Friday, May 18, 2012

HGTV Green Home 2012 Tour, Continued

I've shared details of the interior of the HGTV Green Home at Serenbe, so now I thought I would let you see the outdoors and surrounding area.  No doubt you are wondering what that odd-looking chair is all about -- so are we!  It is on the empty lot to the south of the Green Home and we think it is some sort of outdoor art project.  The chair is covered in wire mesh and there is moss growing on it as well as that fern.  It actually blends in quite well with the green space surrounding it and I don't think it is permanent since the lot will eventually be sold, but it is an example of the rather unique and intriguing approach to life found at Serenbe, where creativity and thinking outside the box are encouraged!

The landscaping around the Green Home is slightly more conventional and quite attractive:

My husband loved the fact that blueberry-laden bushes were planted in abundance along the sidewalks!  Apparently in the Grange development, which is focused around agriculture, landscaping options include a lot of edible plants such as blueberry bushes, peach trees, fig trees, and even pretty (if slightly out of focus) plum trees:

My husband also likes Oregon-grape (Mahonia aquifolium), which is not edible and not really a grape but is one of the foundation plantings at the front of the Green Home:

Flowering plants were just beginning to put on a display:

Daylily (Hemerocallis sp.)

Wonderfully fragrant gardenias

Perennial bachelor's button (Centaurea sp.) growing along the Green Home bioswale

A magnolia blossom, also wonderfully fragrant

The landscaping at the front and sides of each lot is installed and totally maintained by the community.  Lawns are not permitted, but there is a list of plantings from which each homeowner can choose, so if, for example, you wanted to have all blueberry bushes surrounding your home that would be possible.  Someone else does all the work and you get to reap the rewards -- it doesn't get much better than that!  You can also opt to fence off all or part of the side yards and maintain them yourself if you wanted more control over your garden or wanted to have a fenced dog yard.  This development is very pet-friendly.  We were told that three dogs (the number we have) was perfectly fine, and even backyard hens are allowed, but no roosters for obvious reasons.

My husband and I took a stroll along the lake in the evening and really enjoyed it.  There were no biting insects at that time of day (about five o'clock), and the temperature was warm but not hot, with a light breeze and lots of shade to keep it cool.  You may remember that when we were there in February the lake was rather muddy-looking, but it has cleared up:

The lucky winner of the Green Home could enjoy this scenic stroll every day!  In fact, the view to the far south end of the lake shown in the second picture will remain undeveloped woodland, since no lots are to be built there (it is the spillway for the lake should water levels ever rise too much).  There is also a buffer zone between the lake and the houses built around it so there will be no homes built right up to the edge of the lake.

I mentioned in a previous post that on our last trip to Serenbe we learned that Bosch, the company that provided the energy-efficient appliances for the Green Home, was building two model homes just up the road from the Green Home.  They have made significant progress, and one of these homes (the white one in the first picture) should be ready for viewing in a matter of weeks:

Both houses have solar panel and geothermal energy sources, and the one in the first picture is a "net-zero house", which means net energy consumption is negligible or even negative (i.e., the home produces more energy than used!) -- good for both the environment and your wallet!

TOTO is a plumbing products manufacturer with a focus on green products; Ballard Designs is an Atlanta-based company specializing in European-inspired home furnishings; McKinney & Son Builders is a local award-winning company that has built a number of eco-friendly homes in Serenbe

The Bosch Net Zero Home is right next to the Grange retail area.  Building of this retail area is also well underway.  Set to open soon, Fern's Market will be Serenbe's food market and general store, offering "food and goods produced in an environmentally sound and socially conscious manner":

The space right next to Fern's Market will house the Bosch Experience Center, which will showcase all of Bosch's energy-efficient and sustainable home products.  It is intended to be a hub where all interested groups can learn about the Bosch products, but it will also be a local attraction for Serenbe residents in particular, since the kitchen in the center will be used to host celebrity chef cooking classes!

A second retail space will be built behind this one, with plans for a pub-style restaurant featuring a celebrity chef on one floor and a gym and yoga studio on another.  Still in the planning stage is an organic produce store adjacent to Serenbe Farms which may also sell other items such as pet foods.  The Grange subdivision seems to be growing steadily, and it is exciting to see this growth taking place!

Finally, I got to go on a trail ride while we were there, and I just wanted to say that I had a great time!  The weather was perfect, the group size was just right, and the horses were fun to ride.  The trails had good footing and took us through mostly wooded areas.  We even passed a small waterfall, but it was too dark in that area to get a picture.  We did end up in a lush meadow where we were able to let our horses move out a little faster:

A beautiful meadow,

a pretty Palomino,

and Spice, my sweet horse for the day!

Our overnight stay at the The Inn at Serenbe could not have been better and our room was spacious, light, and airy (although we did have to master the slightly temperamental shower fixture and overcome our own technology limitations to win the battle with the satellite TV!).  Dinner at The Farmhouse restaurant was excellent.  The picturesque inn is a popular place for weddings, and there was a wedding on the grounds the day after we arrived.  The visit truly was a mini-vacation for us.  Everything from the Green Home tour to our stay at the Inn to my trail ride the next day added up to a very pleasurable experience -- I am ready to do it again!

