By Kathie Farnell
Photos by Kathie Farnell and Jack Purser
Off the beaten path, yet just twenty-five miles south of the Atlanta airport, the community of Serenbe beckons visitors to an eco-friendly retreat. Formed from the words “serene” and “be” (and pronounced SAIR-en-be) it is the brainchild of Atlantans Steve and Marie Nygren.
Steve, founder of the Atlanta-based Peasant group of restaurants, bought a farmhouse in the rolling Chattahoochee Hill Country in 1991 to serve as a weekend retreat. The couple moved to the area full-time in 1994, and the farmhouse eventually became the eighteen-room Inn at Serenbe. Concerned about runaway development, the Nygrens bought up farmland and eventually organized the Chattahoochee Hill Country Alliance to provide for planned growth for the area.
Today, the Serenbe Community includes 900 acres, of which only 20 % will ever be developed. In addition to the Inn and its cluster of cottages, Serenbe is home to the hamlet of Selborne, modeled after an English village; and a working organic farm. Eventually, two more hamlets will be developed. Grange, located near Serenbe Farms, will have an agrarian feel (as opposed to Selborne’s decidedly artsy ambiance); while Mado will be home to a spa and a destination hotel.
Serenbe’s amenities encourage visitors to explore the outdoors. There’s everything from llamas to a labyrinth to an in ground trampoline, as well as a serene swimming pool. Trails wind through a wildflower meadow, and riding lessons are available from the stables.
Accommodations here range from the rustic Inn and cottages to the sleek Loft 13 in Selborne. The Loft, our headquarters, is located over the Gloriosa Style shop (which is also home to a wedding planner) and boasts two balconies, a full kitchen and a sleeping loft over the capacious upstairs bedroom.
Because of Serenbe’s sensitive outdoor lighting design, stargazing is easy here even though Atlanta is just a short drive up I-85.
Restaurant choices include the Blue Eyed Daisy bakeshop, The Farmhouse, and The Hil. The Farmhouse, which also serves as the main dining room for the Inn, is operated by former Atlanta chef Nicolas Bour. It is open weekends and offers a prix-fixe three-course dinner as well as Sunday lunch. The Hil, on Selborne’s main street, is the brainchild of Hilary White, also a former Atlanta chef, who works closely with Serenbe’s farm manager in planning the seasonal menu. The Hil is open for dinner Wednesday through Sunday and brunch on Saturday and Sunday.
A number of artists make their homes in the area and Selborne boasts two art galleries:
* StudioSwan, founded by Tom Swanston and Gail Foster, showcases the couple’s own paintings as well as the works of a small group of artists from all over the U.S.
* Newington Gallery features the photography of Greg Newington, who worked as a photographer in Australia and the Middle East before settling in Serenbe.
For the visitor who wants to get away from the bright lights of Atlanta without going too far afield, Serenbe offers a convenient, tranquil escape.
Serenbe is located at 10950 Hutcheson Ferry Road just outside Palmetto, Georgia.
For information, reservations and directions check the website at www.serenbeinn.com or telephone 770-463-2610.