tiny house RV park

Caravan’s Tiny Houses


Caravan – The Tiny House Hotel will be having its grand opening on Saturday, July 27th, 2013 and I’m sure it will book up quickly once the word is out. It’s a great place for a staycation for Portlanders and a unique place for guests to stay when visiting from out of town. (Here's a video about America's first tiny house hotel, which Kirsten Dirksen of Fair Companies made after interviewing Deb and me - my part begins at 7:52.)

Families from as far away as Costa Rica and the UK have already discovered Caravan! Fortunately, I managed to reserve the whole place on Monday night to celebrate my 30th birthday. I arrived a little early so I could spend time in each of the houses before my friends arrived for a Big Birthday Bash at the Tiny House Hotel. Here's my take on each of the little houses on wheels.

The Rosebud

The Rosebud is a sweet little place with a distinctly cabin feel. It has a little front porch, a window seat with built-in storage, pretty wood paneling and awesome cobblestone countertops. I fully intend to appropriate the mason jar lighting idea. And I do love the little rolling table with two chairs. This is where I stayed the night of my Big Birthday Bash at the Tiny House Hotel and I am glad I got to claim this charming little retreat. Staying in The Rosebud is a great way to enjoy a little country in the city!


The Pearl

Derin Williams of Shelter Wise built this tiny house using the Miter Box plans he created. I helped him frame up and sheathe the walls last fall, so I know how meticulous he is about air sealing, energy efficiency, precision craftspersonship, and… well, everything really! The Pearl has a very zen feel with a white ceiling, sleek dark wood paneling, and stainless countertops. It features a dinette that converts to a double bed, a lofted sleeping space above, and a wet bath (the whole bathroom is a shower stall). The outside is just as sophisticated with metal siding and a colored LED light above the porch. With its clean lines and modern aesthetic, The Pearl really is the precious jewel of Caravan – The Tiny House Hotel.

The Tandem 

The Tandem is the largest of Caravan’s three tiny houses and families snatch it up since it can sleep four people. It features a queen size mattress in the loft and a day bed window seat that converts to another queen size bed. The Tandem is wood paneled in pine, giving it a warm cozy feel. The floors are cork and the countertops and shower surround are tiled, so it has several features of a ground-bound house.

I do, of course, have a special fondness for The Tandem, since it’s the tiny house I finished out last summer. (This was the house I used for my practicum project for my Yestermorrow Sustainable Design-Build Certification and it was featured last year on the Build it Green (BIG) Tour.) When I first encountered this tiny house it was a shell: framed, sheathed, wrapped and ready to be finished. I considered buying it myself but it was bigger than I wanted so I told Eli Spevak of Orange Splot about it. He purchased the partially finished tiny house and hired me to finish it out.

So last summer I did most of the finish work: hanging siding, shingling the gable ends, running electrical wiring, air sealing, insulating, rehanging a repurposed door, paneling the interior, trimming out the windows and door, and installing cork flooring. (I even tiled the shower under the tutelage of Rocky, who is an excellent tiler. He said the tile was sure to crack when the tiny house hit the road, but it’s moved once now and the tile is all still intact!)

Fortunately, I had help from Manda and Simon when it came to the parts that were impossible to do alone: installing the long sheets of Hardy Plank on the exterior, installing wood paneling on the ceiling, and installing metal roofing and a skylight. I enjoyed most aspects of the project (except perhaps for fiberglass insulation day!) and appreciated that I was able to learn so many tangible building skills. I had a special fondness for the creative details like trimming out the storage loft window with a special shelf, creating catwalks between the lofts, and rabbeting out the back of the trim piece that rests against the tiled shower.

When I wrapped up My Summer Dream Job the tiny house was ready for the kitchen cabinets to be installed, the ladder to be built, and the finish electrical and plumbing to be completed. The owner, Eli Spevak of Orange Splot, handled all the final construction details. Once the Tandem arrived at Caravan, Deb made it feel like home sweet home with little shelves, a set of coat hooks, and beautiful quilts and pillows.

