Enamored with the tiny house movement but not entirely sure if dramatically downsized digs are the right fit?

You might want to consider packing your bags and hightailing it to the woods of New Hampshire for a quick Getaway.

The inaugural project of Millennial Housing Lab, a Harvard Innovation Lab venture co-founded by Jon Staff, a Harvard MBA student, and Pete Davis, a Harvard Law School student, Getaway allows nature-starved urbanites to try tiny house living on for size for as low as $99 per night. There’s no sale pitch, no pressure, no relentless romanticizing of a movement that sounds lovely and life-affirming on paper but, in reality, can be wicked tough.

At the end of an off-grid Getaway stay, guests are left to ponder their own unique housing situations:

Should I seriously look into shedding square footage?

Is living in a compact cabin in the woods for me?

Crap. Am I going to be late on rent for my criminally expensive studio apartment this month?

Whatever conclusions Getaway guests come to at the end of their rural New England sojourns, one thing is for certain: they’ll leave refreshed and recharged having escaped from the “digital grind,” even if just for a couple of nights.

That said, hunkering down for a long weekend in a cabin with a composting toilet, spotty cell phone reception and a stack of musty board games can be a daunting proposition for some city-dwelling millennials who might not appreciate the Kinfolk magazine meets “Cabin the Woods" atmospherics; detaching from technology and embracing one’s inner Thoreau within the confines of a Harvard Graduate School of Design-produced tiny house might be a tough sell for some.

Getaway, a tiny house escape from Harvard's Millennial Housing LabMillennial Housing Lab's handsome vision of a weekend in the woods. (Photo: Kataram Studios)

Getaway, a tiny house escape from Harvard's Millennial Housing LabThree's definitely a crowd in a petite, pared-down Getaway property. (Photo: Kataram Studios)

Staff and Davis, however, are convinced that the overall experience is a rewarding and regenerative one. And given the booking charge is split between Millennial Housing Lab — an “action lab” founded with the “mission of developing and realizing fresh housing ideas for a new generation” — and the hosting owner of the leased land in which a Getaway site is located, it’s also an experience that benefits local rural economies.

As mentioned, the first wood-clad, trailer-bound Getaway cabin, the 160-square-foot Ovida, is situated in southern New Hampshire — an easy two-hour drive north of Boston. The exact location of Ovida, which can comfortably accommodate four guests in two twin-size sleeping nooks and a queen-size loft, is kept under wraps until the booking is complete. Not knowing exactly where you’re going is part of Getaway’s mystique.

Lorraine, a second, smaller Getaway cabin also in New Hampshire, is currently accepting pre-bookings for mid-August and beyond. While Ovida is envisioned as a cozy communal bunkhouse, Lorraine, which sleeps two, is more of a solitary retreat that’s “perfect for couples, writing weekends, and putting a dent in that stack of unread books.” Guests staying at Lorraine can expect “strong coffee, spacious ceilings and focused energy.”

Getaway, a tiny house escape from Harvard's Millennial Housing LabMillennial Housing Lab co-founder Jon Staff outside of Ovida, the first Getaway cabin. (Photo: Kataram Studios)
Getaway, a tiny house escape from Harvard's Millennial Housing LabEquipped with a sink and propane cooktop, Ovida offers a crash course in tiny house cookery. (Photo: Kataram Studios)

Ovida and Lorraine were named in honor of two real-life grandmothers, Getaway intern Sarah Ruehlow and Staff's, respectively, and built by Patrick Mulroy in an East Boston shipyard before being trucked up I-93 to their current sites. Harvard Graduate School of Design students Rachel Moranis, Addison Godine and Wyatt Komarin executed the design of each pared-down yet thoughtfully outfitted (more on that in a bit) abode.

Boston Business Journal reports that the Millennial Housing Lab hopes to complete a total of 12 pint-sized escapes over the next year and, ideally, expand beyond the Boston area. In fact, the startup is currently seeking potential hosts located within two hours of major cities who are looking to make a bit of extra income by leasing out vacant land to Getaway. “Quiet, tranquil settings” are requisite and potential locales must be out of sight from other houses. Seclusion, obviously, is key.

The goal is to take over the world for sure," explains Staff. "We aim to go nationwide and eventually beyond."

Comparisons between Getaway and lodging startups such as Airbnb — in this instance, Hipcamp would be a more kindred spirit — are inevitable. Staff, a Minnesota native who currently lives in a “normal house” but has called an Airstream, the basement of a yogurt shop and a vacant office in the Harvard Library building home in the past, sees a distinct difference.

Getaway, a tiny house escape from Harvard's Millennial Housing LabBooks, board games, and jumbo cans of OFF line the shelves of Ovida. (Photo: Kataram Studios)
Getaway, a tiny house escape from Harvard's Millennial Housing LabIn addition to a sleeping loft, Ovida sports two stacked sleeping nooks for additional guests. (Photo: Kataram Studios)

He tells MNN: “… a hotel or Airbnb is usually booked when you're already going somewhere and you need a place to crash. Our Getaways are in places you'd basically never need to go. And so, Getaway is about the experience of actually being there, in this hand-crafted house with books and board games and quiet — not about dropping your bag and heading out to see what's around (hint: not much!).”

Staff adds: “Getaway houses are specifically designed with getting away in mind. Unlike conventional houses or other tiny houses, we designed around short-term rental experience. Some of that design is tactical (i.e. we make a place for you to put your suitcase) and some of it is philosophical (i.e. everything is designed to be dead-simple, so that you can arrive and just start relaxing rather than try to figure out how to get the bed to pull out of the wall or whatever).”

One of the unique tweaks on traditional lodging amenities found at Ovida and forthcoming Getaway cabins is Getaway Provisions. While each solar-powered, electronic keypad-accessible retreat comes with the basics (bed linens, wool blankets, bath towels, kitchen supplies, marshmallow roasting sticks, etc.), grub and “activity extras” can be enjoyed through the honor system-based Getaway Provisions scheme.

Getaway, a tiny house escape from Harvard's Millennial Housing LabA worker puts the finishing touches on Ovida before it's hauled to the woods. (Photo: Kataram Studios)
Getaway, a tiny house escape from Harvard's Millennial Housing LabOvida, Getaway's first cabin, en route to its hush-hush New Hampshire location. (Photo: Kataram Studios)

These provisions, costing between $2 and $4 a pop, include charcoal, firewood (each home has an indoor stove and a campfire pit), playing cards, coffee, tea, granola, beef jerkey, s’mores fixings and much more. Keys to unlock on-site bicycles are also available through Getaway Provisions. Cash payments are accepted as are transactions through Venmo.

Head on over to Getaway to learn more about the ins and outs of booking — and hosting — a dainty escape with Ivy League pedigree. And while Getaway was launched by Millennial Housing Lab to “help grow the tiny house movement,” it’s not expected that guests will emerge from the woods completely gung-ho on moving into a tiny house themselves. Still, it might prompt guests to contemplate their long-term housing goals: “Staying in the tiny house might cause people to rethink how they live and ask ‘do I need all of this stuff?’ Staff tells the Boston Globe. “Maybe they won’t continue going up in housing size.”

Via [Boston Biz Journal], [Boston Globe], [Curbed]

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Matt Hickman ( @mattyhick ) writes about design, architecture and the intersection between the natural world and the built environment.

Harvard startup offers for-hire tiny houses in the middle of nowhere
Getaway provides a woodsy, off-grid respite from the concrete jungle.