Dan Dobrowolski understands the growing curiosity to live large in a small space, and others are noticing his efforts from coast to coast.
The owner of remote Canoe Bay Resort near Chetek, the Midwest’s only Relais and Chateaux property, is investing in the tiny house movement and gaining national attention for his new venture: ESCAPE Homes. It gives new meaning and panache to RV travel and second-home getaways.
The tiny house movement encourages a downsizing of living space for the good of the environment and pocketbook. These eclectic designs are less than 1,000 square feet, compared to the average U.S. house size of almost 2,400 square feet in 2010.
Dan’s 269-square-foot ESCAPE Traveler is one of 12 finalists in the Small Spaces that Live Large category of HGTV’s Fresh Faces of Design contest. Dan and architect Kelly Davis of SALA Architects in Minneapolis this month introduced a second product, the 319-square-foot ESCAPE Traveler XL.
Neither model scrimps on amenities, furnishings or ecologically friendly features. That means solar power and standard kitchen appliances, room to sleep six or eight, on-demand hot water and a bathroom with tub/shower. Options include a double deck, electric fireplace, screened porch and spa tub.
“We’re using products that make a small carbon footprint and can be constructed to go entirely off the (energy) grid,” Dan says. The structure can be plugged into one electrical outlet “and run just fine” because of rooftop solar panels and a lithium battery. Rainwater collection, composting or incinerating toilets, recycled products as insulation and argon-filled thermopane windows are other earth-friendly and energy-efficient examples.
Big windows and cedar siding make both ESCAPE models look like little Frank Lloyd Wright houses on wheels, and this Prairie style of design is deliberate. They resemble Canoe Bay Resort’s structures, which were the work of John Rattenbury, the iconic architect’s protégé.
“We had so much interest in our architecture at Canoe Bay,” Dan explains. “These are very specific products, just like Canoe Bay, only on wheels.”
The ESCAPE units are 24 or 30 feet long and can be pulled with the hitch of a large truck. What you pay depends on the model and furnishings; they are made to order.
A Traveler with standard features costs $65,400. The XL version starts at $72,800 and “feels more like a full house,” Dan says. That means a first-floor room with queen-sized bed and lounging area with couchlike seating instead of a daybed.
“It’s up to the customer to decide how much stuff to put in it,” Dan says. “I think simpler is better, but some people disagree.” Adding a dishwasher, granite countertops, wood flooring or entertainment system is possible.
Construction occurs at a formerly vacant plant in Almena, 40 minutes from the Canoe Bay, but before winter the work moves to a facility twice the size, in Rice Lake.
Models are available for viewing, by appointment. Since they are sold factory-direct, there are no dealers.
“We’re leading, not following” the tiny house movement, Dan believes. “We want to stay a little ahead of ourselves and the market.”
He says retirees to families with young children have expressed interest, and the most recent unit was transported to California’s Silicon Valley.
“We’re getting the entire gamut” of customers, Dan says. “What we offer has a thousand different uses.” They are part-time getaway cottages that stay in the same place, or RV-like units that move north and south seasonally.
Learn more about ESCAPE Homes at escapehomes.us and 844-696-3722 or 715-924-4594. To see this and other HGTV Fresh Faces of Design nominees, go to hgtv.com/design/fresh-faces-of-design. Dan and Kelly’s “tiny luxury cabin with porch” is under “inspired abodes,” then “small spaces that live large.” Voting ends Oct. 31.
In the 300-acre and adults-only Canoe Bay Resort, W16065 Hogback Rd., Chetek, are 27 suites and cottages, each designed for one couple. The resort is in Rusk County, and rates start at $350 per night. Add a multi-course dinner for $75 per person. canoebay.com, 715-924-4594
Members of the elite Relais and Chateaux association operate luxury lodging or restaurants with exceptional service that are independently owned. Canoe Bay is one of 530 members around the world and 63 in the United States. relaischateaux.com, 800-735-2478