Caravan’s Tiny Houses


Mural & Fire Pit at Caravan – The Tiny House Hotel

Caravan – The Tiny House Hotel will be having its grand opening on Saturday, July 27th, 2013 and I’m sure it will book up quickly once the word is out. It’s a great place for a staycation for Portlanders and a unique place for guests to stay when visiting from out of town. (Here’s a video about America’s first tiny house hotel, which Kirsten Dirksen of Fair Companies made after interviewing Deb and me – my part begins at 7:52.)

Families from as far away as Costa Rica and the UK have already discovered Caravan! Fortunately, I managed to reserve the whole place on Monday night to celebrate my 30th birthday. I arrived a little early so I could spend time in each of the houses before my friends arrived for a Big Birthday Bash at the Tiny House Hotel. Here’s my take on each of the little houses on wheels.

The Rosebud

The Rosebud is a sweet little place with a distinctly cabin feel. It has a little front porch, a window seat with built-in storage, pretty wood paneling and awesome cobblestone countertops. I fully intend to appropriate the mason jar lighting idea. And I do love the little rolling table with two chairs. This is where I stayed the night of my Big Birthday Bash at the Tiny House Hotel and I am glad I got to claim this charming little retreat. Staying in The Rosebud is a great way to enjoy a little country in the city!


The Pearl

Derin Williams of Shelter Wise built this tiny house using the Miter Box plans he created. I helped him frame up and sheathe the walls last fall, so I know how meticulous he is about air sealing, energy efficiency, precision craftspersonship, and… well, everything really! The Pearl has a very zen feel with a white ceiling, sleek dark wood paneling, and stainless countertops. It features a dinette that converts to a double bed, a lofted sleeping space above, and a wet bath (the whole bathroom is a shower stall). The outside is just as sophisticated with metal siding and a colored LED light above the porch. With its clean lines and modern aesthetic, The Pearl really is the precious jewel of Caravan – The Tiny House Hotel.

The Tandem 

The Tandem is the largest of Caravan’s three tiny houses and families snatch it up since it can sleep four people. It features a queen size mattress in the loft and a day bed window seat that converts to another queen size bed. The Tandem is wood paneled in pine, giving it a warm cozy feel. The floors are cork and the countertops and shower surround are tiled, so it has several features of a ground-bound house.

I do, of course, have a special fondness for The Tandem, since it’s the tiny house I finished out last summer. (This was the house I used for my practicum project for my Yestermorrow Sustainable Design-Build Certification and it was featured last year on the Build it Green (BIG) Tour.) When I first encountered this tiny house it was a shell: framed, sheathed, wrapped and ready to be finished. I considered buying it myself but it was bigger than I wanted so I told Eli Spevak of Orange Splot about it. He purchased the partially finished tiny house and hired me to finish it out.

So last summer I did most of the finish work: hanging siding, shingling the gable ends, running electrical wiring, air sealing, insulating, rehanging a repurposed door, paneling the interior, trimming out the windows and door, and installing cork flooring. (I even tiled the shower under the tutelage of Rocky, who is an excellent tiler. He said the tile was sure to crack when the tiny house hit the road, but it’s moved once now and the tile is all still intact!)

Fortunately, I had help from Manda and Simon when it came to the parts that were impossible to do alone: installing the long sheets of Hardy Plank on the exterior, installing wood paneling on the ceiling, and installing metal roofing and a skylight. I enjoyed most aspects of the project (except perhaps for fiberglass insulation day!) and appreciated that I was able to learn so many tangible building skills. I had a special fondness for the creative details like trimming out the storage loft window with a special shelf, creating catwalks between the lofts, and rabbeting out the back of the trim piece that rests against the tiled shower.

The Tandem has found its place at Caravan – The Tiny House Hotel

When I wrapped up My Summer Dream Job the tiny house was ready for the kitchen cabinets to be installed, the ladder to be built, and the finish electrical and plumbing to be completed. The owner, Eli Spevak of Orange Splot, handled all the final construction details. Once the Tandem arrived at Caravan, Deb made it feel like home sweet home with little shelves, a set of coat hooks, and beautiful quilts and pillows.

I know where every mistake is in the house (the spot where the nail gun misfired, the accent tile that I is not quite straight, etc.) but I am proud of this house. I’m really glad that so many other people will get to enjoy it, too!

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6 Responses to Caravan’s Tiny Houses

  1. Pingback: The Miter Box: Modern Tiny House on Wheels by Shelter Wise LLC

  2. Looking for garden house 6×4 with bedroom and kitchen/bathroom

  3. Sage Blackthorn says:

    I just saw Kirsten Dirksen’s video about Caravan over on Fair Companies. Looks like a great little place to spend a few nights. One of the comments left on YouTube on the video Kirsten posted got me thinking. “justtellmethetruth” made a comment about Tiny Homes being similar to “Gypsy Caravans” and wondered if anyone had studied such things. I’ve read a bit about them, also about other movable houses, and travel furniture such as British Campaign Furniture.

    One of the things that seems to be common in all small and tiny dwellings is that furniture serves multiple uses, or it can be folded flat or broken down to be stored out of the way when not in use. I really liked the the space-saving tables shown in the video. There’s a hard to find book called “British Campaign Furniture: Elegance Under Canvas 1740-1914″ by Nicholas A. Brawer that is full of wonderful ideas from the 18th, 19th, and early 20th centuries.

    I really liked that there is a common space with chair and a fire-pit. When we work the various Renaissance Fairs, historical re-enactments, and festivals, having a common space to socialize always happens, and fire-pits are a treat down here in Southern California. When we are allowed to use them, we often cook dinner on them as well as using them for heat and light at night. Some folks play instruments, other’s sing, there is a lot of story telling that goes on around the fire. There is just something really nice about socializing with friends and family around a campfire, I think it’s something that’s ingrained in human beings at a very deep level.

    There are so many empty lots here in Riverside, something like this would be a great use for them.

    • Little Life says:

      Dear Sage,

      Thanks so much for sharing your thoughts about Caravans and tiny houses and giving me new food for thought.

      I’m not familiar with any published studies about the connection between the tiny houses and other portable housing options. However, I call this the modern tiny house movement because I recognize that there have been other waves of it. Historically much our first shelter was tiny and portable (yurts, tipis, etc.) There have also been nomadic traveling people who have used little houses on wheels (gypsies, sheep herders, etc.) Here in America the conestoga wagons that traveled the Oregon Trail were a form of little houses on wheels. Then, of course, we had the house trucks of the 1960s and 1970s. (I enjoyed reading Rolling Homes a couple years ago, which is about house trucks). I think a research project is a-brewin’ here!

      Thanks for introducing me to British Campaign Furniture. All the copies of the book you recommended are out of my price range so I’ve just ordered Living Under Canvas: Furniture for People on the Move. It will be fun to read and pass on. I love multi-functional furniture!

      As for the gathering space, I think it’s a critical piece of creating community for little houses. We’ve been talking recently about doing a tiny house festival that would be similar in some ways to what you’ve described. I’d love to talk to you more about it. Please call me using the number on my website ( if you’re willing to discuss these ideas further.


  4. Pingback: Caravan Welcomes Caboose & Skyline |

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