Business of Design

These tiny homes offer a breathtaking retreat for nature lovers who want to escape the modern world

Key Points
  • Getaway offers the experience of a tiny home in nature as an escape from the burdens of modern life.
  • Cabins are designed with wood, glass and some metal, but forgo plastics and composites.
  • The company suggests guests unplug from all modes of technology so they can unwind.
What it was like spending 24 hours alone in a tiny cabin in the woods
What it was like spending 24 hours alone in a tiny home

Getaway, a three-year-old start-up that offers custom-built tiny homes nestled in the heart of nature, is betting on its 140- to 200-sq.-ft. cabins to help combat the relentless pull of technology.

The company is harnessing the power of design — everything from the cabins' large windows to the Eastern White Pine used in construction — to give city dwellers the chance to unwind and unplug, all without a Wi-Fi network in sight.

The tiny-home appeal

Tiny homes are part of a growing movement among the world-weary to downsize or live a simpler existence. Yet in many areas, especially cities, these residences on wheels may not be economical to own, because of zoning regulations, high land costs and other drawbacks.

Enter Getaway, a Brooklyn-based company that offers the experience of a tiny home, but only for as many nights as you're willing to pay for. Currently, Getaway has cabins outside Boston, New York City and Washington, D.C. Rates vary, but a cabin in New York goes for $150 per night on weekdays and $175 per night on weekends.

Getaway isn't about selling a night in a house in the woods; it's about selling an experience.
Sophie Bearman | CNBC

The stay includes a lock box for guests' cellphones, suggestions for nearby hikes and nature walks, a plush queen-size bed and a firepit with Adirondack chairs.

"Within this space, you have everything you need and nothing you don't," founder and CEO Jon Staff told CNBC in an interview.

"There's no TV, no internet, not a bunch of extra rooms you don't need, and the result is that everything is stripped away so you can just focus on you and the people you came with."

Getaway isn't simply selling a night in a house in the woods; it's selling an experience.

"We go out of our way to make sure not to describe ourselves as a hotel, because a hotel is agnostic as to what you do," said Staff. "But we care a lot about what you do. We really don't want you checking email, and we really want you making a fire."

Intentional design

The concept behind Getaway's large window design is to allow guests to go to sleep gazing up at the night sky and then wake up with the sun.
Sophie Bearman | CNBC

One of Getaway's most talked about and photographed features is its big window design, with the bed placed right next to the window. The concept is to sleep in nature: One can go to bed gazing up at the night sky and then wake up with the sun.

This emphasis on being close to nature is echoed with the use of natural building materials. Getaway cabins use wood, glass and some metal but forgo plastics and composites. The Eastern White Pine is stained a natural color that's meant to blend in with the environment.

The cabin size is essential to the experience. Getaway offers two-person and four-person homes that come with a bed (or two) for sleeping, a table for eating, a kitchenette with a mini-fridge and two-stove burner and a bathroom with a toilet and hot-water shower. Outdoors, there's a firepit, picnic table and chairs.

The cabins also come stocked with pots, pans, olive oil, salt and pepper — essentials they provide so guests don't have to worry about the basics. Additional food items, like trail mix, jerky and Tate's chocolate-chip cookies, are available for purchase.

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When the Getaway cabin design is successful, Staff said guests should barely notice it at all.

"Architecturally, we think of ourselves less as designing a great tiny cabin and more as designing the perfect piece of hardware to get into nature," said Staff.

"We want to make sure you get out of your car and everything works immediately so you can maximize the amount of time you have to unwind."

Funding the dream

Getaway has received more than $16 million in funding from a number of investors since 2017.
Sophie Bearman | CNBC

In 2017, Getaway closed a $15 million funding round backed by L Catterton, a firm that's invested in start-ups like Pure Barre, Snap Kitchen and Bliss. Prior to that investment, Getaway raised $1.4 million in two rounds of seed financing from a number of investors, including Rough Draft Ventures and Fueled, according to the company. Getaway posted $750,000 in revenue for 2017.

Tiny homes and alternative living spaces aren't foreign to Staff, who grew up living on a boat and can also add to his list of unusual homes the basement of a frozen yogurt shop he founded in college, a campus library at Harvard and a 26-ft. Airstream trailer.

"The original business plan for Getaway, if you can call it that, was me and my buddy Pete wanting a tiny house in the woods where we could go and escape people and escape work and escape email," said Staff.

Getaway may sell tiny homes, but it has big dreams. Its 2018 annual goals include expanding to six markets nationally, with hopes for houses nestled across the United States.

Currently, the company gets high marks from travelers. It hopes to maintain its 81+ Net Promoter Score, which gauges the loyalty of a company's customer relationships. An NPS of +50 is widely considered excellent.

One area Getaway will likely not be expanding into is partnerships. Staff said partnering with a ski hill or local vineyard could chip away at Getaway's unique mission of helping guests disconnect and recharge, and he said doing so would make Getaway just another "business like so many others."