Last week, I was admittedly feeling a little uninspired and in desperate need of a few shots of creative juice. So on Saturday, the family and I made a day trip to Marietta, GA, about an hour and a half away, to seek out some of that needed inspiration — and we found that and more at the Greenhaven 2009 show house.
The name Greenhaven is absolutely appropriate for this home. It is 8,140 square feet of eco-innovation. Yes. I said 8,140 square feet. This is no “average” home — definitely more of a mansion (I couldn’t bring myself to add the word “mini” to the description of a house this size). Truth be told, its size left me suspicious of how “green” the home really is, but more on that later.
This home is drop dead gorgeous, honestly. From street level, it looks deceptively small, although the 2-car garage, separate detached 1-car garage and courtyard definitely hint at the opulence to come. All that opulence is, however, wrapped carefully and conscientiously in green. From a rainwater catchment system to reclaimed river pine flooring, landscaping done with indigenous plants, soy-based foam insulation, and a deck made of recycled materials, the environment was considered in nearly every building and aesthetic decision. There are so many green features that there’s no way I could list them all here. Check them out for yourself.
Apparently my husband and I aren’t the only ones who were so intrigued. The house was supposed to be open for tours only from July 23-August 9. Those dates have been extended indefinitely because the tour has been so popular. And did I mention it is free?
Inside the house, the 20+ decorators and designers tasked with making this behemoth feel like a home took the same care when selecting furnishings, paint and finishes. In fact, as my family and I walked from room to room on our self-guided tour, I found many of the furnishings familiar, including some pieces I have featured here at Green Your Decor in the past. In terms of style, there’s something for everyone, from the ultra traditional master suite that is the polar opposite of everything I like, to the modern-eclectic teen girl’s bedroom and builder’s office, and the rustic, outdoorsy fly fishing room.
I walked away with tons of inspiration for small projects anyone can tackle (see the wall full of picture frames below), color palettes, ideas for Green Rooms in a Box and more. I also shot nearly 200 photos, some of which are shown here. If you’d like to see all of them, check out my Flickr photo set.
So what exactly do you do with more than 8,000 square feet? Based on the way the home is currently staged, you’d get:
- 4 bedrooms (technically 7, but the other 3 rooms are staged for other uses at the moment)
- Builder’s office suite above the garage (or 5th bedroom)
- Women’s study (or 6th bedroom)
- 7 full bathrooms and 2 half baths
- Formal dining room
- Kitchen with breakfast nook and reading nook
- Great room
- Butler’s pantry
- Regular pantry
- Command center
- Hallway mudroom
- Laundry room
- Media room and adjoining bar/mini kitchen
- Family room
- Doggie bedroom (I’m not kidding)
- Craft room (or 7th bedroom)
- Fly fishing room
- Partially covered wraparound deck
Therein lies the problem, as far as I’m concerned. Although the home technically has 7 rooms that could function as bedrooms, it is currently staged as a home for a family of 5, presumably with at least one young child (one of the bedrooms is staged as a nursery). My husband and I walked out of Greenhaven with three words reverberating in our heads: TOO. MUCH. SPACE. Given my addiction to huge, decked out homes, even I was a bit surprised by this reaction, but I guess my greener side won.
Greenhaven is beautiful, to be sure. And it does challenge the notion that large homes and luxury are the antitheses of sustainability. But challenge is all it does. Unless it is intended for a family of 10+ people, there’s no way any one average family would need more than 8,000 square feet of living space. Living space that likely will be heated and cooled regardless of whether its in use. Living space that likely would be furnished with pieces that would rarely, if ever, be used. No matter how green those pieces are, if they are the product of unnecessary consumption, it’s hard to call them truly sustainable. If the home had been built on a slab instead of a basement, perhaps it would be a more reasonable size, although it still would be classified as a mini-mansion.
This is not to knock the significant environmental accomplishments achieved by Greenhaven, which is in the process of being certified by EarthCraft House, LEED, the NAHB National Green Building program and others. It also proves that style and sustainability can be synonymous, and that luxury doesn’t have to take a huge toll on Mother Earth, but any home that has so many rooms you can literally make up uses for them would nag at my conscience too much to convince me it is really green.
To be sure, I’d prefer to see a row of mini mansions that at least intend to help preserve the environment around them rather than a bunch of overdone, excessive homes that consume without apology. For the rich who will buy homes anyway, please, buy green when you can. Greenhaven is the perfect model for that. But I’m afraid that if the purpose of Greenhaven was to introduce green to broad audience, it may leave the average homeowner or house hunter thinking green homes are reserved for the rich, or at least the very well off. I can’t wait to see an eco-friendly show house that proves to Metro Atlanta residents that reasonably-sized green living is accessible to the masses.
NOTE: I was able to speak with builder Richard Feis of Pace Homebuilders briefly on his way out, and we set up an interview for this week. Be sure to check back later this week when I ask him a lot of the questions that were left brewing after my visit to Greenhaven. If there are questions you’d like me to ask, please leave them in the comments below as soon as possible.