My Magic Cabinet is an old style, big set of drawers. It’s in my favourite room, my bedroom, and I’ve hung some paintings above it. What I see before I go to sleep and when I first wake up affects my creativity
During the inauguration of Apivita’s new bioclimatic premises, I gave my granddaughter the wooden box I kept the first soaps I used to sell as a young pharmacist. It was a hard slog, but it turned out to be the most important thing I ever did, because it taught me what it meant to struggle. In this photo you can see all of us, and my granddaughter is holding the case that used to contain those 48 soaps. It’s the first thing I see when I wake up. I’ve never wanted anyone to feel like they have to follow in my footsteps as I’m constantly changing myself. I do want others to believe in themselves though and go after their dreams. This wooden box was full of my passion and dreams.
My Magic Cabinet is an old style, big set of drawers. It’s in my favourite room, my bedroom, and I’ve hung some paintings above it. Nikos, my husband, is very understanding considering how minimal he is. I, on the other hand, am exuberant and a hoarder. My desk has been always in the bedroom. What I see before I go to sleep and when I first wake up affects my creativity.
I keep my stuff in different cupboards, as I’m not a very organized person. I’m not a collector either. The only things that matter are what I can see. I am the type of person who fills a lot of cabinets and, unlike my husband, becomes attached to my possessions.
My creativity is sparked by a number of different things, such as:
-Apivita’s essential oils. I’ve been into aromatherapy ever since my student days. I’ve used them in all our products and continue to use them myself on a daily basis.
-I love citrus fruits, such as grapefruit, orange and lemon. Apart from their wonderful aromas, they clear the mind and boost your energy levels. I rarely need something to calm me down, some like lavender for example.
-I’ve always used wonderful Greek herbs, combing them into special concotions in the early days of our pharmacy.
-Lately, I discovered mountain tea from Mount Olympus, Crete and Mount Taygetus in the Peloponnese. It’s got more unique antioxidant qualities compared to any other tea, including the popular green variety. It occured to me that we need to focus on this and make it an internationally available product. I’ve been working hard on this new project, a company I’ve created with Nikos called Symbeeosis.
-I could never live without honey related products, especially the ones from our own beehives in Andros. We will soon be launching our new Symbeeosis line, beautiful organic thyme, orange and reiki honeys, among many other unique varieties.
-I’ve got a sweet tooth and love ‘spoon sweets’, handmade jam and Laskaris’ sweet preserves from Andros.
-Queen Bee cream, which is amazing due to its composition, philosophy and aroma.
–Apivita express masks, which are my own innovative creation. I deliberately chose one-use sachets because I think that we like to try out something different every day, much in the way we do when choosing our meals.
–The black propolis soap, which has a special place in my heart, as it’s the first product Nikos and I created. In the early days it was particularly difficult to sell a Greek, non-aromatic, black soap. This is still very much the case in fact.
–Apivita’s children’s line because everything to do with kids is extra special. The drawings on the packaging are by Marie Carmen Garcia Bartolome, who is just as popular with grown ups and she is with kids.
-I knew from the moment I saw the golden bee jewelry from Malia, in the archaeological museum in Heraklion that we had to use it in our company logo. When it comes to jewellery I’m generally over the top and go for things that ooze passion and good craftsmanship.
–I adore pharmaceutical jars, perfume bottles and miniature glasses.
–Energy rich semi-precious gemstones. I wear anything that cheers me up and sparks my creativity.
-I also have a collection of Swatch watches.
I remember everything I buy, because I buy everything with love. I do also think though that those able to live minimally do experience life at a higher level.
Everything I buy reminds me of the trips I have made, pleasant moments or if it is a gift, the person who gave it to me.
My little “secret” are the religious icons I prefer to keep in my bedroom. Some are expensive, some not, but they all have value for me even if others may not agree. I don’t like displaying favourite things, including some works by Marie Carmen Garcia Bartolome and my granddaughter, Julia, who I think will become an artist.
I’ve had most of my things for a very long time and I keep them in very good condition.
Nowadays everyone loves taking photos so I decided to stop. I’m trying to live in the moment. Besides, I am not organized enough to archive my photos anyway.
The most important things, even the trips I’ve made, are engraved in my mind and Ι do not need objects to remind me of them. Objects remind me of the somewhat less important moments. Lately, I feel the need to wear my mother’s Aquamarine ring.