Sunday, May 13, 2012

HGTV Green Home 2012 Tour

Bulldog painting "Pancake" by David Ryden in children's bedroom

My husband and I toured the HGTV 2012 Green Home in Serenbe on Thursday, and it was truly impressive!  Forgive me for the prominent display of the bulldog painting, but since my husband teaches at UGA we felt the need to show a little "Georgia Dawg" spirit -- besides, "Pancake" is adorable!  I think you are going to laugh at some of the rather odd photos that I am posting but I tried to get pictures of items that fellow followers of the HGTV blogs expressed interest in seeing, like closet interiors, which is important information but not necessarily the most photogenic.

The weather for our tour was absolutely gorgeous -- mild temperatures, low humidity, light breeze, and not a cloud in the sky.  After picking up a takeout lunch at the rather packed Blue Eyed Daisy Bakeshop, we drove to the site of the Green Home and ate lunch while looking out at the lovely view across the street from the house.  Then we headed in for the tour.  We didn't know what to expect, but I assumed we would be kept on a tight schedule in appointed groups with little time to deviate from the plan.  To our delight, just the opposite was true!  Instead of being assigned to one tour guide, the guides were assigned to rooms and areas of the house, and after donning your blue paper booties you are free to roam the house at will, asking questions, taking photographs, and even touching and opening all but a few items that are off limits.  Unfortunately, the three unfinished rooms off of the front entry level foyer were off limits and the doors kept shut, so viewing and photographing them were not possible.  We were told that the total square footage of all three spaces was 1,000 square feet.  The two rooms at the front of the house have windows -- one is ready to be turned into an additional bedroom and bathroom, while the other could be used for storage or possibly even a small office.  The back room, by far the largest space, runs underneath the house and has no windows.  It would make a great media or family room or a "man cave", but since it is windowless it cannot be turned into a bedroom.

We then headed up the stairs to the main floor.  There is a mirror placed rather low on the first landing, and my clever husband figured out that it was a way of determining if someone was coming up the stairs!  This picture isn't great, but if you look through the open stair risers you can just see the mirror:

Once upstairs we started wandering randomly to examine whatever caught our fancy.  I immediately gravitated to the kitchen countertops, which are my favorite item in the house.  We were told that they were made by an Atlanta company called DEX Industries, and that the recycled brown glass pieces came from Atlanta's own Sweetwater Brewing Company:

Oh, how I covet these countertops!

We were not allowed to touch the kitchen cabinets, but the pantry doors were open and it was quite spacious.  Unfortunately I forgot to take a picture, but all of the dishware that was set up on the outside dining table for the HGTV photo shoots were in the pantry, as well as many cans of Bush's baked beans, and there was still plenty of room for more.  I really liked the cow mugs, but no one knew where they were purchased, so I will have to remain "cow-less" for now!  The appliances are the most efficient ones made by Bosch, but there is no microwave!  Apparently, there is some question as to whether microwave radiation is an environmentally safe, so it was decided not to include one in the Green Home.

I then headed for the back entry mudroom to get a few photos:

I thought cat lovers might want to know that there were supplies for cats in the pet pantry as well!

Someone on the HGTV blog wanted to know where the light switch by the entry door was located, so I took this photo:

It is on the wall with the peg rack, right next to the lamp on the hall table.

Next it was on to the master bedroom suite, to get some photos of the walk-in closet at the far end of the master bath:

Facing closet, right side

Facing closet, center (with a bit of the left doorway in view)

Facing closet, left side

Facing closet, left side on door wall there are two hanging laundry bags

Overhead access in the master closet:

I really like this rustic dresser in the master bath across from the water closet:

Speaking of the water closet, this was apparently the one "oops!" moment in the building process!  The door dimensions were calculated based on normal toilet length, but since the toilets are the dual flush variety the tank is a little wider than usual.  This means that the door is too long and is blocked by the toilet, so it cannot be shut!  The simple solution is to remove the door, which in our opinion was not necessary anyway, since the fixture sits back in an enclosed area of its little room, and there will only be one or two people using this facility.  If you must have privacy you can always hang a sliding curtain.

I also had to get this shot of the inside of the shower:

There was some concern on the blog that water would get all over the floor from the open shower.  There is a drop in floor level of about two inches from the main room into the shower, so that should prevent most of the water from flowing outside of the shower area, and strategically aiming the shower heads should prevent even more water from escaping.  Of course, if you like to fling water about vigorously while you shower, some will certainly get out onto the main floor, but otherwise the floor should not get too much wetter than it would when you step out of any other shower.

I loved this little reading nook in the master bedroom:

And this little courtyard right outside feels completely private:

The Doggie Green Home is very spacious, and one of my husband's favorite aspects of the house (he also loved the bucket and pulley in the children's room -- I guess he's just a kid at heart!):

It is probably too small for very large dogs, but one of our 50-pound dogs would easily fit, and several small dogs or cats would be quite comfortable inside.  Older dogs would need a ramp to replace the steps, but that would be an easy fix.

