Kiitos featured on the Funkis website

Maria Malakellis

We are thrilled to share with you this post from, featuring our beautiful store!

funkis have many amazing stockists dotted around Australia and we wanted to take the opportunity to introduce a few of them to you. First up is Maria Malakellis, the fabulous director of Kiitos - Scandinavian-inspired stores in the Victorian coastal towns of Barwon Heads and Torquay

1. There are so many great stories behind Kiitos living by Design – both you & the space itself lived such interesting lives prior to opening the doors in 2009. Can you tell us a little about what led you to launch this gorgeous mecca of Scandinavian design?

In a nutshell I launched Kiitos because I was desperately unemployed, but the seed for opening a Scandinavian-inspired store was sown way back in 2003 when I met my gorgeous friend Josie who owns a similar store in Manhattan NY and then traveled to Finland to meet with Marimekko.

2. The space that houses the Barwon Heads store had previous incarnations as a mechanics garage, pinball parlour and Greek restaurant. What were the challenges & lures to choosing this space and Barwon Heads in particular?

It is true the garage space has had many incarnations. I chose this space because my family owns the premises and my father who is not a man to mince his words told me in his heavy Greek accent "don't be gutless go do something in Barwon Heads". It was all the encouragement I needed; remember I was very unemployed and with no formal education my choices were limited. I knew that I loved good design and interacting with people, but just so you know I almost opened a cup cake shop in that space then I thought you cray cray girl you've always wanted to sell Marimekko.... the rest is kind of history now. As for the space it presented no special challenges I knew instinctively the moment I walked in and opened the original bi fold doors that the space would look great. We have an amazing North aspect so plenty of sunlight. It took 25 days to renovate and set up the store as I wanted to take advantage of Christmas and Summer trade. It was quite an adventure let me tell you, I was sleeping on a blow up mattress on the floor out the back, working around the clock. Thankfully there are shower facilities onsite!

3. The mantra 'Living by Design' is something you adhere to strongly in terms of what is sold in-store. I am assuming you have a fantastically decorated & equipped home?

Yes I do believe we need to live by design and make careful decisions on what we spend our money on. I have never been a fan of mindless consumerism (unless it involves travel) I have always purchased things that will last the distance, are beautiful and timeless. My home is quite minimal and I'm very happy to report that I have purchased one set of couches in my adult life that have been re-covered several times.

4. How has your range of products, and brands grown over the years?

I laugh when I remember my first ever trade fair, there I was trying to convince agents and wholesalers; "hey I'm Maria and Ive opened a shop in Barwon Heads, in an old service station and would like to stock your products" and they, would look at me dubiously! Thankfully after the first year Kiitos started to be noticed and I slowly created some trust with my chosen suppliers and then all the good brands started to contact me which was great as I got to choose what I wanted to represent and promote at Kiitos. To be frank I haven't even attended the last two major gift fairs.

5. Kiitos means thank you in Finnish – two stores later (you opened a Torquay location in 2014) the choice of name must ring even more true?

Kiitos does indeed mean thank you, in Finnish and I cannot express how grateful I am for everything. Every day at Kiitos is a joy. I love what I do and don"t consider it to be work. I adore the store, the stock is so uplifting and beautiful. This region is truly amazing but above all what for fills me the most is the interactions and friendships I have with people, the team of girls who help me run the stores, the customers who come to the stores, the reps, the designers, the creative peeps and wholesalers I have met all over the world. I say Kiitos to them all.

6. There has been a real resurgence of Scandinavian design in Australia– why do you think it seems to fit so well into the Australian way of life?

I am no great expert but perhaps it simply just slots in nicely with our laid back, relaxed attitudes and way of life. I know for certain that it works so well in my customers beach homes.

7. You've recently launched a gorgeous new website, and always seem to be so busy! Anything exciting you're working on now?

Thank you we are chuffed at our new website, and yes as much as I tell myself to slow down its nigh on impossible. My over active brain just cant stop thinking, imagining. I find it impossible to go on a holiday and not think what can I find for the Kiitos collection. There is nothing particularly I'm working on at the moment, but that's not to say something won't present itself tomorrow!

kiitos living by design: stocking funkis clogs and more

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