While the pandemic-mandated quarantine lifestyle is behind us, there are some holdover habits that have made a permanent comeback in our lives — specifically, the mind-centering and aesthetically pleasing practice of solving puzzles. You may already have a few go-to brands in your rotation, but allow us to add one more to your radar: Ordinary Habit.
The brand was founded in 2019 by mother-daughter duo Teresa and Echo Hopkins, who have backgrounds in creative design and working for museums and nonprofits, respectively. The concept is simple yet impactful: creating beautifully designed puzzles inspired by the work of female artists that will inspire a moment of pause. In addition to the puzzles that launched the brand, Ordinary Habit offers a selection of memory card decks, stylish game accessories, and home decor geared toward, in the words of the brand, celebrating “daily play” while “cultivating mindfulness.”
The brand’s limited-edition puzzles feature the picturesque, color-drenched work of illustrators and designers like Bodil Jane, Asahi Nagata, and Carla Llanos, among many others, and showcase domestic spaces, social gatherings, food, architecture, and the natural world. According to Ordinary Habit’s FAQ page, the brand is “always looking for artists who make us think, and whose work would be particularly interesting for puzzling.” In a post on the brand’s blog, co-founder Echo Hopkins added that “getting to know the people behind the artwork and learning more about their processes has been [one of the most rewarding parts of starting this business].”
Another rewarding thing about Ordinary Habit? Its give-back ethos. The brand donates a portion of the proceeds "on a recurring basis" to organizations supporting emotional and mental wellness. According to the website, it's currently spotlighting The Loveland Foundation, which provides financial assistance for therapy and mental health resources to Black women and girls.
To get acquainted with Ordinary Habit, I received a 100-piece and 1,000-piece puzzle to try out. Keep reading to join me as I put the pieces together in my artful journey.
This 100-piece cutie immediately caught my eye — probably because of the pizza — and I was super here for the chill summer vibes. “‘A Table in Summer’ is a tribute to those little moments in life that seem so ordinary at first glance and yet are so precious,” Berlin-based illustrator Josephine Rais shared on the Ordinary Habit website. The inviting, sunlit design is a reminder of the artist’s belief that “sharing a meal together is the ultimate symbol of community, friendship, and quality of life.” One reviewer called Rais’ design “the sweetest pick-me-up” for those moments when they’re “stumped by a work problem ... and need to reset by using a different part of [my] brain. It doesn't take up much space and is an absolute treat to look at,” they continued. “10/10 will bring more joy to your work week.”
Since I can be intimidated by larger puzzles, I decided this small one was the perfect Sunday afternoon activity. I unboxed it with my boyfriend, and we tackled it together over the course of about a half-hour. When distractions like binging Netflix and endless Instagram scrolling tend to take up more weekend time than I'd like to admit, this Ordinary Habit minipuzzle was the perfect offline activity. The 100-piecers are the perfect gift since they clock in at a relatively affordable price point and are the perfect entry-level puzzle for folks like me that can be intimidated by larger-piece puzzles.
On the opposite end of the seasonal spectrum was “Jardin d'hiver”, a 1,000-piece stunner featuring a peaceful scene of a glass-paned room — lit, presumably, by the winter sun. Unlike the 100-piece puzzle that I completed, this large-scale design featured a drawstring canvas pouch to house the pieces — a small addition that made the experience feel extra-special. I know you're not supposed to judge a book by the cover, but the packaging was truly stunning. The box opens up through the side with an image of the artwork printed on the interior. There's also a postcard printed with the image to use as a handy reference.
Italian illustrator Lida Ziruffo “draws inspiration from nature,” according to the Ordinary Habit website. The artist’s textured, pattern-rich interior scene makes for a challenging but satisfying puzzle. The finished result is a gorgeous 27-inch-by-19-inch image perfect for enclosing in a frame (a puzzle-preserving hack that I learned from my piece-work enthusiast mom). I enjoyed slowly chipping away at the complex, 1,000-piece design over a period of time — it was sort of like reading a book. I find that I’m on my phone almost constantly these days — even if I'm eating dinner or watching TV — but engaging in a puzzle forces me to carve out some rare phone-free moments.
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