Getaway lets you try a tiny house on for size


When planning vacations, it’s tempting to think big. But what about small? Very small.

Getaway, a new startup out of Harvard, is taking the off-the-grid retreat and miniaturizing it.

Its mission: build and rent 160-square-foot cabins for people looking for a respite from the big-city pace and the chance to try out living a little more simply in a lot fewer square feet.

For $119 a night, a group of four can book a cabin complete with hotel basics, such as towels and sheets. The tiny house is stocked with snacks, bicycles, firewood, and playing cards, all available for purchase via Venmo, a mobile payment system.

Getaway is something of a project within a project at the Harvard Innovation Lab.

It is one of the first projects out of the Millennial Housing Lab — a collaboration among the business, law, and design schools — with the goal of developing fresh housing ideas for a new generation.

Backed by Tamarisc, a California-based real estate venture, and two Boston-based private investors, Getaway raised $250,000 in initial funding before launching this summer.

The first of its 8-by 20-foot homes, located in southern New Hampshire, is ready to rent. The second and third tiny houses are under construction.

But are they too cramped for comfort?

Jon Staff, a cofounder of the Millennial Housing Lab, says no. They’re full of conveniences. And they might just teach visitors a thing or two about scaling back.

“Staying in the tiny house might cause people to rethink how they live and ask ‘do I need all of this stuff?’ Maybe they won’t continue going up in housing size,” he said.

Even if the time spent in the rental doesn’t persuade one to buy a tiny house, Staff hopes there will be a shift in attitude away from wanting a bigger house or owning so much stuff.

Housing for the millennial generation is inadequate, Staff said.

“The geography is wrong, the location is wrong, the cost is wrong. I want to find solutions to making housing work better for this generation,” he said.

Staff’s connection to the tiny house movement stems from his childhood. He grew up in a Minnesota town of 64 people and spent high school summers on a boat on Lake Superior.

He also says he camped out in a Harvard library for two and a half months while constructing a frozen yogurt shop. Before he started business school, he lived and traveled the country in a 26-foot Airstream trailer.

“I keep finding myself living in these weird, small spaces,” Staff said. “Every time I do, I find my life becoming more enjoyable because when the space is small, it forces me outside.”

He now lives in a conventional house but says he would gladly move back into a small space.

In addition to Getaway, the Millennial Housing Lab plans to build tiny houses for the homeless and create kits for anyone to be able to build a house in 30 days.

How small is it?

At 160 square feet, the 8×20-foot Getaway cabin is larger than the average minivan, 90 square feet, and a little smaller than a school bus, 245 square feet.