New England Birdhouses by Neil Best

Some are Gothic, some are Italianate and one even takes its cues from the Chrysler Building. But all are painstakingly designed and assembled by landscape architect Neil Best.

Located on the Rhode Island and Massachusetts border, his birdhouses are in serious demand today – and not just because the area’s blanketed in 30 inches of snow.

Migrating wrens, tufted titmice and black-capped chickadees are on a seasonal scouting expedition too.

“The birds are inspecting holes in trees now for spring homes,” Best says. “Their wintering is over here now and they’re looking for what to rent out for the spring – you get a leg up if you have them up now.”

His houses are carefully designed, then built from scraps he finds at construction sites – not just lumber, but metal and stone as well.

“What I really love is the ductwork, the tin boxes and the oil cans, all stockpiled in my yard now,” he says.

The found objects are a stimulus for his designs.

“I find beauty in old materials, and how the birdhouses will weather over time,” he says. “Like the metals with rust on them – I’ll bend them so it will start to re-rust. I’m interested in how they get more beautiful with age.”

His birdhouses are practical too – and designed for the comfort of those who inhabit them.

“There’s a certain height they like, and they have to be waterproof – they want floors that are as dry as possible and able to drain, just in case,” he says. “The biggest challenge is to design it so you can clean it out after nesting.”

Because after all, even if it does emulate the Chrysler Building, who’d want someone else’s lived-in penthouse?

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