Summer travel can be expensive, but a Richmond man is doing his part to keep costs down – offering a unique place for visitors to sleep.
Andrew Cauthen is a professional musician and a minimalist. He lives modestly in a working class neighborhood called Barton Heights. Last spring, he had an idea – to build a tiny guest house out back – just a room, really, with a sleeping loft. The job was completed quickly.
“Really only about three weeks. And how big would you say it is? Six by ten. You know exactly how big it is! I shaped it off my body. So you wouldn’t bump your head. That’s right. The downstairs is an inch taller than my head, and the upstairs is an inch and a half taller. Building materials? So the building materials I found as much as I could out of the trash.”
In addition to recycled wood and corrugated steel, he bought windows, a door and skylights from the Habitat for Humanity Store. His girlfriend Laurie made gold stars to decorate the walls, and another friend contributed his paintings of robots. Cauthen listed the place on AirBnB for 17 dollars a night – an appealing price for people like David More, who was moving to Richmond for grad school at VCU.
“I stayed in the house two nights. It was lovely. Really magic. Didn’t feel claustrophobic? Absolutely not. It felt like home. I mean with skylights it’s hard to feel, and especially coming from Chicago, being underneath a tree was a very powerful experience.”
Demand for the place was so strong that Cauthen doubled the rate to $35 a night, but he continues to offer the free use of a bicycle and the company of his kitten, Kiki. Guests are also given towels and allowed to use the bathroom and kitchen of Cauthen’s home.
He calls the guest quarters his Haha house – a modest shelter that mocks McMansions and invites visitors to live simply and to enjoy their stay.
“Fun is a big element, or else you won’t last.”
Guest David More agrees. Staying at a cheap motel would have cost him three times as much, while the Haha House was one of a kind. “The experience of being at a Super Eight, you could be in Denver or you could be in Richmond. It could be the same experience, right?”
Cauthen says he’s enjoyed meeting so many new people and may build other small guest houses in the years to come.