He Lives Major: Jon Staff

Christine Mitchell Adams September 04, 2015

Jon Staff has been taking note of the housing predicament the millennial generation is in these days. He and some like-minded colleagues at the Harvard Business, Design, and Law Schools have decided to do something about it. With Millennial Housing Lab, they're developing innovative housing ideas for younger generations. Their first project, Getaway, is a group of tiny houses situated in remote locations just about a 2-hour drive from Boston. Jon chatted with us about how minimal living (and un-plucking in nature a bit more) can help millennials live life a little fuller.

You're currently enrolled at Harvard Business School for your MBA, did the program play a role in developing Getaway?
HBS has been amazing. One of the things they really preach is that you need to align who you are deep down with how you spend your time professionally. Getaway is a business I really believe in, but for a bunch of reasons it also matches who I am. HBS helped me figure that out and its been hugely important to my happiness. More practically, Harvard is full of wonderful resources and people, without which Getaway would be nowhere (first and foremost, allowing me to meet our incredible designers from the Harvard Graduate School of Design).

And you ended up founding the Millennial Housing Lab with fellow students from Harvard Business School. Can you tell us a little more about Getaway's parent company?
The Millennial Housing Lab is a reaction to a recognition that the housing we have doesn't match the times we're living in. The size is wrong, the geography is wrong, the price is wrong, the financing is wrong. That coupled with the belief that there are a lot of smart people out there that share that view and are either already working on projects or want to work on projects to fix that problem, led us to create MHL as a big gathering tent for creative folks to help each other out.

Getaway is one manifestation of working on innovating housing and allows us to build our experience and skills in design and building small houses while creating a cool company. I really believe what Getaway offers, a chance to disconnect and recharge with your phone and email out of site in a beautiful natural setting, is actually very important for our generation. We love technology and the newfound flexibility in the workplace, but we also need to find a way to manage those changes to our lives.

There's clearly a growing trend with tiny houses. Do you feel that it is an innovation in housing, and is it here to stay? 
We are finally starting to recognize and react to the proven fact that experiences make us happier than things. Whats the biggest and therefore probably worst thing we own? Our house of course. So whether tiny houses or just the minimalist movement in general, I am hopeful that we are moving towards a place where we are maximizing the experiences we have not the stuff we own, and therefore our happiness. 

So, how exactly does Getaway work?
With Getaway, you can book a modern tiny house that is on beautiful rural land, out of site of any other houses, for about $99 a night. The experience is meant to be sort of the anti-vacation. Traditional vacations are costly, require a long commute there, are crowded and filled with agendas when you arrive. Getaway is as close to the city as possible, affordable, and important is meant for you to just be there. At a hotel you drop your bags and run into town or go see the sites. At Getaway, once you arrive we hope you hide your phone and then just kick back and read a book, have a campfire, talk to your partner or play a board game. 

Sounds like our kind of weekend! Where do you see Millennial Housing Lab and Getaway in the next five years?
Our goal, with both projects I guess, is to fundamentally reshape how we live for the better. Five years from now I hope we have invented a new residential place that has measurably improved the lives of thousands of people.

All photos by Kataram Studios 

Thanks so much Jon for chatting with us! We look forward to giving Getaway a try. Share your Getaway rental or tiny home experiences in the comments!

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