A Tiny Visit to Portland

Updated: Jun 16, 2019

Have I mentioned that I know a Tiny House builder? Benn Kovco built Kangablue – one of the Tiny Houses at Caravan – Portland’s Tiny House Hotel. He’s an Australian, living permanently in Portland now and had dreamed of building his own straw-bale house. He’s now a local in the Tiny House community in Portland and is just finishing off his second build, for Gentiana and Christopher. I managed to get cheap flights for a weekend in Portland, which unfortunately did not coincide with Benn being in Portland, but I had a really informative trip regardless.

Benn hooked me up with Gentiana and Christopher so I could check out his latest build. I turned up earlier in the day and looked around from the outside. His house his 20′ (6.1m) long so its about the same size that I want to build. Looking in from the outside, my heart sunk. It looked small… The funny thing was, when I hooked up with the owners and spent some time inside, it felt a lot bigger! So the take-away here was – don’t panic! It will be big enough. Gentiana and Christopher looked tired and over it. Benn built the shell and helped with some of the electrical wiring, but Gentiana and Christopher were building the inside. Everyone on this project was building in their spare time and working full-time also. The project kicked off in June and 3 months later, they had just 10 days to move out of their current living situation. They have a fair bit to do – they have painted but there are no fixtures (they brought the mattress in the day I visited) and no working electrical or plumbing. But they are excited to move in and get their dream underway. The build is happening in Benn’s driveway in NE Portland, but Gentiana and Christopher say they want to move out of Portland with their Tiny House. To where, they don’t know yet.

The design of this house was fairly standard for Tiny Houses – but Benn has built a 9/12 pitch roof rather than a 12/12. He claimed there was very little trade-off in aesthetics but an extra few inches in vertical height to be gained. I agree with this, now I have seen it. Gentiana and Christopher have opted for large windows which do make the place feel bigger. They also have a vertical double-hung window at one end, which I liked, also providing egress in case of an emergency (they said in case a bear got inside. I’m not sure if they were serious).

Next stop was a tour through 3 of the Tiny Houses at Caravan. I saw Roly Poly, The Cabooseand Skyline. The thing you have to remember is that the hotel selects Tiny Houses that maximise the number of occupants who can sleep here, not the on-going liveability. So I took some ideas around different uses of space but nothing really grabbed me. Skyline was my favourite as it felt the biggest inside and had an interesting use of space over the drawbar. They had put the toilet out over the drawbar and added a ladder that pulled down over the toilet to access storage above either side.  That’s got me thinking about how to use the space over the drawbar. Also, they had built narrow shelves into the sliding bathroom door for more storage space. Neat idea! All of the Tiny Houses I saw here felt dark, and I decided I wanted to make sure mine felt bigger.

Last stop on the Tiny House tour of Portland was a drive around an area of Alberta Road where there were a few tiny houses. I spied 4 in a couple of blocks and observed one that was absolutely beautiful. It was at the back of the block and I couldn’t see much but the exterior wooden cladding was quality and the workmanship around the door was really high. It looked like a great addition to the area. There were a few that were fairly standard and a couple that were quite boxy. If I could park my Tiny House anywhere, I would agree that the shed-style roofs were the way to go. They maximise the space inside, even if they don’t look as appealing from the outside. The problem is that I need my neighbours onside, and not wondering if the neighbourhood is about to become an RV park. Which is why I am committed to making my tiny house as beautiful on the outside as it is on the inside…

One more observation on Portland – it feels like everyone is alternative. Like the convention is to be unconventional. I imagine no one would look twice if you drove down the road with a tiny house attached. Don’t get me wrong – its not like every second house is a tiny house – you have to look hard, even when you know where to look. But the community feels very accepting of people who want to try something different and follow their passions. I really enjoyed my excursion to Portland and I hope that I retain some of that faith that what I am doing is right for me and that’s all that matters.

A relevant mural on a wall in Portland..

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