Curbly Video Podcast: Build Your Own Mid-Century Modern Birdhouse

Anyone interested in design and architecture can appreciate the brilliant combination of modern materials and contemporary lifestyle patterns inhabitated in the classic mid-century modern ranch home. But rare is the lucky individual that'll every live in an Eichler or an iconic Case Study House. Heck, most of us will never even live in California.

Curbly Video Podcast: Build Your Own Mid-Century Modern Birdhouse

So bring some modernism to your house, whatever its era, by creating a home for your native avian population by building a mid-century birdhouse. I've included my measurements and process here, but feel free to model yours after architecture you love. And don't worry if you don't have a full collection of woodworking tools (I don't either...) You can build a birdhouse with any handsaw, an electric drill, and glue. Or, you can borrow tools from a local tool lending library or have the employees at your local lumberyard or home center make the cuts for you.

Or, if you're looking for a less woodworking-intense version, check out this streamlined mod birdhouse that can be made with just a drill.

Press play above, or view the video here.

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1. Design your birdhouse with plain old graph paper and a pencil. Consider the size and weight of your final project.

2. Create a "cut list" by listing the measurements of each of you facades, i.e. base, front wall, back wall, left wall, right wall, roof one, roof two, etc. Something to consider (which I did AFTER mine was glued together), is a way to access the inside of the space to clean out old nests, pests, etc. A trap door in the bottom or back, seems like it'd would the trick. If you're following my design, the inside wall of the 'carport' area would be a good option.

Click here for a larger diagram.

3. Cut your wood to size. I used baltic birch plywood, cause I like the hi-ply of the exposed edges. Soft woods like pine and cedar are fine as long as you're painting the final product.

4. Do any extra joinery cuts that you might wish. For example, I cut 1/2" rabbets  in my side walls, and 1/2" dados at a 1/4" depth where all my walls sat in the base avoid using large mechanical fasteners, like screws, and as a learning exercise in making stopped dado cuts.

5. Assemble your pieces for a dry fit, check it over, and then once satisfied, glue the whole thing together, adding small nails or even screws if necessary. Let it dry overnight.

6. Finish your project as you wish. Remember, this is going to be outside, and raw wood doesn't stand up to the forces very well. Whatever you use, be sure it's safe for the birds to live in. Don't do anything to the inside, just the exposed surfaces. Paint is really the best option, but anything that's designed for long-term outdoor use will work, as long as you're up to reapply every few seasons.

7. I chose to mount mine free standing, but you could hang yours from a tree or set it atop a fence or handrail on a deck or balcony. To mount as I did, screw a 1/2" black pipe flange to the bottom of the birdhouse (using pilot holes to avoid splitting the wood), and attach it to a long 1/2" black pipe, both of which are available in the plumbing section of the hardware store or home center. Purchase a pipe at least two feet longer than your desired height, as you really need to sink it to eliminate any wobble. If you have a permenant location, digging a bigger hole and filiing it with some QuikRete is a good idea. (Don't be afraid, just follow the directions on the package).

8. Create a choice cocktail in a vintage martini glass or tiki mug, throw on some bossa nova, and watch your new feathered friends come home.

If you're looking for a less woodworking-intense version,  this streamlined mod birdhouse that can be made with just a drill. Yay!

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Matt on Jul 18, 2016:

Thanks Chris--a friend of mine wants to make it. She's not a wood worker, so I thought I'd lay it out as plainly as possible for her. I'll just mock one up in a CAD program and get it close using the measurements you did share. We'll definitely post a picture if she does make it.

Chrisjob on Jul 18, 2016:

Hi Matt - Unfortunately, I can't share that info. I gave this to a friend years ago as a gift, so I dont have it around to check those measurements. (I made this in 2008) But those vertical members are truly decorative, so, once you have your entry hole drilled, you could just place them it a spot that looks right, and then set your spacing that way.

Good luck! Please share a photo if you actually make this.


Matt on Jul 18, 2016:

Thanks. Can you tell us how far the 6.5" tall decorative piece is from the left side of the birdhouse? Also, is the 6.5" piece lined up with the center of the birdhouse? Thanks again.

CAE on Oct 07, 2013:

Nice post, clean site too!

Joshua on Dec 02, 2012:

Man, This is way cool! Totally gonna make a bunch of these as christmas presents this year

Jett L on Nov 28, 2011:

I have been searching the net for a great bird house. My daughter has a topsy turvy that has been converted to a home for a bird and though the bird frequents the turvy, we fear its not durable for the weather about to come. I will be sure to post pictures of this birds new home. Thank you and keep up the good work. Wood, lol would you happen to have any ideas on how to assemble a hanging plant stand for my plants as well? I have a huge front window and need a nice hanging mechanism to hang in the window with my plants on it, due to a certain pet that snacks on my plants thats why i'd like it up  hanging. Ty again enjoy your coming Holidays!!!!

oriolejoe on Jun 02, 2011:

I have a hunch that the birds populating my yard are great fans of modern architecture. Why else would they be sticking their beaks up at the square houses I've been making?  I think the selection of the type of wood for this project is going to vary depending on the meteorological temperament of your area. Comparing the environmental factors against a moisture tester may lead you to the best type of wood for the project. The last thing you want is for moisture, or the lackthereof, to shorten the life of your birdhouse.

Mike, good advice on the glue, I haven't looked into that on previous houses I've made, but with the time investment for this project I would want to ensure product longevity.

Anonymous on Dec 12, 2010:

 This is the coolest!  My daughter and I are making one for a Christmas gift and we were looking for something a little more stylish than the average birdhouse.  Thank you!

suzyrenovator on Sep 13, 2008:

I love it!  Will be posting a link to this on my gardening site, 2greenthumbsup.  People are always looking for diy birdhouse plans.

Thank you!

creede on Aug 27, 2008:

Brilliant!  Great design and great video, I'm Very impressed.  I featured you over at Grassrootsmodern, I hope you don't mind.  I have some extra plywood hanging around, and I think I may have to do this little project.

MikeKunkel on Aug 26, 2008:

Be aware that baltic birch plywood may, or may not be weather resistant. The wood itself is fairly weather resistant. The glue on the other can can be a different story.

Plywoods typically use one of two types of glue to bond the multiple layers together.

The more common glue to be used is a urea formaldehyde glue, which is not rated for exterior use. It will stand up to certain amounts of moisture (it stands up to the moisture produced in most bathrooms), but the layers of the plywood will begin to seperate after being exposed to too much moisture.

The other glue typically used is a phenolic resin glue. It is rated for exterior use because of its moisture and heat resistance.

Unless you ask for plywood that has been rated for exterior use, you will almost always get plywood that is only for interior use.

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