SANTA CRUZ – A cabinet maker by trade, Douglas Barnhard has always appreciated architecture. He grew up in Los Gatos and loved visiting the South Bay’s midcentury modern neighborhoods.
Barnhard even studied architecture briefly, skills that have come in handy since he and his wife, Christy, launched a custom birdhouse business 18 months ago.
One of the more popular birdhouses looks like a 1950s-style home with succulent vegetation on the roof and porch. (Dan Coyro — Santa Cruz Sentinel)
Sourgrassbuilt is literally built from the scraps of Barnhard’s cabinet shop, Design Build, which he continues to operate. About five years ago he built a birdhouse from leftover wood pieces. But it wasn’t just any birdhouse. It was tiny replica of a midcentury modern home.
“It was awesome,” said his wife, Christy Barnhard. “We just got really into it.”
Minimalist with clean lines, the birdhouses are inspired by midcentury modern architects — Frank Lloyd Wright and Joseph Eichler among them — and even specific neighborhoods, like the San Mateo Highlands Eichler subdivision. Cabinet shop scraps get repurposed to construct the birdhouses: plywood, laminate and fine woods like bamboo, walnut and teak. Reclaimed redwood accents the Seabright Bauhaus.
“I hate throwing stuff away,” Barnhard said, who has operated Design Build cabinets for 20 years. “And I’ve always loved building.”
The Scotts Valley couple introduced Sourgrassbuilt about 18 months ago, offering the inspired birdhouses as well as bread boxes and a small selection of wood furniture. Christy, who has a degree in sociology and had been raising their two children, dove into marketing and sales. She launched an Etsy site to sell the products and started attracting the attention of Houzz, Sunset Magazine and Design Milk, an interior design blog.
Christy said she’s been surprised “just how quickly we went from hanging out in our living room talking about building birdhouses to having a business.”
Sourgrassbuilt currently offers 15 birdhouse designs including Sunset Modern — the most popular — multiple iterations of the Bauhaus, Sixties Mod and Cubism. Prices range from $149.99 to $399.99. Barnhard said he has “probably another 100” designs in his head.
“All of them are kind of cool in their own way,” Barnhard said.
The Mixed Media birdhouse does well. The mid century modern design incorporates Eichler, Lloyd Wright and the Bauhaus. Made with cedar posts and beams with bamboo decking, it’s wrapped in gray and orange laminate. A metal tray holds birdseed and the design offers space for the purchaser to plant a living wall of succulents.
Though they are works of art and some people just display them, the birdhouses also appeal to fowl.
“They are for birds. They 100 percent can be outside,” Christy said, adding that birds fight over the shelters at the Barnhard house.
At the shop, a nondescript building just off Ocean Street, a few birdhouses sit on shelves as display models, but each order is custom made and often includes special requests. A daughter asked for the colors of her parents’ Highlands house. A Dallas woman requested tiny paddleboards instead of surfboards when she ordered the bamboo and teak Kauai house for her paddleboarding husband.
“What’s cool about these is each one is really unique,” Christy said.
The birdhouses will be in a couple of specialty stores in San Rafael and Los Angeles, but the majority are sold online. Orders for Christmas are being taken online through Dec. 11.
Published at Fri, 09 Dec 2016 19:30:40 +0000