Checking in with Portland's Tiny House Hotel

We asked 1-year-old Caravan's owners to fill us in on what’s new, their plans for the future, and their favorite memories so far.

By Brooke Sahni October 23, 2014

It’s been just over a year since the country’s first-ever tiny house hotel opened its even tinier doors on NE 11th Ave. We asked owners Kol Peterson and Deb Delman to fill us in on what’s new at Caravan, plans for the future, and some of the best moments since its opening.

So, it’s been about a year since Caravan’s opening. What’s new? 
KP & DD: Last July we began with three tiny houses. Our vision and intent all along was to have six houses. This spring we reached that goal. So that’s great! We’re now at full capacity and we’re really pleased with the tiny houses we have. We also started last year with half of a staff person working part time and now we have four staff members, so we are able to do what we need to do to run the business on a pragmatic level.

There’s also been a macro change in the tiny house movement which we're helping push forward. We were part of the city’s first ADU (accessory dwelling units) tour in June and that had an overwhelming response—850 people signed up. Recently we’ve initiated tiny house tours. We do this almost every Sunday and we open up the tiny houses so people can come in and see them and talk to the builders. The media attention we’ve received has been quite mind-boggling. It’s been nonstop. Now we’re going to be on Portlandia! What we want is to educate people about small alternative housing options. 

Are the ADUs like tiny houses?
KP: Tiny houses are actually very different from ADUs. They’re both smaller than the average American house, but ADUs are permanent structures—someone can convert their garage or build a structure in their backyard. Portland is actively promoting ADUs by giving a ten thousand dollar incentive for people to develop these. 

Why do you think people are drawn to the tiny house movement and nontraditional ways of living?
DD: That’s what everyone wants to know—why is this happening? Why is it such a strong appeal? There’s a common quote now—that people would rather have experiences than things. There’s a movement of people moving away from being burdened with a 30-year mortgage and a lot of stuff to something more creative. People also just like tiny things—forts and dollhouses. And the time is right.

What does the future of Caravan look like? What do you envision for the next year or so?
KP & DD: We hope to expand what we’re doing with Caravan—more than expanding the physical size of it— we don’t necessarily want more locations. That being said, we are hoping to build a variety of new educational programs over time. We might start doing more workshops, hosting music events, parties and gatherings—we’re using Caravan as a platform to educate people in a variety of ways and to celebrate Portland. We want to highlight local talent—musicians, artists. We want to use this as a place to celebrate our city; we’re going to do another ADU tour this spring.

What have been the most powerful and the most meaningful moments from the past year?
KP & DD: Some of the best moments are when people who have never seen a tiny house before walk in and say, ‘Wow, this is something I could do.’ Or, ‘This is bigger than I thought.’ Or, ‘This feels great.’ Showing people smaller spaces can influence where people chose to live. Yesterday a guy came to our tiny house tour. He drove 2,500 miles with Caravan as his goal. It’s all much more than we expected.

Register online for Tiny House Tours coming up in the next few weeks.

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