Extreme Handmade Decorative Birdhouses – Not Your Average Birdhouse
John Looser doesn’t just build your run-of-the-mill handmade decorative birdhouses. He builds Extreme Birdhouses. With balconies, gables, wraparound porches and even built-in rooftop swimming pools these handmade decorative extreme birdhouses are anything but ordinary. Before John changed the face of handmade decorative birdhouse building forever, he had spent 20 years constructing houses for humans. That came to an end when he sustained an injury and was told he would never work again.
“After sitting around for awhile I got bored and thought maybe I could just start building some birdhouses,” says John. “The first one was roughly 16 inches square. After that I just got carried away.”
One of the first questions people ask when they see one of John’s handmade decorative birdhouses is, “Do birds really nest in there?” His response: “I tell them I wouldn’t have built 400 over the last seven years if they didn’t.”
In the beginning John had no intention of selling the handmade decorative birdhouses, but since his half-acre Belgrave, Ontario, property was located near a busy highway the handmade decorative birdhouses started to catch the attention of people driving by. “I had close to 100 houses in my yard and people kept saying, ‘You can’t keep them all for yourself,’ so I finally started to let some of them go.” Every year he donates a couple dozen birdhouses to charities for raffles, gives others to family and friends and sells others to customers who flock to his yard from all over North America. His handmade decorative birdhouses are now providing homes for birds from Texas to Alberta with many people returning every year to add to their collection. Customers think of the houses as functional art pieces; an idea John is still getting used to. “I didn’t really understand it at first. How can you be an artist and a woodworker at the same time? But I guess if you have the ideas in your head anything is possible.”
John has a unique gift for visualizing three-dimensional proportions that allow him to simply build as he goes along without using any kind of blueprint. When requests for plans started pouring in, John’s son drew some up to meet the demand based on the finished handmade decorative birdhouses. Inspiration for the handmade decorative birdhouses often comes from photos of old buildings, especially those from the Victorian age. John also enjoys the chance to replicate buildings that no longer exist or ones whose architecture captures his imagination. One of his birdhouses is modeled after the historical Wellington Hotel in Guelph, Ontario.
“That hotel caught on fire and they re-built it. I didn’t copy it exactly to what it was, but it’s close. That was the first birdhouse I did with a pool on the top. It took a year to build and weighs about 400 pounds.”
John also does a lot of custom work, building replicas of people’s homes or cottages. Prices for the handmade decorative birdhouses range from $100 for a basic 18-inch two-room model to four thousand for a completely tricked out handmade decorative bird mansion with more than hundred rooms.
“There is a lot more work involved than most people realize,” said John. “You’re building one inch at a time so there are no shortcuts in how you put it together. I find building the bigger ones more of a challenge just because of the roofline. I just finished a six-foot birdhouse that has 16 valleys, 16 hips, four gables, four balconies, a bell tower and a wraparound porch. So it’s a lot in just one birdhouse.”
While the investment can be substantial, the handmade decorative birdhouses are built to last a lifetime. “I’ve had people call me from out west to tell me they had a tornado and lost everything in their yard including their garden sheds but the birdhouse was still standing. Another customer was mounting a house on a pole he had put on his deck when it fell off. It knocked a hole right through his deck, but the birdhouse was fine.”
Some of the houses are so heavy they require a tractor or forklift to set in place. John prefers to mount the houses on eight- or nine-foot posts cemented into the ground. Many homeowners have discovered tree stumps left at similar heights make ideal posts for John’s birdhouses. Not only does this soften the emotional blow that so often accompanies the removal of a tree, but it saves a lot of work that would otherwise go into taking out the stump.
In the summer John works outside as much as possible or in his 1,600 sq. ft. workshop. He also spends a lot of time in his yard talking to visitors. Since the township designated his place a tourist attraction there are often as many people in his yard as there are birds! “I must have had 5,000 people stop in here over the summer,” he said. “I get a lot of groups: high school students, the Red Hat ladies and so forth. The most I’ve had at once was 350 people when a car show stopped in last year. There were classic cars and muscle cars parked all down the street. I was looking at the cars while they were looking at the birdhouses.”
Come winter, John moves his operation into the house where he has converted his old kitchen space into a workshop. When he isn’t working on handmade decorative birdhouses he’s renovating his home.
“I fight with constant pain that makes it hard to sit in one spot for too long so I’m always on the move,” explains John. “The houses give me something to wake up to every day. If I didn’t have the houses to build I don’t know what I would do. I’d go crazy I think. It’s nice to have something to keep my mind busy. And the fact so many people and birds love them makes it that much more rewarding. You know, when I was a kid right from about four or five years old I always had this idea of building houses in the air. I never understood what it was about until seven years ago.”
You can find out more about John and his incredible handmade decorative birdhouses by visiting his website www.extremebirdhouse.com
You can also check out John’s other projects below:
- Cedar Fence
- Muskoka Cottage
- Cape Cod Build
- Rustic Arbor
- Cedar Entrance
- Gazebo and Deck
- More Extreme Birdhouses
- And Even More Extreme Birdhouses and Lawn Ornaments