No mortgages needed for these houses

by CLIFF AND NANCY HILL

Architects and builders of upscale homes sometimes reward their clients with a framed watercolor portrait of their home. Rockford resident Sharon Bennett has a better idea.

A BIRD’S HOME IS HIS CASTLE—Sharon Bennett displays a move-in-ready custom birdhouse that she created, replicating a client’s home. Photo by CLIFF HILL

People love their homes and Bennett has carved a niche for herself by duplicating homes of friends and patrons as a birdhouse replica. You read it right, “birdhouse,” not dollhouse.

For the past few years Bennett, a retired Rockford elementary school teacher and principal, has been crafting these beautiful one-of-a-kind creations. How she came by her woodworking skills is a story of love.

Bennett’s husband, Roy, had a wood shop attached to the rear of their home that was the envy of all who knew them. “Roy had five of every wood-crafting tool imaginable,” said Sharon. “He was an extremely talented woodworker who could create, among other things, custom crafted wooden golf clubs.”

One day Roy told Sharon it was time for her to learn the use of these tools, and one at a time she herself became very skillful with their use. Sharon said that one night a few years ago Roy told her, “I’m feeling real tired and I’m heading to bed early.” Roy passed away that night. It was as though he possessed an inner sense to the end of his time on Earth when he passed on his woodworking skills.

And what a gift he gave her. The birdhouses she creates are not just any run-of-the-mill birdhouse. They are literally works of art that duplicate in exacting detail the four sides of the exteriors of the homes of those lucky enough to be a recipient. Through the use photographs of all four elevations—and visits to the home if necessary—nothing is missed. From roofing materials and the roof’s pitch, to siding materials of wood, masonry, stucco or vinyl, the exterior is reproduced exactly. Paint colors are perfectly matched. Porches and decks, including their spindle railings constructed of toothpicks, are replicated. Not to be forgotten are patios complete with outdoor furniture. To top it all off, the home is circled by every landscaping feature that surrounds its immediate perimeter.

This birdhouse is built down to the last detail, including coach lights, accent trim and landscaping. Photo by CLIFF HILL

These birdhouses have become Sharon’s passion. Each one takes approximately 200 hours to create.

“I fall in love with each one and am reluctant to part with each when finished,” said Sharon. “I tend to hang on to them for a while to show off before they are delivered.”

Sharon is extremely proud of the birdhouse duplication of Gilda’s Club Grand Rapids that she created as part of a fundraising event. The winning bidder at a silent auction donated the birdhouse back to Gilda’s Club. It is now prominently displayed under Plexiglas in the reception area.

One might think how neat it would be to have an artistic rendition birdhouse replica of their home, but surely could not afford the extravagance. Now here’s the best part: if Sharon accepts your commission all she expects in return is a gift card, of no specific denomination, to Lowe’s.

We asked Sharon the obvious question on our minds, “How could one possibly take a one-of-a-kind work of art, suitable for ArtPrize, and use it as a birdhouse?”

She replied with a twinkle in her eye, “No one ever has! My birdhouses have all found a place of honor inside the homes they depict.”

For further information, contact Sharon Bennett at benn133@yahoo.com.

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