When it comes to feathering your nest, birdhouses add a whimsical touch. Now, with the weather turning chilly, such objects plucked from the garden can warm up a room as well.
An antique birdhouse can be displayed with marble eggs, carved birds, even a birds' nest. Or climbing vines can be grown and wrapped around a rustic birdhouse for a natural look.
Other decorative birdhouses mimic architectural designs. Salt box, Victorian or Georgian houses handcrafted from pine and painted glossy white, for example, are a fanciful addition to the baby's nursery, recommends the Bundles catalog, a mail-order company devoted to luxurious gifts for babies.
Once the child grows, the birdhouse can be placed outside for viewing feathered friends.
Other more colorful designs really catch the eye. Some of the most imaginative come from Michigan artist Susan Wright. She creates birdhouses from treated plywood and paints them in bright colors that combine '50s nostalgia with folk art.
Designs are playful. Some are painted flamingo pink, turquoise and mint green; black and white snakelike creatures cling to the birdhouse opening.
"Whimsy and humor for an adult audience is the way I think of the pieces I create," Wright notes in an artist's statement.
"Even though people think my focus is for children, I am really gearing my work toward adults," she adds.
Since she has no long-term experience with the materials she is using, Wright recommends the birdhouses be considered decorative, although they can be hung in a covered or sheltered exterior area.
They also will look terrific on a bookshelf, counter top or coffee table. The artist designs birdhouses incorporating clocks as well, along with decorative shelf pieces with animals jumping out of them -- all in the same fanciful style.
Wright's collection ranges in price from $76 to $126 and is available at American Details, Walden Galleria.
"The birdhouses basically are used as accent pieces in the family room or Florida room. I've also seen people use them in their kitchens above a soffit," says Maria Dinwoodie, manager of American Details.
"And the birdhouse with a clock is, of course, functional," she says.
So are the multitude of dwellings designed for outdoor use for the very best of birds.
The Nature Company, for example, sells a handmade thatched birdhouse that will be loved by ornithologists and songbirds alike. The durable dwelling ($39) stands 10 inches high and features thick bark sides, thatched straw roof and a rear door so the birdhouse can easily be cleaned.
Likewise, the Atlanta-based Garden Source Furnishings is known for its fine collection of birdhouses in weathered woods with tin roofs in its American Whimsy Collection of Tennessee birdhouses.
Even bird feeders are appealing to the eye. One quaint design is shaped like an old-fashioned country schoolhouse with steeple. Spotted at Pitt Petri ($40), the bird feeder is painted with a red roof and blue frame and trimmed in yellow and green.
Whether they are designed for indoors or out, one thing is certain: Birdhouses are not just for the birds anymore.