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

The eco-friendly, and often life-altering small house movement has made its way to the hospitality industry. The first 'tiny house' hotel, Caravan, is open for business in Portland, Oregon, to an overwhelming response. Hotel owners Deb Delman and Kol Peterson invite guests to comfortably experience small, alternative housing, reduce their environmental footprint, and experience a cool, energetic neighborhood in cozy homes that are about the size of an average bedroom.

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Located in the Alberta Arts District, three tiny, custom-built houses sit on trailer beds, ranging in size from 100-200 square feet. The quaint homes are huddled in a circle -- just like a traveling caravan. Two of the tiny houses sleep one to four people and the third comfortably sleeps one to two guests. But could you really live in them? Delman, who has previously lived in a cabin in Colorado and converted a garage into a functional living space, says yes. "They have the same systems and structure as any house," she explains. Each house is complete with bathroom and kitchen essentials, like a flushing toilet, hot shower, electric heat, microwave, refrigerator, hot plate, and coffee maker. For $125 per night, it's all of the basic amenities you need to actually live there.

What makes Caravan's tiny homes unique, other than the small amount of space, is each little house is creatively decorated with art from Portland artists, and guests can find cool books, games and cards all about Portland. Delman says compared to a traditional, commercial hotel, their tiny houses provide guests with a one-of-a-kind experience where guests can feel private and 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." According to Delman, 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 15 minutes away.

"It's been kind of surprising. It's appealed to a wide variety of people in a way we didn't expect," says Delman of the overwhelming response. Guests don't seem to mind the close quarters and are surprised by how the small homes are built, describing them as cozy and cool in reviews on Airbnb. "We know there's a huge movement and people seeking a smaller carbon footprint," Delman adds. The houses are booking quickly for the remainder of summer. She says they plan to add a couple more tiny houses soon to their lot that has six hookups available.

Delman says they're showcasing new ideas and 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," says Delman. "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 both small, alternative home enthusiasts and are actively involved in the tiny house community, so when it came time to do the planning and zoning for micro-sized hotel, they were persistent, refusing to give in. It took over a year to get the unique zoning designations for the unusual hotel, but Portland is, as Delman describes, an "innovative, trail-blazing city."

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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 an increase of more 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 decreased by 36 percent. Turns out, less really could be more.

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