Assi Verkasalo, Nordic Chill

August is special for me. August 9 is Moomin Day, celebrating the birthday of the cartoon characters’ Finnish creator, Tove Jansson. I’m pretty sure I have the biggest Moomin mug collection in New Zealand!

The Moomins first appeared in 1945. The mugs feature an original Tove Jansson design. The first one came out in 1990 and there’s more than 100 now. I have over 80. Every house in Finland has at least one Moomin mug, and a sauna.

I was born in Finland and left there at 18 to go to London to study fashion promotion. That’s where I met my husband, Cameron, who is from Taranaki. We moved to New Zealand in 2011 and settled in Christchurch. We live in West Melton now with our two gorgeous boys, Emmett and Nico.

My favourite season is winter. Where I come from in Finland we get four months of snow in winter and I miss that. I still love the cold. A day over 15 degrees makes me sweat!

When we got here we wanted to build a house so I started a building apprenticeship and worked on building sites. I left halfway through and in 2014 started Nordic Chill online only. In 2015 a friend suggested I try a pop-up store at The Colombo.

Initially it was for three months, then six, and we’re still here! The shop has allowed me to combine my visual design skills and my love of beautiful things. I love colourful things, anything made out of wool, especially throws.

Coming from Europe you assume Ikea is everywhere. It was a bit of a shock to find no Ikea and a limited range and outlets for storage solutions that would last for years and were still affordable. I saw a gap in the middle of a market that was either poor quality and cheap or good quality and expensive.

Right from the first shipment it wasn’t just Ikea, though. We also stock other Scandinavian brands – they bring a different flair, I think.

The shop is a slice of home not just for Finns but for all Europeans. They feel a connection here. We’ve heard so many stories! From Kiwis too, who have travelled to Europe, even if just to the UK.

The Colombo is a good space for us. It’s a good size – not too big. We’d be lost in a big mall. And it’s a destination.