Forgo the Tent and Give a Tiny House a Test Drive

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By Allie Weiss
Giving users a taste of the tiny house movement, one startup offers compact cabins for short stays.

Formed in July 2015, Getaway is a company that designs and rents tiny cabins. Initially launching with three structures in the Boston area, this year the startup expands with three additional models in New York, all located within two hours of the city and easily accessible by rail or car.

Forgo the Tent and Give a Tiny House a Test Drive - Photo 1 of 6 - The Maisie structure is one of three designs in the New York area.

The Maisie structure is one of three designs in the New York area.

Formed by Jon Staff and Pete Davis while graduate students at Harvard, the company is headquartered at the Harvard Innovation Lab. Understanding people's need and desire for a place to retreat, without the hassles that come with planning a full camping experience, the founders sought to create a simple space that would facilitate getaways.

Staff's own experience residing in unusual environments—he lived in a Airstream for five months and once illegally lived in his college library—inspired his interest in the tiny house movement. "Reallocating your resources to live life on experiences rather than things is something I value," he explains. Another benefit: "When you build smaller, you can build more thoughtfully and with higher quality materials."

Forgo the Tent and Give a Tiny House a Test Drive - Photo 2 of 6 - A large window is the focal point of the wheeled dwelling.

A large window is the focal point of the wheeled dwelling.

Building small both became an opportunity for the founders to introduce guests to the concept of living with less, but also a practical tool for company growth—it's easier and more affordable to expand when the footprints are tiny.

Forgo the Tent and Give a Tiny House a Test Drive - Photo 3 of 6 -

The cabins are all designed by Harvard Graduate School of Design students, and range in size from 160 to 220 square feet. Full insulated, they are available to rent year round, but the mobile structures could also be moved or repositioned over time. Some sleep up to four with two beds, while other models are best suited for one or two. 

Forgo the Tent and Give a Tiny House a Test Drive - Photo 4 of 6 - The Isidore cabin sleeps four.

The Isidore cabin sleeps four.

The structures are outfitted with basic amenities, including a queen-sized bed, a stove, a toilet, and a shower. (They are connected to the electricity grid.) Staff and Davis took cues from the hospitality industry—the beds are made up with fresh linens, there is food that can be purchased (minibar style), and guests receive a postcard after their stay.

Forgo the Tent and Give a Tiny House a Test Drive - Photo 5 of 6 - The cabin comes equipped with board games and books.

The cabin comes equipped with board games and books.

While each cabin is slightly different, they all follow the same aesthetic style and material palette. Rough-cut shiplap pine, birch or pine plywood, and oak floors make up the structures, resulting in a decidedly simple space that alludes to log cabins and the surrounding forestry. "It’s a really kind of special feel because it’s a modern design, but it’s this rustic material palette," Staff says.

Forgo the Tent and Give a Tiny House a Test Drive - Photo 6 of 6 - The Isidore cabin has a sleeping loft with a clerestory window.

The Isidore cabin has a sleeping loft with a clerestory window.

Other design features include big windows, as well as a fire pit and Adirondack chairs in an outdoor area. Beyond that, "it's strip everything else away basically—we just make sure it works," Staff says.

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