The Lehmbergs: Atlanta family slowed down pace of life by moving to Daufuskie

The Lehmbergs

While reality TV can offer a skewed version of true events, the November episode of HGTV’s “Island Life” featuring the Lehmberg family got one thing exactly right: Opie and Melissa Lehmberg truly love Daufuskie Island. 

“Within a couple months of moving here, we knew we wanted to be here forever,” says Opie Lehmberg. “We absolutely love this island; it’s just perfect for us.”

The Lehmbergs first toured Daufuskie in 2014; it was the very first stop on what was supposed to be a nationwide search for the right place to raise their family after deciding that the traffic and frenzied pace of their native Atlanta wasn’t for them.

Melissa had done some online research and noticed reasonably priced real estate on a tiny island off the South Carolina coast, so she convinced her family to head there for a quick stop at the start of their search. “We had ruled out beaches because (Opie’s) a ginger and he said, ‘I don’t want to be crispy.’ But our kids love water and having freedom, a place where they don’t have to be supervised,” she says. “We wanted to find a good school, too. And Daufuskie has an excellent school, super tiny but excellent. Pretty much everything on our list we wanted was here.”

The family made an offer on a house that day, and spent a month living in their motorcoach on Hilton Head while getting their fixer-upper live-in ready. They moved in October 2014, with Opie commuting back to Atlanta every six weeks or so to handle things with his finance company.

In the two years since moving to the Lowcountry, the Lehmbergs have helped put Haig Point on the map with their “Island Life” episode, purchased property and started building their 4,600-square-foot dream home on Daufuskie. They’ve also lived through a hurricane and helped in its aftermath.

It’s been a busy couple of years.

“We just thought it’d be great for the island,” Opie says of their turn on the popular HGTV house-hunting show. “It was a neat experience, but when you’re walking through the same house five times, repeating what you said, and then they say, ‘OK, we need you to go through the house again, and we need way more excitement,’ it gets tough.”

What wasn’t tough, the couple says, was deciding to stick around when Hurricane Matthew was bearing down on the Carolina coast.

“I’ve been through some storms before and I didn’t think it was that big of a deal to worry about,” Opie says of their decision to ride out the storm.

The couple both helped with cleanup efforts in the weeks following the devastation, which they say strengthened their ties to neighbors and made them even more excited about the new home they’re building.

“This will be a forever home,” Opie says of the enormous house, which will include an 18-by-18-foot rooftop deck and a separate laundry room for the couple’s children, Caden, 10, and Maggie, 5.

“I would love to be in that house for the next holiday season,” says Melissa, though she knows realistically it’ll more likely be the summer of 2018. “Everything takes longer on Daufuskie.”

And that suits the Lehmbergs just fine.