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Travel & Outdoors

Portland's new Tiny House Hotel: 'I think it's a clever idea'

Portland's new Tiny House Hotel: 'I think it's a clever idea'

PORTLAND, Ore. - 'It's a very interesting concept - I don't think I've ever seen anything quite like it."

That's Portlander Ken Huff talking about the unique "tiny house hotel" that recently opened for business in his neighborhood - one that's creating quite a bit of buzz both locally and nationally.

What makes Caravan - The Tiny House Hotel unique is that it consists of three styles of miniature homes on wheels. There is the 120-square-foot Rosebud (traditional), the 90-square-foot Pearl (industrial) and the 160-square-foot Tandem (funky Portland).

The houses are located on a non-descript lot at 5009 N.E. 11th Avenue (right off of Alberta Street). Caravan is right next to a popular food cart pod and is smack dab in the middle of a thriving neighborhood full of restaurants, food carts, night spots and eclectic shops.

"People are coming by all day long," said Deb Delman, who owns the hotel with her fiance, Kol Peterson. "People are really interested, which is really great. It's really fun."

Each "house" is fully decked out with all the amenities you would find inside your own home.

"These are houses - they have the same systems as houses, like plumbing and electric," said Delman. "They're connected to city systems and they have kitchens, bathrooms and dining rooms - everything a house would have, but on a much smaller scale."

"I think it's a clever idea," said Judie Marks of California. She wasn't staying at the hotel but had heard about it while in town and decided to take a peek.

Photo by Shannon L. Cheesman, KATU.com.

"I like this nice community space," she said about the open seating area and fire pit surrounded by the tiny houses. "It's like a hostel where you really do have the opportunity to meet other people that are staying at the same place. That's what makes hostels so attractive and yet there's a lack of privacy at a lot of hostels that kind of puts me off. This solves that problem."

"I think it's great," said John Wood, another out-of-town visitor. "We have a couple of houses down there (in California) and they are too much space. I haven't seen anything like this. I think it's a good idea."

Both Delman, a teacher, and her fiance, who has a background in environmental design and urban planning, have a passion for tiny houses.

"Kol and I both have an affinity and an interest in small, creative spaces," Delman said. "Myself, I lived in a cabin in Colorado that was off the grid. I lived there for several years before I moved here and then in Portland I converted a garage into a little cabin. And I lived in a barn at one point."

For the two of them, the idea to create a hotel out of tiny houses was a natural fit because it gives them an opportunity to showcase miniature homes and educate folks about them.

Photo by Shannon L. Cheesman, KATU.com.

"We've had people stay one night in one and one night in another so they can experience them," Delman said.

And for a couple that also loves to travel, this gives them a chance to spend time with fellow wanderers.

"We love travelers and I think for us there was a great appeal to have a hotel where we can interact with people on the road who are here in Portland and want to experience Portland. And we are both absolutely madly in love with Portland. So we opened a hotel in, our opinion, one of the most vibrant areas of the city. Alberta Street is pretty amazing," Delman said.

Indeed, the neighborhood is a slice of Portland that illustrates what makes our city a unique travel destination. And the reservations are piling in - Delman said they are getting interest from folks from all over the world. The rate is $125 per night.

"The first night, they just want to walk Alberta," said Delman. "And they all come back they're like 'oh my God, there's so much to do, to eat, to drink - I just don't want to stop.' Some people will plan it out so they have appetizers at one place, a meal at another - they are literally eating their way down the street."

Delman and her fiance don't own their tiny houses - they lease them from different builders. It's a model that will allow them to change things up periodically. They plan to bring in different styles here and there and add a few more to the lot to get the full 'caravan' effect.

Photo by Shannon L. Cheesman, KATU.com.

The Tiny House Movement

There is a growing national movement towards simple living and tiny houses are right at the center of it all. These days you can find plenty of talk on the concept:

"I think the movement is more widespread than I even realized," said Delman. "I think it's sparked by the economic realities of our times and I think for a long time people were thinking of going bigger and bigger. But I think we've turned the tide and now less is more. And we are in a place right now in society where we need to scale back."

A few months ago, we took a look at a Salem-based company that builds tiny houses. Zoe Cottages sells miniature homes that are being used as primary residences, guest houses, office spaces and even as transitional housing for the homeless.

"There's almost an organic grassroots movement of people that are saying 'you know, our life is so complicated and so stress filled - is there a way that we can downsize?' owner Joe O'Connor told us. Watch the story...

Last year, we featured a Portland couple - Tammy Strobel and Logan Smith - who embraced the trend by moving into a 128-square foot home. They told us that with less house, less cleaning, fewer things and no mortgage, they were able to focus on what's important to them - relationships.

“At first our family and friends thought we were a little on the crazy side,” said Logan. “Now they think we’re at the head of the pack." Watch the story...

For Delman and her fiance, the tiny house trend represents more than just a different lifestyle. They want folks to see that this could lead to solutions for some of the nation's biggest problems - like making sure everyone has a roof over their heads.

"Here we are in Portland - we've got 48,000 people a night on the streets," said Delman. "We've got Dignity Village and we've got some amazingly creative uses of urban space. We're the national model now for food carts - using empty lots and urban space in interesting and creative ways."

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