HGTV Green Home 2012: The Serenbe Story

Serenbe, a sustainable community less than 30 minutes from Atlanta, serves as the location of HGTV Green Home 2012. Founder Steve Nygren shares the inspirational story of his family's life-changing decision to move the country.

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Serenbe Landscape

In the early 1990s, Steve and Marie Nygren were living what they thought was the dream. True urbanites, the couple owned a home in the affluent Atlanta neighborhood of Ansley Park, were active community members and managed thriving restaurant businesses. "We could walk three blocks one way to the symphony and the High Museum, and four blocks the other way to the botanical gardens and Piedmont Park," Steve recalls.

A Sunday drive in the country changed everything.

Marie spied an ad for a historic farm for sale, located just 20 minutes south of the Atlanta airport. The couple, with three daughters, ages 3, 5 and 7, had no intention of buying, but they were curious to see open land so close to an urban center. The Nygrens connected with the sellers on that lazy day in the country and fell in love with the circa-1905 farmstead. After buying the 60-acre property, weekend visits became more frequent, and Steve noticed a value shift — a connection to nature and community. "It was an eye opener for me, watching our family leave this fabulous house in the city," he says. "My girls could hardly wait to get out here, where we had no toys except a puzzle for rainy days."

In 1994, the Nygrens sold their city home, walked away from business and community responsibilities in Atlanta, and settled full-time at the farm, where a small bed-and-breakfast business satisfied their creative impulse. Six years later, encroaching development prompted Steve to purchase land surrounding his farmstead and join partners in the formation of Chattahoochee Hills, a 40,000-acre city in which 70 percent of the acreage is protected from development.

Serenbe, a 1,000-acre community that includes the Nygrens' original farmstead-turned-inn-and-restaurant, is the first hamlet to exist within Chattahoochee Hills. Marie conjoined two words, "serenity" and "be," to coin the community's name. "Everything we were searching for was here, and we could slow down and simply be," says Steve. "If you spend an afternoon, a weekend or a lifetime at Serenbe, I hope that's what you will discover."

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