PALMETTO, Ga. -- Away from the congestion of Atlanta's highways and congestion of your packed calendar, a slower pace of life has been developing over the last few years. Ahead of Earth Day this month, our "Open House" series takes you inside an eco-friendly home, nestled in an eco-friendly community, where it's all about going back to the basics.
Nan Swann Haverty designed and built this country retreat in Serenbe seven years ago.
"This home is more like comfort living," Haverty said.
She said her three-bedroom home, with a separate guest suite, suits everyone from empty-nesters to young families.
"The goal is for children to be able to walk to school and bike to school," she explained.
It's also for green living. The nearly 3,000-square foot home is earthcraft certified. All homes here must be eco-friendly.
With the detached playroom, it's also kid-friendly.
"I want them out there," Nan joked.
But when it's time for dinner, there's the enormous school bell to signal everyone home.
Also in this private backyard, there's a salt water pool and pavilion.
"It's the place you can turn your kids lose, on a bike and on a golf cart," Haverty said.
Golf carts are a staple in this developing community in Palmetto, Georgia. Our tour guide is Steve Nygren, co-founder of the Serenbe community.
With 34 restaurants in eight states, Nygren sold his business in 1991, got off what he calls the "treadmill of life" and focused on 60 acres of farmland he purchased.
His weekend retreat quickly became a permanent home.
"It was a total value change for me," Nygren said.
In 2006, others followed his lead when he broke ground on the community.
The original farmhouse is now an inn with 19 rooms. Vegetables served in the farmhouse restaurant come from the garden. Adding to the atmosphere, there are donkeys, baby goats and horses for trailriding.
"I had no idea what I was doing," Nygren admitted of buying the animals. He also said he didn't have this grand vision for the property two decades ago.
"I had no clue this would ever happen," explained the former restauranteur, who now calls himself a 'developer by default'.
Thirty-two miles from Midtown Atlanta, in this Palmetto, Ga. community, it's all about disconnecting and becoming one with nature. But you're not totally disconnected since there's Wi-Fi in town, where there are restaurants and boutiques.
"It's about having the values of yesteryear while having the connectivity and convenience of tomorrow," Nygren said.
On board from the beginning -- Nan Swann Haverty. Her home is on the market for $1 million or $1.1 million furnished. But smaller cottages are available for a third of the price.
"This is a unique pocket that is relatively close but unspoiled," the co-founder of Serenbe said.
Now 1000 acres straddling Fulton and Coweta counties, clearly, this eco-friendly experimental sustainable community is developing. But the core values remain at Serenbe. It's a name the developer's wife coined. It means a cross between serenity and being.
"We found when we slowed down to simply be, everything was right here," Nygren explained.
Although Serenbe is a developing residential community, the public is welcome. The community's next big event is 7th annual May Day celebration on Sunday, May 6.
However, if a day trip doesn't suit you and you'd rather reside at Serenbe, you might have the opportunity. HGTV's 2012 green home giveaway is situated at Serenbe. You can enter to win a 2,300 square foot eco-friendly farmhouse.