10/18/2011 AT 7:20 PM ET
In Amy Smart and Carter Oosterhouse’s marriage, the grass is always greener – in a good way.
The actress didn’t even know who the HGTV carpenter was when they met. But it was an auspicious beginning. They did a project together for the Environmental Media Awards, which would turn out to be a passion for both of them.
“We got assigned to adopt a school garden together,” Smart, 35, told PEOPLE Saturday at the 2011 EMA’s in Burbank, Calif. “We met, and we were both in relationships, so we just remained friends. And then we both got out of relationships around the same time, a year ago this summer. And then a year later we got married.”
Oosterhouse, 35, couldn’t count on Smart recognizing him from his TV work. “I don’t watch a whole lot of TV, so I kind of didn’t know who he was,” she admits. But they bonded over environmental work.
At their wedding last month in his hometown of Traverse City, Mich., they generated just one bag of trash. “For 220 people,” Oosterhouse points out.
It could be intimidating for a woman interested in home decoration to marry a professional builder. But Smart says it’s working out so far.
“He is actually the most balanced person that I’ve ever met, so he obviously knows a lot about building, a lot about green building,” she says. “I learn more and more every day, but he’s not super dominating. It’s never his way or the highway. He allows me to do what I need to do in the house.”
“I was going to say, she’ll put something up and I’ll be like, ‘That’s great. I’ll just put that over here…” Oosterhouse adds with a laugh. “Look, we both have our strengths, and we’re a month in, but so far it’s been working fantastically.”