When it comes to oozing cool, Jimi Hendrix, one of the most celebrated musicians and icons of the 20 th century, is hard to beat.
His fashion, his stage presence, his way of playing guitar – everything about Hendrix was ahead of his time.
And years ago, Hendrix favored a way of vacationing that had yet to receive its 15 minutes of fame. While visiting Maui in the 1970s, the rocker opted to stay not at one of the island’s luxury hotels worthy of a celebrity, but instead chose a tiny home. Just 218 square feet, with cathedral ceilings and surrounded by forest, the simplistic retreat offered an alternative experience – the opportunity to simplify, disconnect and be completely immersed in nature.
Now, nearly 50 years later, the tiny home movement has seriously picked up steam as the focus of numerous news articles, magazine stories, and even documentaries, all dissecting a way of living focused on downsizing, steering away from McMansions and instead living more efficiently, using far fewer resources.
Still mostly in the realm of early adopters and hipsters, the tiny house movement’s latest incarnation may just help it break through to the masses. From Boston to Washington and California, a handful of websites have emerged over the past several months that offer tiny homes as vacation rentals.
Among the most notable and well-known is a startup named Getaway, launched in July with the goal of allowing stressed out city dwellers to reconnect with nature.
Created by a group of Bostonians who describe themselves as campers, designers and do-ers — many among them are Harvard graduates, some from the Harvard University Graduate School of Design, others from the law school or business school – the company is all about advancing the tiny home idea, one vacation rental at a time.
“We wanted a project that could get us started in tiny houses and could immediately be useful,” says Pete Davis, who along with Jon Staff, founded the site. “We have dreams about building tiny house villages. But the vacation homes are a way to test drive tiny house living.”
The company has started small but has big goals. For now, it is offering just three tiny home vacation rentals, all in Massachusetts. Each property is located less than two hours from Boston.
The homes accommodate between two and four people and start at $99 per night. They’re all in quiet, natural settings and include amenities you would expect in any home – showers, toilets, a stove and a queen bed. They also have some accoutrements you wouldn’t anticipate – such as wall mounted antlers…for atmosphere.
Each rental also comes with key provisions to maximize your outdoor experience – such things as bicycles, a grill to cook and even marshmallow roasting sticks.
Noticeably absent among the list of offerings are televisions, WiFi, computers or any other distracting modern connections to the outside world.
“A lot of people are just into this idea of disconnecting,” continues Davis. “Reading the Internet is like reading the millionth page of the worst book ever written. And there are all these things you’re losing out on by being so connected. Just go play an old board game or read a book.”
Other options during your tiny house vacation? Hang out outside, go for a walk, cook something fantastic or just site by the campfire. A tiny house in the woods provides the ideal backdrop for all of these activities and more.
Getaway’s success was nearly immediate. Weekend dates for all three of the houses were 100% booked nearly immediately after being offered in July and that pace continued until year’s end. Monthly occupancy for the houses is above 67% and typically far closer to the 80% range.
For those who fear being plopped in some forlorn corner of the woods when renting a home from Getaway, think again. Just as they obsess over each home’s stylish design, the site’s founders also obsess over the settings chosen for the tiny structures.
Their criteria for a site includes several important considerations, both whimsical and practical: whether you can see the stars at night, whether the site is home to interesting plants and animals and whether one really feels surrounded by nature while there.
“We take having high quality woods seriously,” Davis adds. “If there is a roaring highway in the background, it’s no good. It’s about finding that sweet spot – someplace that’s far enough away location and style-wise that you feel like you are truly getting away, but close enough that it doesn’t feel like a crazy long adventure.”
Boston is merely a starting point for the Getaway folks. The company has immediate plans to expand just outside of New York City, and if that goes well, proving that the company can successfully manage the rentals from afar, then the future is wide open. Long range goals include both broadening Getaway’s reach and deepening its current inventory.
“We want to have getaways outside every stressed out city in America,” Davis says.
Not to be outdone, the hip folks on the left coast have also begun launching their own tiny home vacation rentals. Two sites in particular are worth noting.
Trailermade, started by two cousins in California who grew tired of the corporate world, is a peer-to-peer trailer rental company. But the site isn’t renting just any old, scrappy unwanted trailers. It rents the hippest of the category – Airstreams and vintage campers. And in keeping with that hip factor, the site also offers tiny homes.
“In terms of coolness, tiny homes are right up there with Airstreams,” says Jeryl Detmer. “We’re focused more on what is aesthetically pleasing and what the new generation is going after.”
Like its Boston counterpart, Trailermade went live in July and since then has developed a following of about 10,000 users. The company offers five tiny homes, all located in Colorado, that rent for between $150 and $200 per night.
While the site’s bread and butter may admittedly be the trailers, the primary goal of the founders is to offer unique options for people who don’t want to stay in a cookie cutter hotel or who are seeking something far less ordinary. Detmer says tiny homes fit that bill perfectly.
“People who are in the know, are really into tiny homes, and I think it’s gaining momentum,” says Detmer. “The American dream isn’t the huge house anymore. That’s why people are staying in Airstreams and tiny homes. People are tired of hotels. They want to experience something different. People want more minimal living and more cool experiences.”
Further north, in Washington, Alexandria Nicole Cellers recently began offering two tiny homes as vacation rentals in the heart of a vineyard, overlooking the Columbia River.
The added claim to fame of these homes is that they were created as part of an HGTV competition this past summer.
One of the homes was designed in an urban, ultra modern style, the other crafted in classic shabby chic with abundant use of repurposed materials. Both provide yet another opportunity to feel out tiny home living, without signing up for a mortgage.
The homes, each under 400 square feet and starting at $250 a night, include decks with a vineyard view, air conditioning and private bathrooms.
“We thought these were a terrific way to bring this movement to light in this area,” says vineyard owner Ali Boyle.
“What we were really trying to emphasize is the outdoor experience around you,” she adds.
In this case, the outdoor options include walks through a vineyard, biking, canoeing and wine tasting.
Like the tiny home rentals in Boston and Colorado, those at Alexandria Nicole Cellars have been wildly popular since first listing in May, with a typical 85% occupancy.
So has the culture finally caught up with Hendrix’s simplistic approach to vacationing? Perhaps. In the meantime, that stunning little rental visited by the rocker is even available on Airbnb.
For a mere $175 a night, you too could have a tiny home experience, one that involves vacationing like a music legend.