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For years, Mark Ellis built mid-century modern furniture. When it was time for a change, he transitioned to building houses in the same sleek architectural style … Birdhouses, that is.

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For years, Mark Ellis built mid-century modern furniture. When it was time for a change, he transitioned to building houses in the same sleek architectural style … Birdhouses, that is.

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For years, Mark Ellis built mid-century modern furniture. When it was time for a change, he transitioned to building houses in the same sleek architectural style … Birdhouses, that is.

Made in NC: Koolbird

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For years, Mark Ellis built mid-century modern furniture. When it was time for a change, he transitioned to building houses in the same sleek architectural style … Birdhouses, that is.

“Anybody can build a square birdhouse, but that’s not what I was going for,” Ellis says. “I wanted to come up with a distinctive look. I didn’t want to copy a mid-century modern house, but I wanted the birdhouse to reflect that vision.”

Today, Ellis’s retro birdhouses have stylish sloping roofs and edges and perfectly polished perches — there’s even a design that looks like a 1950s camper — and Ellis builds each house with the same craftsmanship he once reserved for (human-sized) furniture.

We sat down with Ellis to learn more about his unique homes for feathered friends.




OS: What are the steps you take when making a birdhouse?

ME: I start with the wood. I get half of what I use in Charlotte and the rest I get up in Weaverville and by Asheville. That’s one of the most important parts of the whole operation — finding good wood that’s interesting, that has colors and veining. That’s one of the selling points of the houses — the beauty of the wood I use. Then I’ll cut it up into various pieces, glue the pieces together, then finish it with a water-based polyurethane.

 

OS: What kind of wood do you use?

ME: I use about 20 varieties of woods. The local woods that I use are cherry and cypress; those take up probably 50 to 60 percent of the house. The rest are tropical woods.

 

OS: Why do you specialize in mid-century modern design?

ME: I used to work for a mid-century modern furniture company. I couldn’t build something square to save my life. But when it comes to curves — I can do that. I like the aerodynamics of my houses because, you know, they’re birdhouses! They’re for things that fly, so I want them to reflect that look. They also reflect my background in classic wooden boats, speed boats, sailboats — I used to do repair work — and I like the beautiful wood and curves.

 

OS: What makes your birdhouses unique?

ME: The first thing is the design. I haven’t found any mid-century modern birdhouses that even come close to mine. The second thing is the quality of the woodwork. I’ve been doing this a long time, and with every house I try to make it a little bit better than the last. I’m always striving to the make the house perfect. The third thing is the materials. I try to use the best materials and the most interesting woods, and I try to build them in such a way that they last a long time.

 

OS: What do you enjoy most about what you do?

ME: After I’m done building a house, the house can look pretty dull — it’s hard to tell what you’ve got. But as soon as I put that final finish coating on there, and the wood pops out, that’s exciting. As soon as I start putting those brush strokes on there, that makes it all worthwhile.


Koolbird
1507 Lynway Drive
Charlotte NC 28203

(704) 332-8679
mellis@bellsouth.net
koolbirdhouse.com


Join Our State, Mast General Store, and Visit Winston-Salem as we celebrate the 2019 winners of the Made in NC Awards

Saturday, November 23, 2019

12–3 p.m.

Mast General Store
516 Trade Street NW
Winston-Salem, NC 27101

For more information on the Made in NC Awards Celebration, click here.
 
 

This story was published on Oct 29, 2019

Katie Schanze

Katie Schanze

Katie Schanze is the assistant editor and digital editor of Our State.