Thursday, October 1, 2009


Birdkeeping began in earnest in the 1700s during a time when British and French sailors were returning home with exotic species from their travels to the tropics, Asia and the Americas. The collection and keeping of birds indoors, however, is a practice dating back to ancient times. Ancient Egyptians, Romans, Greeks and Chinese all kept birds indoors and revered their beautiful companions (often depicting them in artwork) believing them to be not only symbols of status and wealth, but also of virtue.

To house their treasured friends, early birdkeepers created elaborate cages for them made of metal and wood. Below are some examples from Martha Stewart Living of how to use bird cages as decoration indoors, without their feathered tenants! In many instances the cages are useful (displaying objects and plants) but they also provide a striking and architectural design element on their own. Set on a table in a hallway or dining room, they can provide texture and contrast to the surroundings, as well as a focal point in rooms that are minimalist in design.

With this collection of bird cages, the possibilities are endless. My favourite is the one in the center, a beaux arts example of a 'bird hotel'with numerous doors and arched windows. Its exceptional size means it likely once held dozens of birds.

I am in love with this faux bois example, which immitates the gnarled timbers of a picturesque gazebo. I love how it looks in this desaturated minimalist space.

Cages made of fine brass wire give off a molten gleam in this candlelit dining room.

The birdcage atop this table is five feet tall, modeled after Saint Paul's Cathedral. It's made of pine, inset with stained glass windows. Beneath it, a double-width English cage of chocolate-brown and ivory looks like a posh private school.

This large birdcage, sculpted finely out of wood has been transformed into a display case for glassware. Framed prints of birds playfully suggest the cage's original purpose.

Wires woven in ribbon suspend a series of tin cages, most of them European examples, some dating back to the 1870s.

Fashioned of gold-plated tin, a miniature Normandy chateau may once have held a romantic pair of lovebirds or nightingales; now set on a rustic painted table in an entranceway, it becomes a minimalist's greenhouse. The light fixture above it was also once a birdcage, lined with vellum-like paper and illuminated from within.

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