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How a Harvard student’s summer in an Airstream trailer led to a startup focused on living simple

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Getaway’s first tiny house is in New Hampshire.
Getaway’s first tiny house is in New Hampshire. Kataram Studios

Jon Staff hasn’t spent much time in typical American houses.

He grew up on a boat in Minnesota, moved to a Harvard dorm, lived in the basement of a Somerville frozen yogurt shop, and even travelled around the country in an Airstream trailer.

“With each of them my life has got more interesting,’’ Staff told Boston.com.

Staff credits his atypical home experience, combined with a lot of time to think while living in the Airstream, for leading him to co-found Getaway, which builds “tiny house’’ style cabins, places them in beautiful outdoor areas, and rents them to city-dwelling vacationers looking to, well, get away.

“The Airstream had everything in it to live, but it’s small so it forced me outside into the world,’’ Staff said. “And I was saving a lot of money and it was better for the environment.’’

Launching a tiny movement

Micro apartment units and tiny houses have become a recent trend – one that Staff and his co-founder, Pete Davis, noted was very popular on Facebook, but less so in the real world.

“The process started with us thinking the tiny house movement has a big gap with posting on Facebook and actually living in one,’’ Davis said. “People are excited about it, but are far away from people living in one.’’

With Getaway you don’t have to pick up and move into a tiny house, you can just spend the night, either to test out what it is really like to live in a tiny house or just to disconnect yourself from work life. It costs about $100 per night.

So far they have built one home that can be rented and are currently working on numbers two and three.

The home is 160 square feet, not including two lofts that can sleep four people on two twins and one queen bed. There’s a full bathroom, running water, a toilet, a kitchen with a propane stove, and a sink.

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Take a look inside Getaway’s first home:

“We build it all in East Boston,’’ Staff said. “Then I get in a truck and drive them and we put them on beautiful land out of sight of any house. The first one has been completed and moved to Southern New Hampshire up on a hill.’’

Davis and Staff said that while there may be cell service at the location, they do not put in any extra effort to get it. The homes are meant to be cozy and to give guests some simplicity in their otherwise busy lives.

“Each of the houses are named after team members’ grandmothers,’’ Davis said. “Over the river and through the woods to grandmother’s house we go!’’

Origins

Getaway was founded in conjunction with the Harvard Innovation Lab and the Millennial Housing Lab, which has a “mission of developing and realizing fresh housing ideas for a new generation.’’

It’s a mission that resonates with Staff and Davis, who began their friendship while living in the same dorm at Harvard.

“Jon and I became friend because of housing design,’’ Davis said. “The dorm in college was designed to have more interactions with people….that was the first time we were turned on with how housing design can affect broad areas of your life.’’