Along with housing a growing number of thrifty millennials and ever-wise minimalists, tiny homes are becoming go-to lodging for travelers looking to embrace that simple-living mindset or get up close and personal with their destination.
They are used as getaways or guesthouses from the Catskills in New York to Vail ski trails in Colorado. Some companies, like Tiny Home Vacations in northern Texas, feature clusters of tiny homes that cater directly to tourists. Airbnb dedicates a section of its website exclusively to its finest tiny home listings.
In the Northwoods of Wisconsin, ESCAPE Homes founder Dan Dobrowolski and his wife, Lisa, have constructed a finely outfitted fleet of petite dwellings near Rice Lake as part of their burgeoning tiny home empire. What began as a lodge built on the site of an abandoned church camp near Chetek, Wisconsin, in 1993 has morphed into high-end Canoe Bay Resort, with accommodations designed by Frank Lloyd Wright protégé John Rattenbury. Most expensive is the 2,000-square-foot Edgewood Villa, $999 per night, but smaller rentable homes start at $348.
How’s business? “It’s exploding — like a bonfire,” says Dobrowolski, who fished on the 280 acres of northern Wisconsin land as a boy (and worked long ago as a weatherman for WFLD-TV in Chicago). The pandemic “was gas on the fire” of the trend, because “people want to feel safe” yet have a vacation spot or accommodate visitors, he says.
I have argued before that tiny homes often appear to appeal to wealthier Americans who want mobility, minimalism, or a chance to get away. Some escape McMansions for tiny houses and others do not want tiny houses to be associated with lower classes.
Of course, one of the big possibilities of tiny houses is that they offer cheaper housing. Whether they provide housing for the homeless or affordable housing, they can provide options for those who would struggle otherwise to find housing.
If tiny houses become associated with tourism, does this mean they are for those who have the income to spend on getaways? This would make tiny houses a luxury item, not one that could help people.
While the tiny house movement is still small, there is still time to find builders and others who can make tiny homes affordable and common and not just tourist destinations.