The community of Serenbe, a little more than 32 miles southwest of Atlanta, is the setting for our fifth annual Cooking Light FitHouse. The 900-acre colony has an environmentally friendly plan of high-density development, surrounded by protected green space of hardwood and pine forests, wildflower meadows, pristine streams, and an organic farm. Serenbe provides the best of both worlds: a compact, walkable, health-minded community embraced by a rolling landscape laced with miles of hiking, biking, and equestrian trails. Serenbe is protected by the surrounding 65,000-acre Chattahoochee Hill Country, where developmental codes emphasize conservation and the use of sustainable developmental practices.
You'll find in our FitHouse―with its me'lange of country style and modern accents and comforts--many great ideas that celebrate the natural landscape and promote a healthful, creative, and active lifestyle.
Accessible Gathering Space
Walking through the front door of this 4,835-square-foot, four-bedroom, six-and-a-half bathroom, traditionally styled house, you find an "open floor plan designed for a simple, relaxed lifestyle, which was central to the design," says Architect John Tee of Atlanta. Activity can easily flow from the living room, dining room, or kitchen, where generous windows allow ample natural light to brighten the setting.
A 20-foot ceiling above the living room connects the upstairs space with a walkway between bedrooms and the craft studio's balcony. Its simple hipped roof and traditional detailing reflect the older vernacular homes of the area," says Tee. "Ultimately, the goal was to create an unpretentious house that doesn't impose on the natural setting."
Muted, earthy browns, greens, oranges, and yellows set a peaceful, comfortable mood. Copper vases shine atop a weathered antique table, which sits on a green-and-brown rug woven of jute and other plant fibers. The etageres flanking the couch help define the space. Large-scale botanical prints and solid fabrics on the sofa, chairs, and pillows inject the room with pattern and color.
Blend of Old and New
The first floor's open plan makes the dining room inviting and easy to get to from the kitchen. The focal point of the dining table―and surefire conversation starter―is a trio of goldfish bowls added as a whimsical centerpiece. The wooden furniture's clean lines and the modern accessories have a graphic sensibility, which contrasts with the upholstered host and hostess chairs. The curio cabinet with its seeded glass doors and the dark apothecary cabinet add storage with style. A brown, taupe, and cream wool rug anchors the seating group. "The house is all about a classic design brought into the 21st century," says interior designer Cheryl Carson Simpson. "I like to create a cohesive blend of new and old items into something that really works."
A Kitchen That Cooks
The light-filled kitchen combines modern, energy-efficient appliances with accents of a traditional farm kitchen, such as exposed shelves and rustic pine ceiling beams. The wheat-colored subway-tiled backsplash contributes to the classic feel of the kitchen even as it contrasts with the contemporary stainless steel appliances and the South African granite countertops. While in the kitchen, the cook can easily converse with family and friends in the living room or at the kitchen island. Ample Mission-styled cherry cabinetry below the countertops allow for plenty of storage for kitchen equipment. A Serenbe glassblower crafted the teardrop light pendants that complement the countertops' color scheme. Above the white porcelain farm sink, an arched window breaks up the mass of shelves and countertop and provides generous task lighting. At the rear of the kitchen, French doors with Roman shades beckon to an expansive covered porch and a fully equipped cooking station complete with a gas grill and refrigerator.
Room for Relaxation
Soothing hues of sage, gray, taupe, and plum give the first-floor master bedroom suite a peaceful feeling. The windows and doors open to the back deck, overlooking the adjoining 500-acre nature preserve. A sense of space is created by the 10-foot-high ceiling and framed, rough-finished white pine paneling that mimics traditional country home walls.
In the master bath, the windows open to allow cooling breezes, and the air-jetted tub is ready to relax any sore muscles after an invigorating hike on the nearby forest trails. Custom cabinets carry on the open-shelved style found throughout the house. The sea-green stained concrete vanity countertops complement the tile glass mosaics and floor tile.
Listen to the birds sing as you relax on the bed swing in the screened porch located adjacent to the master bedroom suite. It is a custom-built duplicate of the original found at the Serenbe Bed & Breakfast and holds a twin-sized mattress. A quilt adds country comfort and style to the solid, practical teak furnishings. A fan provides a cooling breeze on warmer days.
Architect John Tee calls the spacious covered deck along the back of the house an "outdoor family room," and it's easy to imagine guests at a gathering walking onto it from the house. The feature makes the house feel larger and handsomely integrated into its landscape. One the opposite end of the deck is the outdoor kitchen.
Great Ideas for Task Rooms
The full basement features separate pet, exercise, and recreation rooms. The pet room makes grooming and cleanup convenient with a sealed glazed cement floor, corrugated galvanized aluminum wainscoat encircling the room, and a specialized faux slate and porcelain pet shower that can also be used for watering plants. A simple wall faucet above a galvanized sink on top of a barrel adds to the rustic style.
On rainy days, the exercise room with treadmill, elliptical trainer, weights set, and bench will help keep any exercise program on track. An adjacent full bathroom and laundry room allow a busy owner to clean up quickly. On sunny days, head to the network of hiking and biking trails behind the house.
Place for Pursuits
The second floor studio, a place to showcase creative talents, is a main feature of the house. Here, the room is used for textiles and fashion design. Simple, practical shelves hold jars and baskets that organize tools and materials for easy access. A reclaimed bin from a nearby textile mill once again holds bolts of fabric. The sturdy trestle work table is actually a reproduction farm table originally intended for dining.
Hangar doors made from Spanish cedar open to a balcony above the first floor. They slide on barn rollers attached to an unfinished pine beam, a bold design feature in sync with the region's farming heritage. The second floor ceiling is stained pine, which imparts warmth to the space below.