Environment | Sustainability | Ecotrope

Country's First Tiny House Hotel Opens In Portland

Ecotrope | July 26, 2013 7:09 a.m.

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The Caravan Tiny House Hotel consists of three tiny homes on a lot in Northeast Portland

The Caravan Tiny House Hotel consists of three tiny homes on a lot in Northeast Portland

Toni Tabora-Roberts

Sure, tiny homes are adorable. But could you handle living in 120 square feet?

Portlanders Kol Peterson and Deb Delman think you should try it – if only for one night.

This month, they opened the country’s first tiny house hotel. They’re opening the doors to anyone who wants to check it out at a grand opening event Saturday.

The Caravan Tiny House Hotel consists of three tiny homes on what used to be a vacant lot in northeast Portland. Take a tour of the homes here:

The homes really are tiny.

In the 120-square-foot Rosebud house, you have to move the bedroom stairs before you can sit at the kitchen table. In The Pearl, its 90-square-foot neighbor, the toilet is in the shower. And at 160 square feet, The Tandem is “the mansion of the bunch,” Peterson laughs.

But somehow they all have full size beds, closets, kitchenettes, dining tables, electricity, flush toilets and showers.

“All these tiny houses are designed to be lived in permanently,” said Peterson. “There’s everything you need to live in here but just on a very micro level compared to a house.”

The hotel rooms also share common space on the lot, which includes a fire pit, barbecue and lots of extra seating.

Peterson says the idea is to give regular folks a chance to try out life on a smaller scale. For the price of $125 a night, guests get a chance to consider whether they’d ever want to buy a tiny home that can cost $10,000-$20,000.

“A lot of people are interested in tiny houses, but there aren’t many places to try them out,” he said. “This is an opportunity to try one out and see whether it’s actually a place you’d want to live in.”

If people can downsize to smaller spaces, research shows they can also shrink their environmental footprint. Advocates also see the promise of using tiny homes to increase urban density so cities can preserve more green space.

Tiny house enthusiast Eli Spevak of Orange Splot LLC, who owns two of the three tiny homes in the hotel and leases them to The Caravan, said he thinks the hotel’s business model is “brilliant.”

The nearby restaurant and bar Radio Room has offered to provide room service for hotel guests, and many other businesses in the surrounding Alberta Arts District are within walking distance.

Spevak said he’s hoping that staying at a tiny house hotel will help show people that living small isn’t so bad.

“I love to have opportunities to showcase examples of how you can live in a smaller place than you thought you could,” he said. “People don’t need as much private space as they think.”

He said he’s equally excited that these tiny homes are actually legal, unlike a lot of the other homes around Portland that don’t quite meet all of the city’s codes.

It took a year of “meeting after meeting after meeting” to get the necessary permits for the tiny house hotel, Delman said. The lot had to be zoned as a recreation park, and the tiny houses are zoned as travelers’ accommodations.

“Essentially, it’s like an urban campground,” she said.

The hotel grounds have hookups for six houses, and two more tiny houses could be added to the lot sometime this year. So far, the hotel has been open for three weeks, and Delman said the clientele has been totally varied.

“It’s not what I would have expected,” she said. “It’s more mainstream people who might typically stay in a Hilton or somewhere upscale and nice. They’ve stayed here, and they’ve loved it.”

Reactions from readers on the Tiny House Blog were mixed. One reader said the houses look like they’re too close together and need some landscaping to add privacy. Another said he’d have to think about the idea because he’s not sure he wants to give up the comfort of a regular hotel room. Meanwhile guests at the hotel have already offered positive reviews on AirBnB and in the hotel guestbook, saying the rooms are surprisingly spacious and conveniently close to all the bars and restaurants on Alberta Street.

Delman said the word is spreading fast, and she’s seeing lots of interest from people already.

“It has been nonstop,” she said. “We have had a slew of people e-mailing us, stopping by, calling us really interested in this. I think the appeal is more widespread than we would have imagined.”

Even if hotel guests don’t decide to make the leap to living in a tiny home full time, Peterson said, the experience may still have an effect on people’s view of how big a house needs to be.

“We’re promoting the idea to a huge range of clientele that living in a smaller space can be a fun, totally do-able thing to do,” he said. “You definitely don’t need as big of a house as you thought.”

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