Birdhouses for Fun and Function (and a good cause)


THERE WAS SO MUCH TO SHOW YOU in last week’s post about artist Stephanie Reit‘s garden that I saved her wonderful birdhouse collection for another time. Now’s the time.


The birdhouses that dot her East Hampton backyard are both attractive as garden ornaments and well-used by the local birds.


But there’s yet another layer to Stephanie’s birdhouse fascination. Each year, around this time, she makes a whimsical sculptural assemblage in the form of a birdhouse to donate to the annual Artist and Celebrity Bird House Auction, a fundraiser for the South Fork Breast Health Coalition.


That’s this year’s delightful ‘piano’ birdhouse, above. See below for a peek at a few she’s done in the past:



BROWNSTONE VOYEUR: Stylish Shoebox in Boerum Hill

BROWNSTONE VOYEUR is a joint project of casaCARA and Only the Blog Knows Brooklyn.


THIS APARTMENT IS REALLY SMALL. If you drink and dance, I wouldn’t recommend doing it in Jane Rosenbaum’s apartment. You might just hit a wall.


Two rooms totaling 375 square feet in a pre-war State Street rental building, it’s nevertheless got a lot of charm and some good DIY ideas, yours for the copying.


  • A limited color palette — white and periwinkle blue — keeps the tiny space from looking too busy. (This takes discipline! I intended to use only blue and white in my Springs cottage, but keep bringing in things that are red, brown, green, orange…)
  • Secondhand furnishings were all painted periwinkle to unify them.
  • Round table folds to store against a wall. Open, it seats six for dinner.
  • There’s a Murphy bed behind a white curtain in the living room (and you thought they were only in Marx Brothers movies)
  • Salvaged chandelier in the living room is painted white and used with candles. Bookshelf up high makes use of every inch.


Moving on to the only other room, the kitchen:

  • Galvanized buckets organize utensils
  • The cabinets are painted with chalkboard paint; Jane uses them to display the menu for dinner parties.


Jane is an interior designer — her website is here, in case you missed it up top. She worked previously for Wolfman-Gold, the NYC housewares company known for its all-white look, and in display design at Henri Bendel in Ohio.


She ran this ad recently on the Boerum Hill listserv:

Don’t like the way a room looks? Change it now! Living Room, Bedrooms, Dining Room, Hall and Kitchen Spruce Ups include: paint colors, window treatments, rugs, accessories, fabric, lighting, and rearranging of furniture, if necessary. Dining Rooms, Halls and Kitchens: $300 each. Living Rooms and Bedrooms: $375 each. Bathrooms: $150-$275


GARDEN VOYEUR: Backyard Architecture in East Hampton


“BACKYARD” IS HARDLY ENOUGH WORD for the gorgeous green acre my friend Stephanie Reit been lovingly tending and tweaking for the past 13 years. It’s more like a private park.

This is an artist’s garden. Stephanie is an accomplished painter and maker of collages — go here to see her work — and a very able landscape designer as well. There’s much to admire here: the seamless flow of the long, curving borders; the creative mix of trees, shrubs, grasses, and perennials, all in tip-top shape (she used to do everything herself, now she hires help); the painterly arrangement of colors; the horticultural variety; the charming collection of birdhouses; and how good it all looks this late in the season. (Yes, it’s fenced against marauding deer.)


One of my favorite aspects is the architectural approach Stephanie has taken to carving out special areas. At the far end of the long lawn, abovve, there’s a gravel square with four Bradford pear trees in each corner. She calls it the “chuppah” (Jewish wedding canopy) because it would be a perfect place to get married — but, failing that, it’s a serene spot to sit and contemplate the plantings.

There’s a rustic wood bench tucked into a euonymous hedge, below; a shed with its own shade garden; and three ornamental flowering cherry trees, below, anchoring one end of the pool. A striking deep mauve color, Stephanie planted them in memory of her late parents and sister.



The stately cedars that stud the lawn are among the few things that were there when Stephanie bought the property in the mid-’90. They cast giant, dramatic shadows on the sweep of green.


Go here to see Stephanie’s wonderful collection of birdhouses — some that she collects, and some that she creates.

A Loose Schedule and a Tight Budget


Above: Eric Ernst, Tree Man of Montauk, thinning out my overgrown forest so I stand a chance of growing something other than ferns

I’M ALL OVER THE PLACE HERE. I still have so much to do pull this house and garden together, I’ve hit another impasse of indecision. So I’m planting daffodils. (Though everywhere I dig, I hit inch-thick wisteria vine, and spend more time pulling and cutting wisteria than digging holes for the bulbs.)

I’ve accomplished a lot in the four months since I bought this cottage in May. But I have so much further to go. Not knowing whether this is a long-term home or a flipper makes it that much harder to proceed. If I knew for sure it was the former, I would take my time and spend more freely. But if it’s going to be a flipper, I just want to get it done.

Perhaps I should buy the Zen mindset my friend is trying to sell me. “You’re here now,” she says. “When you decide you don’t want to be here anymore, you’ll go somewhere else.” Yeah, but how exactly do I proceed with my renovation on that basis?

This I know: as soon as possible, I’d like to feel “Oh, how charming” pulling into my driveway, instead of “Eeewwww. Ugh.” That driveway — broken asphalt studded with weeds — is part of the problem. As is the house itself, with its discolored cedar shingles. And a front yard more brown than green. What’s the opposite of curb appeal?

The deer fence and patio have fallen off the top of my priorities list. I’m thinking of letting the deer have one last winter of ravaging the evergreens and rhododendrons, and spending that money indoors instead, on a fireplace, new bathroom, new kitchen counter, and a paint job. I also need a whole new roof. I’m gathering quotes from tradespeople: two roofers so far, two bathroom contractors, and a housepainter.

Viburnum plicatum tomentosum

In the meantime, I’ve been canvassing the nurseries for shrubs on sale. I’ve fallen for a viburnum tomentosa plicata, or doublefile viburnum, above, eight feet across and flaming red, at Spielberg’s in Amagansett (the picture shows it in spring). At 40% off, it’s under $100, plus another $100 to plant (it’s very heavy). Deer don’t like it, but it needs a good sunny spot, and those are still in short supply on my lot. I also want a river birch somewhere; I love the peeling bark and delicate leaves. And dogwoods.

The truth is, I’m not in that much of a rush. I keep reminding myself that this is not a HGTV project done in a weekend. It’s real life, on a loose schedule and a tight budget.

My No-TV Life…


IS OVER. Yesterday I had Cablevision hook me up, after 4 months of not missing it. But having decided to stay in the country, and with winter approaching, I thought I might need it. Got a DVD player too, whoopee.

I watched Rachel Maddow for five minutes and Larry King for another five. That was all I could take on my first try.

What’s worth watching? Any recommendations?