tiny house hotel

Coming Full Circle... and Moving Forward

Two years ago this week I moved to Portland and this week I’m Housesitting the Tiny Barn at the location where my first tiny house was parked when My Tiny Adventure Began. So, in a way, it feels like I’ve come full circle. Once again the raspberries are dripping off their bushes and the tomatoes are vining as tall as the apple tree. Once again the school bells are ringing and there’s an excited chatter of children freshly back to school. Once again the mornings are starting with a smidge of crispness and the Canadian geese are honking on their southern migration. It’s nice to be here again, in this oasis of a garden, at the transition time between summer and fall.

And yet, so much has changed in 2 years, too. This garden has become even more glorious in two years. The raspberry canes are taller, the bamboo is thriving, and the day old chicks we slipped under a broody chicken (see April Fooling my Hen) are providing plenty of eggs each day. The tiny house I lived in here is back up in Olympia where Brittany Yunker is renting Bayside Bungalow out as a tiny cottage on wheels.

Meanwhile, the tiny house I’m caring for here this week is the Tiny Barn, which wasn’t yet a figment of anyone’s imagination this time two years ago. I helped my friend develop her design and boneyard materials the winter before last. Over my spring break that year I helped the owner and some other friends of hers construct the shell of the Tiny Barn in a week long tiny house building blitz. Her friends finished it up beautifully, so it’s fun to stay here in the same spot but in a delightful new house. And, of course, I have greater appreciation for this little house now that I’ve had the chance to live in other tiny houses in the past two years, including A Tiny Move for a Tiny House, My Summer Garden Cottage, My Home Sweet Yurt, and more recently Home, Sweet Pea.

Additionally, this week I’ve been site managing for Caravan – The Tiny House Hotel while Deb and Kol are on their honeymoon. The country’s first tiny house hotel wasn’t yet in the works when I first moved to Portland. Now I get to show off Caravan's Tiny Houses while I tidy up and visit with guests when they check in. They’ve come from all over the world to stay here and many of them stay specifically to try out living in a tiny house. In fact, I’m always a bit surprised when I’m talking with guests about tiny houses and they say “Oh, tiny houses are a thing?” Um, yes, perhaps I’m just caught up in this little world, but I’m pretty sure tiny houses are a thing.

While I’ve been in Cully this week I’ve had the chance to visit with several of my tiny house friends and make a few new ones. Only one of them had a tiny house two years ago and now I have six friends in the neighborhood with tiny houses!

A group of us gathered at Caravan – The Tiny House Hotel earlier this week to discuss our dream of creating a Tiny House Community here in Portland, perhaps developing something similar to A Vision for Tiny Cohousing. Then a couple of us made a trip to the permit counter at the Bureau of Development Services to explore what the options might be and last night we visit a potential site, met some new additions to Portland's tiny house community, and toured their tiny abode. We have a long road ahead of us, but it’s exciting to see how far we’ve come in the past two years as the Tiny House Movement Gains Momentum.

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!

Caravan - The Tiny House Hotel Grand Opening

I had the pleasure of showing off Caravan on this year's Pedalpalooza Tiny House Tour and celebrating my 30th birthday with a Big Birthday Bash at the Tiny House Hotel. Now I'm looking forward to Caravan's Grand Opening. Read on for the press release about Caravan's Grand Opening. You can read my take on Caravan's Tiny Houses, but you really should just come check them out on Saturday! I look forward to seeing you there!

Caravan - The Tiny House Hotel Grand Opening

Saturday, July 27th, from 5-10pm 5009 NE 11th Ave, Portland, OR, 97211 (11th and Alberta) Featuring musical guest Alexa Wiley and the Wilderness

Caravan is the first Tiny House Hotel in the United States and is located in the heart of the Alberta Arts District in Portland, Oregon. At Caravan, Portlanders and travelers from around the world can experience staying in a variety of beautiful, custom-built tiny houses.

In addition to being a unique hotel and event space for family gatherings and celebrations, group vacations, community events, and performances, Caravan is:

  • A ground-breaking model for the innovative reuse of urban space
  • Featuring local art and craftsmanship to celebrate the unique and creative culture of Portland
  • Promoting alternative, lower impact small housing design and urban density
  • Showcasing a variety of architectural styles for tiny house enthusiasts

There are three one-of-a-kind tiny houses available for guests, each with its’ own unique, creative and artistic features.  Two of the tiny houses sleep 1-4 people and one sleeps 1-2 guests. The tiny houses are built on flatbed trailers and range in size from 100-200 square feet.  Each tiny house is connected to the city’s electric grid and water and sewer systems.  In each tiny house, there is a bathroom with a flush toilet and hot shower, and a kitchen, sleeping and dining area.  The tiny houses will be open to the public at the Grand Opening.

Learn more at http://www.tinyhousehotel.com/

Pedalpalooza ADU & Tiny House Tours on Saturday, June 29th, 2013

Last year, in conjunction with Orange Splot, I coordinated the Pedalpalooza Accessory Dwelling Tour and Tiny House Tour, which each drew around 100 riders. This year I’m co-coordinating with Kimber, who has completed the Oregon Tradeswoman pre-apprenticeship program and now helps out with Portland Alternative Dwellings once in a while.

We decided to host both tours on the same day this year so that people who are curious about small spaces can see a wide variety of them in real life. The tours are guided by a fabulous bunch of small space builders, designers, owners, and inhabitants, so it will be a great chance to ask questions. We have a great line up again this year.

On the Accessory Dwelling Unit (ADU) Tour, riders will see:

  • A super energy-efficient basement apartment built by Shelter Wise
  • A backyard cottage built as a sister-in-law house by Small Home Oregon
  • An eco-friendly and accessible granny flat in an idyllic setting, which was My Summer Garden Cottage last year
  • A basement mother-in-law which provides flexibility for an extended family
  • A set of houses with ADUs that create a little community called Sabin Green
  • A house with two detached accessory structures in a garden setting called Ruth’s Garden Cottages

On the Tiny House Tour we will showcase:

Those who choose to join us for both tours are in for an epic adventure!

I’m still in touch with many people I met during the tours last year, so I’m looking forward to meeting this year’s riders. We have received more than a dozen inquiries about the tour, many of them from folks who are coming from out-of-state for the tour. There are no RSVPs required, so come join us if you’re able!