Nestled among the artsy shops and trendy restaurants of Portland, Oregon’s Alberta Arts District sits Caravan, the world’s first tiny house hotel. In 2013, small-living enthusiasts Deb Delman and Kol Peterson transformed a car repo lot into a peaceful urban campground.
“Tiny houses tap into something deep
and old like the pull of a dollhouse.”
The renovated space is home to six locally built tiny houses on wheels—ranging between 80 and 160 square feet. The homes form a circle around a central courtyard complete with outdoor seating and fire pit. Each tiny house has its own unique design theme, but they all boast a kitchen, bathroom, sleeping quarters and living area, as well as running water, electric heat, flush toilet and hot shower.
Who comes to stay at the hotel? “We thought it would just be groovy types,” says Delman, “but all ages and kinds of people stay here. They want to see if they can live like this. You have young people in their twenties who don’t want to enter a thirty-year house debt—they’re disillusioned with that linear idea. Then, you have people in their sixties, seventies, eighties, who either can’t afford a big house or don’t want one. Finally, you have a whole group in between who like the sense of ownership and freedom to experience life. Tiny houses tap into something deep and old like the pull of a dollhouse.”
While owning a tiny house hotel sounded fun to the couple, the bigger intention was to use Caravan as a public place to showcase small housing, educate the public and do policy and advocacy work, all of which comes naturally to these two.
Prior to owning Caravan, Delman founded and ran a nonprofit for nine years, which was aimed at helping at-risk youth. Afterwards she taught social justice and equity issues to high schoolers. Peterson has a master’s degree in environmental planning and urban design from Harvard, and a deep passion for urban density issues.
When asked to pinpoint the best part of owning Caravan, Delman can’t pick just one. “It’s equal measures having a hotel, meeting people from all over the world and creating the actual spaces. I get to do all the decorating and designing. It’s really fun. That married with the feeling that there is a purpose to pushing the small-housing thing forward. Now three years in, the education and advocacy part is probably the juiciest part for both of us.”
Since its opening, Caravan has averaged a 98 percent occupancy rate eight months out of the year. In addition to hosting travelers from all over the world, it has been rented in its entirety for weddings, family reunions and even a baby shower.
To view all the tiny houses or to book one, visit http://tinyhousehotel.com