Everything Old Is New Again With the Escape N1

It's not a tiny home anymore at 12 feet wide.

Escape N1
Escape N1 .

Escape Traveler

Tiny home builder Dan George Dobrowolski has worked with architect Kelly Davis to produce some of the loveliest units on the market, including a design Treehugger editorial director Melissa Breyer called one of the top 10 tiny homes of the decade. Now, he has introduced a new unit, the Escape N1, with a design that alludes to the famous Case Study Houses built between 1945 and 1966. There is a lot of history wrapped up in this longer, wider unit—both in its dimensions and its aesthetics. What's old (meaning mid-century) is new again.

Tampa Bay Village
Tampa Bay Village.

Tampa Bay Village

For many years I complained the biggest problem with the tiny home movement was that they were all dressed up but had no place to go. Then Dobrowolski launched his wildly successful Escape Tampa Bay Village, built on the grounds of an old mobile home park, but a very different thing. Dobrowolski noted: "It has to feel open and look a certain way. It has to look great. It has to give you space. You have to be able to breathe. I just can’t bring myself to stack units in next to each other like sliced bread, like a typical mobile home or RV park."

Escape Tiny House
Escape Tiny House.

 Escape Tampa Bay Village

He didn't fill it with your typical mobile homes or RVs either; they had to be Escape Tiny Homes, built to their standards and aesthetics. They were all 8.5 feet wide, which is the limit for Recreational Vehicles (RVs)—this is where tiny homes started so they wouldn't be considered homes.

RVs evolved from trailers—a lot of people had to live in them after World War II because of housing shortages—and were planted in trailer parks where their owners could get electrical hookups and have access to washrooms. But 8.5 feet was a terrible dimension for living, then and now, and since they weren't actually being moved all that often, there was great pressure from the industry to make them wider.

Stewart Brand describes how Elmer Frey's Milwaukee's Marshfield Homes changed the industry in "How Buildings Learn." He writes:

One innovator, Elmer Frey, invented the term "mobile home" and the form that would live up to it, the "ten-wide"- a ten foot wide real house that would usually travel once, from the factory to the permanent site. For the first time there was room for a corridor inside and thus private rooms. By 1960 nearly all mobile homes sold were ten-wides, and twelve-wides were starting to appear.
Palace Ranch Home

Palace Ranchomes

So trailer parks became mobile home parks and mobile homes became "park models" built by "manufactured housing" companies according to HUD codes. RVs had their own codes and had to be built in RVIA Inspected plants. Tiny Homes were none of these things.

Escape N1

Escape Traveler

This is what is so amusing and interesting about Escape N1. There are two trends from the '50s and '60s meeting here in one design. Dobrowolski is the new Elmer Frey, realizing there is not much difference in cost between building 8.5 feet wide and 12 feet wide; walls, windows, services, everything is the same except the floor and roof joists are a bit longer. But now you get rooms you can furnish, you can actually have multiple bedrooms and get a corridor in there.

Kitchen and Dining in N1

Escape Traveler

And suddenly, the Tiny Home Park is once again a mobile home park, because if the rules allow it, and if you are not planning on moving your home all the time, then there is no reason not to build 12 feet wide.

Interior Escape N1

Escape Traveler

I thought the N1 had a worrisome amount of glass, but Dobrowolski tells Treehugger:

"This was designed and built for a specific lot in our Village...heavily shaded, very tropical. You will note there is an over 2' overhang on the window wall side also...All electric, we have test-run it over the summer in WI (90+ heat) and incredibly energy efficient. It does not have a heat pump...of course, in FL you don't need one."
Stahl House
Stahl House.

MBtrama in Wikipedia

But it does conform to the aesthetics and intents of the Case Study Houses. According to Lily Cao, writing in Arch Daily:

"Designed to address the postwar housing crisis with quick construction and inexpensive materials, while simultaneously embracing the tenets of modernist design and advanced contemporary technology, the Case Study Houses were molded by their central focus on materials and structural design. While each of the homes were designed by different architects for a range of clients, these shared aims unified the many case study homes around several core aesthetic and structural strategies: open plans, simple volumes, panoramic windows, steel frames, and more."
Interior N1

Escape Traveler

The Escape N1 shares some of those aesthetics, but also the idea of changing the way we build, moving it from the field to the factory, making it smaller and more efficient than a normal house but wide enough that you can swing a cat or whatever. It has not cutesy and homey details so beloved of the tiny house movement but is simple, modern, roomy, and bright. It's all coming full circle.