office, or working remotely from home?

“I haven’t worked in an office since 2009, and I hope to keep it that way forever! I’m way more productive at home, where I’m comfortable, than at an office, where I get bored and restless easily.”

What are the most critical things needed for creativity and to survive a workday?

“For me, that’s comfort. If I’m not physically comfortable, I don’t get anything done and I can’t focus. Without being able to focus, I can’t be creative. Also, food! Lunch is so important for me. Whenever I hear people say ‘I was so busy I didn’t eat lunch,’ it blows my mind—I would not be able to function without a healthy and substantial midday meal. I sound like a schoolmarm, but it’s true.”

It’s a tricky time in our world, and economically speaking, it’s unclear what the future holds. How do you foresee this time impacting your industry?

“Honestly, when it comes to the design industry, I can’t answer this question, nor do I think I should. It’s too early to draw any conclusions from what’s happening right now as it’s on a scale no one has ever seen before, and so much remains uncertain. Whether or not people start designing hotels again or what design trends we’ll see as a result feels fairly meaningless to me when at the moment there are people who can’t pay rent or have lost loved ones or are suffering from permanent lung damage. I think it will have obvious impacts for some industries, but for mine, as long as designers (just like anyone else) can find enough work to survive and feed themselves and their families, that’s all that matters at the moment. Once the future gets brighter for everyone, we can start to ponder the effects.”

Tell us a little bit about your style right now: What’s your go-to uniform?

“Before COVID, it was either a flattering dress with Hopp shoes and lots of sterling silver jewelry, or a pair of patterned pants with a boxy Everybody Trash tee. Since COVID, I’ve mostly been wearing loungewear and pajamas. Though I just discovered ‘Community Cloth’ by Red Luck, and now I think I might start living in their patchwork bike shorts and t-shirt. For the time being, I’m embracing this ‘why bother wearing makeup or clothes appropriate for your age’ moment. It’s relaxing not to give a shit.”

Are there any style essentials you rely on for your summer wardrobe?

“Just my black Retrosuperfuture Riviera sunglasses. They’re so classic that they go with everything. Then again, a lot of breezy little dresses just to keep cool and comfortable. I’ve never felt comfortable in jeans—or jean shorts! I’m weird like that.”

Let’s switch gears for a minute: Are there any beauty products essential to your day-to-day?

“I don’t pay much attention to beauty or skin-care products, to be honest. I have a super-small repertoire, and I almost never change it. Peet Rivko’s Gentle Cleanser is probably my essential, and outside of that, all I really use is pure rosehip seed oil to moisturize. Oh, and I just discovered R+Co’s Cactus Shampoo which uses diatomaceous earth and gives my fine, thin hair beachier texture without making it greasy. I can’t use it every day because of buildup, but every few days, it’s amazing. That said, I only get a great effect from it in New York City water; when I’ve used it elsewhere, it doesn’t feel quite as bouncy and clean.”

How do you unwind at the end of the day? Cocktails? Recipe, please!

“I’m a social drinker, so I don’t have much desire to drink at home alone. Which is funny because out in the world, there’s nothing I enjoy more than a fancy vodka martini with olives (ideally with a french-fry chaser). Post-COVID, at home, I unwind at the end of the day either with TV, a Zoom call with friends, or with ASMR videos, LOL. Here’s my favorite.”

Gentle Cleanser

Peet Rivko
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