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Boise tiny-house entrepreneur’s ‘Hobbit Hole’ a hit on Airbnb

The view from the front door.
The view from the front door. Provided by Kristie Wolfe

Hobbits enjoy food, simple comforts and their peaceful home settings.

And now Lord of the Rings fans can too, with a vacation getaway in a cozy burrow under a hill near Chelan, Wash., developed by a tiny-house entrepreneur from Boise.

Kristie Wolfe opened her first Hobbit Hole vacation rental through Airbnb this spring, with two more planned in a 5-acre village along an Eastern Washington hillside that could be from The Shire of J.R.R. Tolkien.

Wrote one recent visitor, “Definitely a recommendation to any weary wanderers wanting to get away from it all and rest their hairy feet.”

It’s 288 square feet of rustic comfort overlooking the Columbia River, including woodworking tools so the occupants can do a bit of whittling, a stone fireplace, a pastry and coffee bar, tub for two and off-the-grid solar power and running water.

When visitors book their stay, they receive a Tolkien-style map with directions, like something right out of Middle-earth.

“The majority of your neighbors will be deer, rabbits, birds and grouse,” Wolfe writes on her Airbnb listing. “It’s 2 miles up the mountain, and although there are houses, it gets more remote the closer you get to the hobbit hole.”

HOW WOLFE TURNED LOVE OF SMALL-LIVING INTO A LIVING

First, she built a 97-square-foot tiny house in Boise with recycled and reclaimed materials, and lived there for a year, finding that it fit.

“The forced simplicity is hard to explain, unless you don’t have a lot of stuff weighing you down,” she says.

After moving the tiny house to an isolated, sagebrush-desert parcel she bought south of Boise — where construction to add a kitchen to the off-grid “tiny house on the prairie” is under way — she took on a more ambitious project: A tiny treehouse in the rainforest on the Big Island of Hawaii, now a popular and nearly always booked vacation rental.

Wolfe grew up helping her mother and five siblings remodel the houses where they lived and then sell them. She and her brothers and sisters all learned to use tools, and she fell in love with construction.

She owned a clothing store in Pocatello for three years in a commercial building she and her brother remodeled, and she helped people flip houses. Her tiny-house build was her first from the ground up, constructed in her aunt’s backyard.

Wolfe’s mother helped her build the Hawaiian treehouse, which features a dreamy hanging bed suspended below the tiny living space made from a trampoline, a rainwater collection system and solar power.

For the hobbit hole, Wolfe and her mother toured Oregon and Washington by car before finding the hillside near Chelan. It spoke to her of the Shire, of which Tolkien wrote, “They passed through hobbit-lands, a wide, respectable country inhabited by decent folk, with good roads, an inn or two, and now and then a dwarf or a farmer ambling along on business.”

ONE ENTREPRENEUR TO RULE THEM ALL

Wolfe is 33, “the same age that hobbits come of age,” she notes.

Though she likes the Tolkien stories, it was her two brothers who were obsessed with the Lord of the Rings. That has come in handy “whenever I need to fact-check something,” she says.

Wolfe signed on with HGTV last fall to construct her hobbit hole as a pilot for a reality TV series. The show was not picked up. But the hobbit hole was a success. “This one is permitted — Douglas County was awesome and worked with us,” she says.

Wolfe had done everything herself, with her mother’s help, on her previous two tiny-house builds, but she hired excavators and other experts to help create the hobbit hole. Construction was completed last fall, but the utilities weren’t hooked up; over the winter, the house was surrounded by up to 5 feet of snow, yet it stayed snug and dry inside. That was “a good test,” Wolfe says.

Like her other two tiny houses, the hobbit hole did not include a kitchen. Guests either bring a cooler and camp stove for their meals or head out to eat in Chelan, about 20 minutes away.

But Wolfe is planning a communal, pub-style kitchen for the “Hobbit Inn” village she plans. It will have two other hobbit-hole getaways.

The newly opened one is themed as if a hobbit woodworker lived there. The second will be more feminine and themed for a beekeeper, complete with hives. The third will be the hobbit hole of an adventurer, filled with books and maps. Each will comfortably accommodate a couple.

The first hobbit hole opened to renters in May. It rents for $200 to $250 a night, plus a $75 cleaning fee. It is solar-powered. Water is trucked in to a nearby water tower and gravity-fed to the hideaway.

Visitors have come to stay from Spokane, Wenatchee and Seattle.

“So far, we’ve got half the summer booked,” Wolfe says.

To contact Kristie Wolfe

http://tinyhouseontheprairie.net/

Reservations: www.airbnb.com/rooms/8794484

kristiemaewolfe@gmail.com

But there aren’t any potato trucks in Middle-earth

Tiny-house maker Kristie Wolfe traveled the country for the Idaho Potato Commission.

In between tiny-house projects, Boise’s Kristie Wolfe spent parts of two years traveling the country on a truck shaped like a giant, 6-ton Idaho potato, working as a spokeswoman for the Idaho Potato Commission.

That was an ideal job for Wolfe, a well-read high school dropout and daughter of a school teacher. She hails from Pocatello and loves Idaho and potatoes. She once spent a year covered in dirt from head to toe, working at a Simplot potato factory in eastern Idaho, sorting tubers as they arrived in the receiving department.

In the months-long stints on the giant-potato truck, which she shared with a driver and another spokesperson, Wolfe says there was one question she got everywhere: “Is it real?”

“We never say yes or no,” she says. “We say, ‘It’s really big’ or ‘It’s really awesome.’”

The potato is made of concrete.

A special event will occur in late June near her new Hobbit Hole tiny-house vacation rental in Eastern Washington. It won’t be an eleventy-first birthday party, like the fateful one celebrated by Bilbo Baggins, but something perhaps more extraordinary:

The giant Idaho potato truck, back out on the road, will pay a visit to the hobbit hole, or at least its vicinity.

The truck is scheduled for a stop in downtown Chelan on Wednesday, June 29.

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