I know where every mistake is in the house (the spot where the nail gun misfired, the accent tile that I is not quite straight, etc.) but I am proud of this house. I’m really glad that so many other people will get to enjoy it, too!

Big Birthday Bash at The Tiny House Hotel

As my 30th birthday approached I realized that I wanted to figure out a way to celebrate that involved tiny houses, but I wasn’t sure how to make it happen. Last year at birthday time I helped Brittany get her Tiny House On the Road Again so we could return the Bayside Bungalow to its beautiful spot in Olympia. I started A New Year in a New Home by settling into Granny's Garden Cottage, which I enjoyed as My Summer Garden Cottage.

This year as birthday time rolled around I co-taught a Portland Alternative Dwellings Tiny House Basics Workshop with Dee Williams. It was, of course, a lot of fun to meet some great tiny house folks, but I wanted to find a way to celebrate with my good ol’ friends AND tiny houses. And my birthday fell on a Monday, which is not typically the best night for party hosting.

Fortunately, the obvious answer came to me in the midst of a conversation with some fellow tiny house friends. Kol and Deb recently created Caravan – The Tiny House Hotel, which is, to the best of our knowledge, the first hotel in the world. It currently features a collection of three tiny houses on wheels and two more currently being constructed will be added soon. (Here’s my take on Caravan’s Tiny Houses.) Caravan is set up as an RV park so there’s a hook up station for each of the little houses and they have all electric appliances, hot running water, and flush toilets. The tiny house hotel was featured on this year’s Pedalpalooza Tiny House Tour and it opened on July 1. Caravan’s Grand Opening will be this coming Saturday, July 27th and I’m looking forward to the party!

So I asked Deb and Kol if I might be able to spend the night at the tiny house hotel for my birthday (before Caravan's Grand Opening since I know it will book up fast once the word is out!) The place was miraculously not booked out for my birthday night so Deb suggested I reserve the whole place and host my 30th birthday party at the world’s first tiny house hotel. So I did. (And as my birthday present Kol and Deb gave me an incredible discount on the reservation, too! Thanks guys!)

Kol and Deb have outfitted the tiny house hotel with all the fixins for a party. There’s a circle of Adirondack chairs around a fire pit, a parachute shade to provide protection from the sun, a hammock for skygazing, a colorful mural on the ground, and even a table with a grill in the middle! I knew we were in for a good time.

The friends who arrived early joined me for supper next door at the Grilled Cheese Grill. Yes, I ate a delicious but probably not super healthy jalepeno popper grilled cheese sandwich for my birthday dinner, thank you very much! (Deb also informed me that Radio Room across the street is now providing room service to the tiny house hotel!)

My party was a dessert potluck so we indulged in fresh berries, giant chocolate sea salt and caramel cookies, fancy ice cream sandwiches, sticky sweet donuts, refreshing rose, syrupy framboise, and chocolaty porters. Several friends went with the tiny theme, bringing tiny pies, mini cupcakes, and delicate petite fours! We roasted marshmallows on skewers over the grilling table and made gooey s’mores just as the moon was rising, round and golden in the east. As darkness crept up we sat around the fire pit while my long-lost friend Chris strummed his guitar and we sang along.

As most people headed out, a handful of us settled into Caravan’s Tiny Houses for a good night’s sleep. We were all up early for work in the morning, but that seems fitting considering that this was my 30th and it was a Monday night!

My birthday presents were less tangible, but no less meaningful this year. Throughout the day I received love notes via facebook and text from friends and family around the world. I was also able to reconnect with several people I hadn’t seen in a while. It was fun to see my worlds colliding as people from different parts of my life got to know each other. I was even delighted when one of my dear friends told me she couldn’t make it because she’d been offered a job and had to talk through logistics with her partner. It feels good to be heading into a new decade with this sense of appreciation for my loved ones and gratitude that I’m at the beginning of a great adventure as I pursue this path.

Kol and Deb, thanks for making my 30th Birthday Bash such a great time! I’m looking forward to Caravan's Grand Opening on Saturday, July 27th, 2013!