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The 500-square-foot Bedrock Cave House features a picture window with a view to the western face of Lookout Mountain.

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Teeny Tinys: Live A Little Chatt offers luxury in small doses

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To get a look or reserve the four tiny homes at Live A Little: The Tiny House Experience, go to http://livealittlechatt.com

Tiny rentals

› Old Blue Chair. Accomodates 5. 3 beds. $139 per night.

› Shangri-Little. Accomodates 3. 2 beds. Rooftop deck. $139 per night.

› Wandering Gypsy. Accomodates 3. 2 beds. $125 per night.

› Bedrock Cave House. Accomodates 4. 2 beds. $175 per night.

 

Brian Morris had simply had enough.

Two years ago, he had parked his tiny home — Shangri-Little — on the western edge of Lookout Mountain. Almost dangling over the bluff next to the launch at Lookout Mountain Hang Gliding, it also was in sight of Scenic Highway.

Oops.

"People wouldn't leave me alone," says the 28-year-old who, yes, is an avid hang glider. "Every five minutes people were popping their head in."

All the attention convinced him that he needed fewer heads poking through his door, so he took Shangri-Little — built on a trailer — and pulled it down to a farm on the floor of Lookout Valley.

Joe Curro, meanwhile, came to Chattanooga two years ago to open the Superfly Extreme Air Sports complex near Hamilton Place. Before moving here, he had seen the episode of "Tiny House Nation" that featured Morris and Shangri-Little while it was still under construction. It struck a long-vibrating nerve in him about tiny homes.

"I found them about five years ago when I was in law school," he recalls. "I was procrastinating on exams and it was about two in the morning and I found this internet forum about alternative living."

He admits that "five years ago, tiny houses were just a bunch of weirdos," but they meshed with the educational distress he was experiencing at the time.

"I was thinking, 'What can I do that's not law school?'"

After coming to Chattanooga, he discovered that Morris lived here, too, and sought him out in Lookout Valley. It quickly occurred to them that the valley was a perfect place for their plan — a congregation of tiny homes similar to Shangri-Little. They searched "everywhere," they say, eventually finding a 12-acre site with a spectacular view of the western side of Lookout.

They dropped Shangri-Little on the land, built three more tiny homes and officially named the property Live A Little Chatt: The Tiny House Experience. Two weeks ago, the homes — priced between $125 and $175 per night — were officially opened for rental.

"The thing about tiny houses is that they have been and still are a fantasy to most people," Morris says. "They have a pre-conceived notion of them based on YouTube, based on the TV, Pinterest."

But that's only a fraction of the truth, says Curro, also 28 years old. "We wanted to bridge the gap between dreaming and reality."

The reality is that, with most inquiries coming through AirBnB, response has stunned Morris and Curro. Weekends are "booked into March," Morris says, but many weekdays are still available. The pair say the interest shows that people want to escape city lights and find a spot where stars are abundant and silence is unavoidable.

"We had a guest in here from Ohio and he said he'd never seen a shooting star," Curro says. "I said, 'If you don't see a shooting star, I'll give you your money back.' Less than one minute later, one went Whooosh! and flew right across."

In September, Joanna Waldo of Bethesda, Md., stayed in Shangri-Little — Morris moves out and sleeps in his Honda Element when guests are there — and said: "Our first tiny house experience far surpassed all expectations!"

"The house is beautiful inside and out, and doesn't feel tiny at all," she wrote on AirBnB. "They chose an incredible location at the bottom of Lookout Mountain where you can watch the sun rise & set, and hang gliders flying around."

"You'll forget a night in a hotel but you will remember this," writes John Cleveland, and he means it in a nice way.

Maria Garcia from Atlanta also was enthusiastically impressed with complex, describing it as "tucked away enough to feel that you are truly off the beaten path."

Away from everything

Off the beaten path is exactly what Morris and Curro wanted.

"If you have directions and you're looking for it, you can find it," Morris says.

No lie. While the technical location of it is Wildwood, Ga., it should be described as "somewhere in Dade County." A GPS is almost mandatory for getting to the site, which is tucked away across railroad tracks, down country roads, past refurbished farmhouses and bumping along bumpy gravel roads.

Calling the complex a "resort," Morris and Curro talk excitedly about its immersed-in-nature feel (no lights except for those from the houses and two tiny ones — sorry — on top of Lookout) and the sheer fun of living, eating and sleeping in homes that range from the 144-square-foot Wandering Gypsy to the 500-square-foot Bedrock Cave House, which resembles something from "The Flintstones," hence the name. (look it up, millennials).

Each home has its own separate design and all have electricity, their own septic systems (toilets and showers work just like in a normal home) and Wi-Fi. Fully functioning kitchens have stone or cedar countertops, microwaves, refrigerators, sinks and cabinets. They all sleep three or more. Shangri-Little even has a cigar humidor, a leftover from Morris' days running a cigar-broker business with his dad. There's even a hot tub at the highest point of the property.

For Morris, a tiny house was a method of continuing to live in a familiar way — always changing locations.

"My father was in the CIA and I moved 30 times before I was 28," he says.

For a while, he and his father ran the cigar business and he split his time between hang gliding and heading out on the road to sell cigars to retailers and traveling to Central America to deal with cigar makers. Earlier this year, he spent several months in Africa, filming a documentary and taking African children on hang-gliding flights; he stayed several months later than he planned so he could hang glide off Table Mountain, the 3,500-foot rock plateau the rises above Cape Town, South Africa.

Partnership

He and Curro bring different elements to Live A Little. With a tousled head of hair and "It Takes a Village" T-shirt, Morris is the true believer type, someone who's apt to drop what he's doing to take off if something calls to him, whether it's off-the-grid living or a cool place to hang glide. He was on his way to Utah when he stopped in Chattanooga to hang glide off Lookout Mountain. The experience was so extraordinary, he decided to stay.

"It was crazy," he admits.

Amanda Cooke, 28 and a friend of his from Boston, was staying in Old Blue Chair for a couple of days last week, taking time off from her residency as an internal medicine doctor. Sitting on the tiny house's porch, a laptop open and a screen full of patients' charts, she says she met Morris while in Africa. She was working in a Botswana hospital and he was filming the documentary on Amani ya Juu, a nonprofit organization that teaches African women to design and produce handcrafted goods such as handbags and jewelry, then sells them online or in Amani's Chattanooga location on South Willow Street.

Morris' infectious enthusiasm was inescapable, Cooke says.

"You don't meet people every day who have a really contagious passion," she says. "I think he really has a vision."

Curro, meanwhile, seems a bit more grounded. While he, too, has genuine excitement about Live A Little and believes in green, sustainable energy and the value of cutting ties with civilization to get back to nature, he also has the solidity of the SuperFly business and a home in Soddy-Daisy, where he lives with his wife.

"I tried to convince my wife, Erin, that we should invest in [a tiny house] while we were in grad school and she was like, "Umm, I'm trying to buy a bigger house, not a smaller house,'" he says. "She wasn't hip to the whole idea. So I kept it in my back pocket."

For Morris, having a tiny house has given him freedom that he hasn't had before.

"It's freed me financially," he says. "I've downsized and gotten rid of all the junk I didn't need anymore. I can enjoy life; I can enjoy nature; I'm free to travel and I have a luxury home that I can come home to that I didn't have to spend too much money building."

Contact Shawn Ryan at sryan@timesfreepress.com or 423-757-6327.

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