The tiny house movement has picked pace during the pandemic. People are voluntarily choosing to live in small, comfortable dwellings to downsize and leave “heavily-populated cities to work remotely across the country.” No wonder then, the tiny house designs have undergone an evolutionary drive with a few renowned builders offering premier options than the others. One name that’s tried to remain ahead of the curve is ESCAPE Homes based out of Rice Lake, Wisconsin.
Inspired by their work, we wanted to know about the ideology and the driving force behind their breathtaking designs. We were fortunate recently to get into a quick conversation with Dań Dobrowolski, founder of ESCAPE Homes. He tells us about his philosophy for design, sustainable construction, and the increasing acceptability for tiny houses stateside.
Homecrux (HC): What got you into building tiny houses? How did ESCAPE come into being?
Dań Dobrowolski (DD): ESCAPE blends the best characteristics of a tiny home and RV and is inspired by the Prairie-style resort cottages at the northwest Wisconsin resort that I own called Canoe Bay. I enlisted the expertise of Frank Lloyd Wright, protégé, John Rattenbury, and Kelly Davis (AIA) award-winning architect emeritus from SALA Architects in Minneapolis, to design some of the resort cottages. ESCAPE is my realization to bring these architectural gems to the public in a smaller, portable way.
HC: Your “designs are based on light and a feeling of openness and space.” What’s your advice to people planning to downsize?
DD: If it’s stored away, you don’t need it. You would be surprised how liberating it can be to purge and realize that you can live large with less. And always look for spaces with plenty of light that do not feel cramped.
HC: What are the challenges of living tiny? How is ESCAPE making a difference?
DD: Great design, materials, including recycled and sustainably grown materials plus craftsmanship distinguish our homes. These are real buildings that feel open and spacious. The bedrooms are large as are the kitchens and baths which feature full-size appliances. I’m a big guy and I feel very comfortable in the open floor plan…and I should mention, they use very little power and have almost a zero carbon footprint.
HC: How do you perceive the tiny house movement in the US and other parts of the world? Your contribution to educating people about tiny living?
DD: The tiny house movement has exploded in recent years. For many, they are an “escape” from clutter, mortgages, huge carbon footprints, and wasteful mini and mega mansions. We were one of the first to sell designs that can travel with the whim of their owner and are built in a fully certified, inspected production facility. And they are beautiful.
HC: With the ongoing pandemic, work from home has become a new normal. How has this played in/against your favor?
DD: COVID-19 has accelerated demand for our tiny homes. People are leaving larger, heavily-populated cities to work remotely across the country. We are building tiny house communities like ESCAPE Tampa Bay Village, that offer outdoor community workspace in a beautiful setting.
HC: ESCAPE emphasizes eco-conscious construction. How do you ensure this?
DD: ESCAPE Homes are handcrafted in our own RVIA-inspected factory in Rice Lake, WI, and built with an emphasis on eco-conscious construction and energy efficiency. We use sustainable wood, recycled materials, LED lighting that uses almost no power along with high R-value insulation & Low-E, thermopane windows.
HC: Can owners go completely off the grid in your tiny house. If yes, for how many days?
DD: Absolutely. Solar power is a good idea for units that are 12v. You can order composting or Laveo style toilets. We always recommend that you have backup or grid power available just in case. As for how long, this is completely dependent on location.
HC: It’s believed that restrictions and legalities associated with tiny houses pull back many people. Has this been a challenge for your sales and business?
DD: The people buying our units are using them as ADU’s, Airbnb rentals, seasonal homes and the like…the push back has been very little for most customers. But anytime you have a new technology or paradigm shift, there are going to be a few obstacles especially for those who are looking for full-time living. But what is happening now in a big way is many places are rushing toward tiny homes as the great fix for housing issues and shortages. In California, for example, many cities, including LA, have legalized tiny homes…and this trend is accelerating.
HC: What is a greater advantage of ESCAPE – great design, affordability, or sustainability?
DD: We follow the Frank Lloyd Wright saying, “Form and Function are One.” So it’s all three.
HC: To our readers outside the US, do you deliver globally?
DD: We can deliver anywhere…but the customer would have to clear through customs at their end.
HC: One ESCAPE model that’s closest to your heart?
DD: Design is like having children…you love them all just in different ways.
We would like to thank Dań for taking out the time to chat with us.