Color me the exact opposite of surprised.
Portland, Ore., the (aggressively) free-spirited city that’s love affair with square footage-challenged housing has been previously documented for cable television, is now home to what’s being heralded as the country’s very first “tiny house hotel.”
I suppose it wouldn’t be too inaccurate to refer to Caravan as Portland's Grand Hyatt of idiosyncratic overnight accommodations. And that’s an honor in a city that serves as corporate home to hipper-than-though Ace Hotel (to be clear, Seattle is the Ace’s ancestral birthplace). But while Ace Hotel wears its cool kid badge squarely on the shoulder, Caravan doesn’t have much of a shoulder to wear anything on. And from taking a look at the hotel’s website and Airbnb pages, therein lies the Caravan's myriad pint-sized charms.
That being said, the very notion of a tiny house hotel in Portland invites itself to gratuitous eye rolling.
However, it would appear that owners/operators/hosts Deb Delman (a high school social studies teacher with purple highlights who has logged time living in nontraditional homes such a yurts and trailers) and Kol Peterson (a Forest Service employee with a background in environmental planning and a deep love of accessory dwelling units) don't seem to be preoccupied with the novelty of it all — the heavily romanticized aspect of micro-living that's made the tiny house movement such a media darling. They seem more concerned with providing travelers with a seriously comfortable, attractive, and reasonably priced accommodations. It just happens that said accommodations are composed of three custom-built, trailer-bound structures clocking in between 100 and 200 square feet.
Bunking overnight in the three tiny houses that make up Caravan — the “relatively spacious” Tandem (165 square feet), the “traditionally designed” Rosebud (120 square feet), and the super energy-efficient Pearl (90 square feet plus sleeping lofts) — wouldn’t exactly be considered roughing it as each home is equipped with running water, a flush toilet, a shower, and electric heat. They’re also outfitted with the basic amenities that you’d find at your average Holiday Day Inn Express type of joint: hairdryers, coffee makers, soap, fresh linens, WiFi, etc. The beds are full and the kitchens, not matter how cramped, are fully stocked with cooking accouterments.
Capable of collectively sleeping up to 10 guests, the three tiny houses are arranged in a circle around the Caravan’s “central gathering space” complete with fire pit, BBQ, hammock, Adirondack chairs and “lots of funky, locally made metal, stained glass and recycled art.” Due to the lot's zoning status as a recreation park, Delman likens the property to an "urban campground" in a profile by Cassandra Profita for Oregon Public Broadcasting's EarthFix.
And while the property itself is definitely a departure from the norm, what Delman and Peterson are really selling is the neighborhood itself. Bustling and a touch noisy — Caravan guests are provided with earplugs, fans, and white noise machines — the Alberta Arts District is home to tattoo parlors, bars, galleries, and co-ops of both the bike and organic food variety. When not enjoying their charming/cramped quarters, Caravan guests can wander down the street to munch on a “vegan, gluten-free grilled cheese inside a funky school bus” (yep) or “listen to local music at a non-smoking pub."
In addition to catering to adventurous out-of-towners interested in getting tribal bands and eating vegan grilled cheese sandwiches along with"more normal folks who might typically stay in a Hilton," Caravan serves as a de facto testing ground for those interesting in dramatically downsizing themselves — the micro-curious and those stuck in McMansion mortgages who yearn for a taste of the tiny life. In a way, Caravan’s trio of carefully designed and thoughtfully outfitted micro-lodgings are in the perfect location for a tiny house test drive — they’re in a real neighborhood, on a real city lot and not hidden away alongside some babbling brook in the countryside. These aren’t rustic cabins but functional, full-time residences of limited square footage.
"A lot of people are interested in tiny houses, but there aren’t many places to try them out,” Peterson tells OPB. “This is an opportunity to try one out and see whether it’s actually a place you’d want to live in.”
Each Caravan tiny house rents for $125 per night plus tax based on double occupancy via Airbnb although it appears that an online booking system through the Caravan website is in the works. Also in the works: two more tiny houses that will join the existing three deluxe Caravan accommodations.
Let's say that this tiny house hotel thing catches on beyond Portland ... would you hunker down for the night in a fully-equipped micro-home?
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- NPR talks tiny living with the Tacks [Video]