My favorite items lead me to Tripoli, where I come from, and Messinia, my mother’s birthplace, where we used to go often during olive harvest. Tripoli is magical to me because that’s where I spent a childhood filled with love. I loved going to the sea with mum, something rather unusual for someone living in Tripoli. I also remember my father’s village, Skliros, which is in between the temple of Apollo and the mountains of Arcadia.
From Messinia I remember the sea and olives, which I learnt to love at an older age. My mum loved olive trees and talked about them so much that my brother and I kept telling her to sell them. Now I realise that olives were as much part of her, as my work is part of me.
When I think of my childhood, I think of flavours, like my mother’s food that we are still blessed to be able to taste. We prevent her from experimenting with TV recipes, since her own food tastes much better. My childhood home was always full of treats. My children had to put up with me burning essential oils instead of baking vanilla cakes.
I’m moving into the food sector, with our new company Symbeeosis. We’re aiming to make things like mountain tea, Cretan malotira, diktamo and honey internationally renowned products. There has been a shift towards healthy eating in recent years. My grandmother used to say that in the old days, people ate healthily because that’s all they had to eat. When humans were given a choice, most of us opted for unhealthy foods. We have been blessed with Greek products of premium quality. We just have to learn how to promote them effectively.
When I was young we used to spend our summers in Petalidi and Kalamata, neither of which I was a fan of. My mum and Nikos are water and nature lovers in general, while I preferred places of wild beauty like Mani or the Cyclades.
Andros became my favourite place as an adult as it combines both Nikos’s style and mine. I have a house in the Chora and Nikos one in Ipsilou, which has a lot of steps as he must be a glutton for punishment
A gift I cherish is Ilias Lalaounis’ “Labyrinth” which my husband bought me when I gave birth to our son. He wanted to symbolize the labyrinth one enters when he/she brings a child into the world.
I have received wonderful presents from my employees. I exercise my memory with gifts, the same way other people do by learning foreign languages.
My mother’s Aquamarine ring brings me good luck. Ever since she gave it to me, I feel I can overcome any difficulty because it fills me with good energy and faith. Once upon a time, I used to think people were capable of anything. Now I believe that faith in God or a higher power in general is necessary as well. We still need patience, perseverance and belief in our vision though in order to achieve our personal or professional goals.
Niki Koutsiana picks her favorite greek artists, designers and producers:
-Fashion Designer Loukia, who I greatly respect as I think we’re fairly similar as people.
-Yiorgos Eleftheriades. What we have in common is that we both managed to sell in Japan, a difficult market.
-Architect Irene Bourlou, who designed the Apivita store on Solonos street. I often collaborate with friends, even though I have put many projects out to tender. I feel that most of our most effective collaborations were with people who knew that when I create, I open my soul.
-Sculptor George Papoutsides, who designed our factory door, as well as some incredible jewels, sculptures and gold coins.
–Pavlos Kyriakidis, a favourite designer of mine, from whom I have two, unique dresses.
–Free Shop stores, that I’ve loved ever since I was young. They’re a constantly evolving business.
–Marathianakis Jewelry, the designers of the golden bee jewel.
–Jewellery designer Katerina Psoma.
–Eleni Vernadaki and her dishes. I’m one of the lucky ones who managed to get her last creations. I have kept some of them and gifted some others.
Niki Koutsiana, a graduate of the Department of Pharmacy of the University of Athens, was a founding member of the Hellenic Homeopathic Medical Society, as well as of the Hellenic Ethnopharmacology Society. In 1979, along with her husband Nikos Koutsianas, they founded APIVITA, the first Greek natural cosmetics company, successfully promoting natural beauty products in thousands pharmacies worldwide. In 2015, Nikos and Niki Koutsiana founded SYMBEEOSIS, whose mission is to offer innovative products made of aromatic and medicinal plants, beekeeping and nutrition products of high biological value, as well as education and training services. Niki gets inspired by Hippocrates’ holistic philosophy for health, beauty and well-being, as well as from the self-managed bee society and the unique Greek biodiversity. She is also a member of the “Hellenic Society for the Protection of the Environment and the Cultural Heritage (ELLET)”, of the organisation “Together for the Child” and a member of the Advisory Committee of the NGO DESMOS.