- Designer and entrepreneur Miia Manninen's family home in Lepäinen is eight bridges away, but you can easily reach it by car from the center of Uusikaupunki in fifteen minutes. Miia mostly works from home and enjoys archipelago life on the beautiful shores of the Gulf of Bothnia.
Peace of mind.
That’s the first thing that comes to mind when you step into the modern archipelago home of entrepreneur Miia Manninen and her family in Lepäinen.
From the large windows that open up to the sea, you can see a stunning winter landscape. Snow covers the ice, and the sun peeks through the clouds. It’s as if nature is whispering to those living in a chaotic world: everything will work out. In the small archipelago village by the Gulf of Bothnia, many different eras have passed, but life has always moved forward.
Over the past twenty years, Lepäinen has become the most important place in Miia’s world. Besides the present, she is also fascinated by the stories of times when there was no road to Lepäinen, and people had to travel to the city by sea. For Miia, the island initially became familiar as a leisure-time resident.
She enjoyed spending time at the cottage with her family, her spouse Markus Kotiranta, and their son Aaron. Gradually, returning to city life in a high-rise apartment became increasingly difficult for Miia. Eventually, archipelago life began to pull them in so strongly that the couple decided to build a year-round home on the plot instead of a new cottage.
Miia, born in Tornio, has been a resident of Uusikaupunki since she was four years old. She grew up in Uusikaupunki, attended school there, and studied design in Kouvola
One thing she was fairly certain of when she was younger was that she would probably never meet a man from Uusikaupunki she could fall in love with. Fate had other plans. During her first vacation from college, she met Markus, and they have been together ever since. Markus, originally from Uusikaupunki, has family ties to Lepäinen as well.
Over the twenty years, Miia has also firmly rooted herself in Lepäinen. Rocks, reeds, and archipelago pines, foxes, seagulls, and swans are part of her everyday life and soul landscape. In designing their home, Miia and Markus were both able to express themselves. Many of their choices – like the curved roof and round window – are not entirely typical, but the end result reflects the personalities of the residents.
The view from the windows changes with the seasons, but there is also human-made art in the house. The living room wall is adorned with a collection of maritime-themed paintings, most of which were painted by the master of the house.
Miia decided to become an entrepreneur at the age of 32 in 2015. She founded a company called Vakka-Suomen Designtuotanto and describes herself as a jack-of-all-trades in design. Her spouse is also an entrepreneur.
“The sense of community among entrepreneurs in Uusikaupunki is fantastic,” Miia says, adding that local services are highly appreciated.
This way, we can keep the good flowing within our hometown,” she says. During the construction project, the expertise and professionalism of local entrepreneurs were invaluable, even though the couple did as much as they could themselves.
Large shopping centers don’t attract Miia. She much prefers to visit the brick-and-mortar stores in the city center, which she believes offer a wide range of everything a person needs.
Even last Christmas, I bought almost all the gifts in Uusikaupunki. I have never received bad service here,” she assures. Miia says that one of the best aspects of Uusikaupunki for a family with children is the ability to move quickly from one place to another without getting stuck in traffic.
A car is certainly necessary for island residents, but Miia also uses the bus, as there are a few routes to Lepäinen. She hopes that in the future, more routes can be added and expanded beyond school vacation times.
Twelve-year-old Aaro attends the comprehensive school’s music class and is actively involved in football at Uudenkaupungin Pallokerho (UPK). The sport has recently gained a lot of popularity in a city known for its strong basketball tradition.
According to Miia, football and the close-knit group of friends formed through it are like hitting the jackpot for parents. As an enthusiastic football mom, she is delighted about the upcoming renovation of Pietola Field, which will significantly improve the training and playing conditions for the sport.
When asked what she would like to show to visitors in her hometown, Miia’s answer comes quickly.
The beachfront boulevard and the Empire-style wooden houses in the city center,” she says, revealing that these places also make her feel good.
Miia visits the “Vanhat talot” (Old Houses) event in Uusikaupunki to admire the cozy homes and picturesque gardens. This year, the event will be held on September 7-8. She thinks it’s great that city residents open their homes for others to enjoy.
You don’t have to own everything yourself. We don’t even own the archipelago, but we can enjoy it,” she says.
Miia also laughs that she has become a passionate home gardener during her years in Lepäinen. She showcases the winter stalks peeking out from under the snow and eagerly anticipates spring when she can put her fingers in the soil.
The Minifarmi & Kukkamessut in Uusikaupunki on May 18-19 is one of the highlights of spring. Miia, who has fallen in love with perennials, says she always finds so many plant treasures there that she doesn’t need to go anywhere else.
To fulfill her dreams, Miia doesn’t need to look beyond her own backyard.
I used to dream that I would see lilies from my window, and now that dream has come true,” Miia chuckles.