World's First 'Tiny House' Hotel Opens in Portland

Photos: Caravan, The Tiny House Hotel
The eco-friendly small house movement has made its way to the hospitality industry with the opening of the world's first "tiny house" hotel, Caravan, in Portland, Oregon. Hotel owners Deb Delman and Kol Peterson invite guests to experience small, alternative housing, reduce their environmental footprint, and experience a cool, energetic neighborhood. But don't expect the average, 300- to 400-square-foot hotel room, because the micro-size homes start at just 100 square feet and cram in a bathroom, living space, and even a couple of (small) kitchen appliances, making for some very tight quarters.

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Photo: Caravan, The Tiny House HotelLocated in the Alberta Arts District, three custom-built houses (the largest topping out at 200 square feet) sit on trailer beds and are huddled in a circle -- just like a traveling caravan. Two of the tiny houses sleep up to four people and the third can accommodate one to two guests. Delman, who has previously lived in a cabin in Colorado and converted a garage into a functional living space, believes that not only are they comfortable for a short-term stay, but they'd make perfectly fine permanent homes too. "They have the same systems and structure as any house," she told Yahoo! Shine. For $125 per night, each house comes complete with all the basic amenities guests need: a flushing toilet, hot shower, electric heat, microwave, refrigerator, hot plate, and coffeemaker. Still, the layout doesn't appear quite as comfortable as a room at the Ritz. In two of the units, guests have to climb ladders to sleep in loft-style beds perched above the kitchen sink or a dining table.

Photo: Caravan, The Tiny House HotelAs for decor, Caravan's owners have made an effort to ensure that guests get a taste of the city. Pieces by local artists decorate the tiny homes, which also come stocked with books and games about Portland. Delman explained that while guests have a sense of privacy, they can still make their stay a social experience. "They're in their own little house with everything they need, but there's also a communal space with a fire pit and Adirondack chairs, a hammock, barbecue, and table where they can meet other travelers."

The location is also prime. "You can't beat it. It's a super funky, fun, vibrant neighborhood, full of culture, art, and amazing food," Delman said, adding that a nearby restaurant provides room service, bikes are available to rent a couple blocks away, a food co-op is close by, and downtown Portland is only a 15-minute drive away.

The response has been overwhelmingly positive. "It's been kind of surprising. It's appealed to a wide variety of people in a way we didn't expect," said Delman. And guests don't seem to mind the tight squeeze, judging by the glowing reviews on travel accommodations website Airbnb. "I loved that we could sleep downstairs, if we didn't want to navigate the ladder to the second floor. We are in our late 50s and early 60s and found going up and down the ladder pretty easy, even during those middle of the night bathroom stops," wrote Beth in an Airbnb review. Another Caravan hotel guest, Michelle, wrote, "The last night we were there, Deb brought over firewood, so that we could make s'mores under the stars."

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The houses are booking quickly for the remainder of summer. "We know there's a huge movement and people seeking a smaller carbon footprint," Delman said. She and Peterson plan to add a couple more tiny houses soon to their lot, which has six hookups available.

Photo: Caravan, The Tiny House HotelAccording to Delman, by showcasing alternative ideas, Caravan provides new ways to look at urban density. "There are a lot of people without housing or in small places, and it's not by choice," she said. "Tiny houses are a great alternative. We are allowing people to try it out and have this experience." Peterson, who studied urban planning and environmental design, and Delman are actively involved in the tiny house community and spent more than a year going back and forth with the city to get the unique zoning designations for the unusual hotel.

Proponents of the tiny house movement know that smaller homes mean a smaller environmental footprint, a reduction in the use of building materials, electricity, and fuel, and increased green space. A report by the Oregon Department of Environmental Quality says that by reducing the size of a home by 50 percent, emissions over a home's lifetime are decreased by 36 percent. Turns out, less really can be more.

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