Like the houses built for humans, birdhouses are designed with trends in mind. In the case of a Spring 2022 birdhouse from Nature Creations, whitewashed walls, black trim, and use of wood and stone nod to the farmhouse aesthetic that’s so popular right now in the construction of new houses. “Every spring, we invent a new style. We’re updating our offerings, updating colors and trims, and bringing in new designs,” says Scott McDowell, 65, founder and owner of Nature Creations, based in Olney, Illinois. Such stylish abobes inspire customers to hang their indoor birdhouses like works of art. “We observe trends and styles of homes and really pay attention to the [Pantone] Color of the year,” says McDowell. “A lot of times people decorate with this color, and we want to offer birdhouses that match a customer’s decor.”
How did you start Nature Creations? I have always had an interest in woodworking and also enjoyed the birding industry. I started building my own birdhouses just for fun, and over time people saw them and started asking me to make one. The business was technically started in 1991, but I had been making birdhouses in my woodshed for about 10 years prior.
You use recycled wood and metal from barns and homes in southeast Illinois. How do you find these properties? Well, I’m still looking for materials. People in our area know that’s what we do and send us lots of referrals – old barns demolished or renovated. At first I built my boxes with new materials, but I prefer the look of the old materials, they have a lot of character. You can create unique buildings from recycled wood and metal and found objects simply because these parts and parts cannot be found anywhere else.
Can you tell us about your design process? We start with a pencil and paper. We design a house, build a prototype and modify it – we may need to make this birdhouse three or four times to get it right. We make unique birdhouses, but we will also produce many [duplicates] from the same nest [design] for large companies. We have specially designed and manufactured birdhouses for Crate & Barrel and HomeGoods.
How has the pandemic affected your business? The last two years have been very, very busy. The pandemic has affected the way people live. People stay home and literally watch the birds. The two fastest growing activities are bird watching and gardening, all because people are staying home. I feel lucky to be in an industry that has flourished. Everyone is not in the same boat.
What do you take into account when designing? We vary sizes and dimensions to attract different species. For example, we make a few different sizes of entry holes. We have a 1 ¹∕₈ inch opening that attracts small songbirds like house wrens and chickadees. Our other opening, 1.5 inches, attracts the largest birds – bluebirds, Carolina wrens. The average size of our birdhouses is 12 to 14 inches. There’s also a cleanout hole on the back of the house – it’s a 3-inch round plastic plug that makes nest removal convenient and easy. If you are trying to attract birds, you should clean it seasonally. We recommend that you clean the house in the fall so that it is ready for spring nesting. Birdhouses also need adequate ventilation. Our ventilation is around the roof: We leave a small space under the roof to promote air circulation but [still] keep away from the elements.
Where can people buy your birdhouses? Customers can visit our website to get an idea of what we are doing. There is an online wholesale catalog where retail partners can place orders. The website also contains a list of garden and gift centers that sell our product.