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The Future of Respite
Stephanie Davis Smith | Photo: Courtesy of Serenbe | November 9, 2017
This high-end resort-slash-residential community outside Atlanta is changing the way guests and residents think about food, nature, architecture and well-being.
You can get the story of Serenbe in a variety of ways. One is by hanging out with the community’s organic farmer, Matt Clayton. Each year, the 10-acre certified-organic sustainable farm he tills provides 60,000 pounds of produce for Saturday markets and Community Supported Agriculture boxes delivered to residents, as well as restaurants both on property and in nearby Atlanta. Get Clayton, or his wife, Kali, on the topic of miniature heirloom tomatoes and winter squash—all grown without synthetic pesticides, fertilizers and chemicals—and you’ll quickly understand why Serenbe Farms is at the center of life in this upscale new urbanist village.
Second is bumping into Jeny Mathis, a passionate resident and the owner of Zoetic, which provides meditation, yoga and multiday mindfulness retreats to guests at The Inn at Serenbe. From the front porch of her picturesque eco-friendly home, she’ll tell you she and her family moved to Serenbe to connect more intentionally and authentically with neighbors and nature.
Then there’s sitting outside the Blue Eyed Daisy enjoying a quinoa bowl brimming with blanched kale and roasted red peppers with Steve Nygren, the founder of Serenbe. His shock of thick white hair belies his youthful nature. His grand hand gestures are a sign of his enthusiasm for what he, his wife and his three daughters have built here: a luxury 27-room inn, 21 eco-friendly homes you can rent for larger groups and families, stunning horse stables, a fantastic playhouse, an artist-in-residence program and, most importantly, a respect for the outdoors that is unparalleled by anyone—except maybe Miraval Arizona Resort & Spa. He points to the lampposts across the street and explains how each were handcrafted by an iron cast artist and double as a signal for those in-the-know that a path in the woods is nearby for explorers wanting to forgo streets and sidewalks for dirt paths and pine needles.
Like the lampposts, everything about Serenbe is thought out to the nth degree, with extreme purpose and an objective in mind. There are few garages on any of the homes because Nygren wanted residents and guests to interact rather than going from house to garage to work and back each day. There are no individual mailboxes; instead, they are grouped in common areas to foster even more interaction.
But the best way to discover the story of this special retreat is to go exploring. Plan a stay at the inn or in a cottage during a gallery exhibit, artist lecture, outdoor concert, dinner series or while one of Serenbe Playhouse’s insanely creative outdoor productions is being staged—works like Cabaret, Macbeth and The Legend of Sleepy Hollow have been performed in fields, by streams, on rocks, in the woods and more. Once again, theatergoers are connected with nature in a creative way.
Perhaps an even better way to get Serenbe’s 23-year-old story—from family homestead to cutting-edge Utopia—is to watch as guests of the inn return renewed after wandering through wildflower fields or rave how good they feel after eating clean, unprocessed non- GMO food at The Farmhouse or The Hil for a few days. Watch as their moods lift while they peruse books at the Hills & Hamlets Bookshop and stock up on gourmet cheeses and meats at the General Store to be enjoyed later under a tree canopy with a bottle of wine.
For Serenbe, it’s not how its story is told, but in how many places and faces.
Weekend rates $295- $1,670 per night, 10950 Hutcheson Ferry Road, Chattahoochee Hills, Ga., 770.463.2610
Originally published in the November/December issue of Silicon Valley