Of all the rooms in the house, the only one we would have liked to have seen made larger is the master bedroom.  Pushing the master bath out by two feet would have made all the difference, but the house may have already been close to the maximum width so perhaps there was no room.  The two upstairs bedrooms were not large, but we felt they were adequate in size for children and guests.  And unfortunately, no one knew the name of the paint used on the turquoise nightstand next to the (queen-sized) bed.  The color is even prettier than it looks in photos, so it would be nice to find out exactly what it is!

The day was so beautiful that all doors and windows in the house were open, and we really got to feel the flow of the indoor-outdoor living concept:

Back patio viewed from living room

Side courtyard viewed from kitchen

The whole house is wired for sound, including the courtyard, but there is no sound system installed:

Living room


The ceiling fan in the Georgia room was on, and there was quite a pleasant breeze passing through that comfortable space:

We did not notice any insects at all in the vicinity of the Green Home, either inside or outside, during our mid-afternoon tour.  Later, in the early evening, my husband and I walked along the lake for a little while, and we did not get bitten by anything then either.  The temperature was only in the upper seventies to low eighties that day and the breeze was probably a factor in keeping insects at bay.  The realtor we talked to the next day told us that the Grange area usually has a breeze and that insects tend to be less of a problem there, but this is Georgia so I'm sure there will be buggy days!  While there are no screens for the Green Home windows, we did find out that they are Andersen windows, so screens are most likely available if the future homeowner wants them.  We tend to spend more time outdoors in the spring, fall, and even milder days of winter than in the summer, since Georgia summers can be so hot and humid, and at these times of year insects are rarely a problem.

Before going upstairs to the second floor I took a close-up shot of the retreat room sofa:

I did not realize that this sofa had such texture and pattern until I saw it up close, so I wanted to make sure others realized this as well.

On the way upstairs, I had to take pictures of some donkey photography (we have a miniature donkey) and the unusual light fixture at the top of the cupola:

On the second floor, I took some quick shots before we had to leave to meet with a realtor.  Here are some images of the laundry room closet, which is quite large:

Facing closet, left side

Facing closet, right side (I am curious as to why there is a box of Sony 3D glasses in this closet!)

An added bonus -- overhead storage in the laundry room:

I did ask about access to the mechanical parts of the washer and dryer, as that was a concern which came up on the blog.  The machines will have to be pulled away from the wall and out from under the cabinet, but they are supposedly easily moved, according to one guide who has the same machines.

Here is a glimpse into the guest room closet:

And this is an interior shot of one the two children's room closets (the other was in such a dark corner it did not photograph well, but it was identical to this one):

I should mention that the closets have very high ceilings, so additional storage can be put in up above.

On the way out, my husband and I noticed that the Trex decking lacked the usual abundance of nails or screws to hold it in place.  Instead, the boards are held in place by these metal pieces:

This makes for a very clean and attractive look, not to mention no screws or nails popping out over time to snag an unsuspecting foot!

Here is a look at the solar panels, which we were told supply one-third of the energy for the Green Home:

We were unable to photograph the interior of the garage, which was off limits because the GMC Terrain was locked inside, and the garage has no windows.  I did get answers to a few more questions before we left:

1) Street parking is permitted.

2) There is a security system, but no whole house integrated electronic system ("smart house").

3) All of the indoor plants are artificial.

4) The rather unique trash recycling system consists of an underground container accessed through a round metal cover that looks like a manhole cover (but not as heavy!).  Everything is sorted into either trash, recyclable, or compost material, and it is all picked up twice a week for a monthly fee of $25.

5) The house is not handicap accessible.  The best option for handicap access is probably via a ramp from the street, through the front foyer entry, and then some sort of lift chair up the stairs to the main floor.  I asked about installing an elevator but the guides weren't sure where it would go, so it may or may not be an option.

6) The Georgia room is not air-conditioned, but it would be easy to install a single room ductless air conditioner if the homeowner felt the need for it -- I even found one that can be disguised as art!

7) The exact lot size was not known, but the guides thought it was somewhere around 0.2 acres.

8) HOA fees are listed on the Serenbe website -- for a cottage lot like that of the Green Home the fees are currently listed at $828 annually (subject to change).

9) There are several playgrounds in Serenbe, as well as treehouses!  There is also a dog park, ball field, and small basketball court as well as tennis courts, but no community pool (yet!).  Horseback riding lessons as well as trail rides are available.

10) Right now the nearest grocery store is a small one five minutes away in Palmetto, with Publix and Kroger supermarkets about 15 minutes away in nearby Newnan.  A brand new food store called Fern's Market will be opening in a matter of weeks at the new Grange shopping center -- more about that in my next post!

11) I asked about mailboxes, and found out that there are none!  Instead, everyone picks up their mail at a tiny little post office near the entrance to the Grange!  I think the idea is that this helps encourage a feeling of community, which is what Serenbe is all about.

I have a lot more information about new developments in the Serenbe community which I will save for another post.  I hope you have learned a lot more interesting information about the Green Home and its location, and if at all possible you should try to see it yourself.  The trip is worth it!

The Grange post office in the evening light