Let’s all get small: tiny houses for short stays

Small rooms are in the DNA of a number of new hotel brands, including Moxy Hotels from Marriott and Vib from Best Western, that are chasing millennial travelers. Now house rentals are shrinking too with the rise of the tiny-house hotel. 

Proponents of shrunken living spaces champion environmental and economic efficiencies. And while there is no standard definition of a tiny house, the Small House Society, a group that encourages simpler living, identifies those under 500 square feet as tiny, although many are less than half that size.  

“There’s a kitschy-ness to them that people love,” said Jenna Spesard, a blogger who writes about tiny houses, lives in a 160-square-foot dwelling and acts as the host at the new Mount Hood Tiny House Village, a collection of five small houses to rent on a campground in northern Oregon.  

This spring and summer, eight new tiny-home hotels will open across the country colonized by Colorado-built Tumbleweed tiny houses, cute mini-RVs that look like cottages or cabins.  

The innate charm of the designs, coupled with the social experiment of sharing close quarters, has fueled an entire category of reality television shows and documentaries that has helped drive the growth of tiny-house inns where travelers can try out the lifestyle. Weissmann cites the 2013 film “Tiny,” which chronicled the building of one such home, as “the big reveal on tiny houses — our website traffic doubled after that debut on Netflix.”  

The downside to tiny-house living is, of course, the cramped quarters, as lampooned on the television show “Portlandia.” But fans say the houses offer amenities, including kitchens, that are missing from standard hotel rooms and that hotels equally challenge couples and families to live together in small spaces.  

Many new tiny-house locales offer breathing room in park settings furnished with outdoor amenities like picnic tables and fire pits.  

Mount Hood Tiny House Village installed five house designs of “tinies,” as they are called, in May at a campground that also welcomes RVs and rents cabins. The 178-square-foot Atticus, with a bedroom, bath, kitchen and sleeping loft, is wood-sided and -paneled in classic, unadorned style. With a similar layout, and an extra 18 square feet, the more playful Zoe has pale blue siding and bright green curtains. Rates start at $129.  

This year, the village’s owner, Equity Lifestyle Properties, is installing tiny-house rentals at three more campgrounds. Two units recently opened in the Verde Valley near Sedona, Arizona. In May, another five each will open in Leavenworth, a Bavarian-theme town in central Washington state, and in Tuxbury in southern New Hampshire.  

Other, independently operated tiny-house hotels include Getaway, which opened seven tiny houses in upstate New York last summer. The proprietors keep the location secret until travelers book but admit to being on 20 acres in the Catskills with hiking trails nearby.  

With names like Isidore and Columbia, the boxy Scandinavian-influenced houses with knotty pine or plywood walls have two-burner stoves, minirefrigerators, queen beds and electric toilets (from $89). The company’s original location, in southern New Hampshire, opened in 2015 with three houses, and both sites are poised to expand this year.

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