By Appointment Only: Best Artisan Shop

Berkeley Rustic Birdhouses

You've just gotten paid and it's starting to dawn on you: You will never own a home in the Bay Area. Why not buy the kind of home you can afford? Invest in avian real estate that is truly immune to economic downswings. While you'll never be able to buy that darling, Craftsman-style Berkeley bungalow for half a million dollars, why not spend $70 and get a replica birdhouse from Berkeley Rustic Birdhouses? Why not go crazy and spend $100 and get yourself the Mission-style, Swiss Chalet, or Lake Tahoe Timeshare model? Owner and artisan Michael Parayno started making these charming birdhouses three years ago as a way to bring birds to rapidly gentrifying neighborhoods in the East Bay. He began hanging them outside the North Berkeley BART station when he first started crafting the avian dwellings, with signs reading "The Last Affordable Housing in the Bay Area." Weary commuters fell in love with them and started buying them up and a business was born. Parayno, an ethnic studies lecturer at UC Berkeley and SFSU, makes his birdhouses out of recycled materials found at area salvage shops and recycling centers. He uses fifty-to-hundred-year-old barn and fence wood, old doorknobs, corrugated iron, and Pacific driftwood. Unlike us, birds like smaller dwellings so they don't need to fetch as much nesting material -- a rare commodity in the urban areas of the East Bay. If money's tight, check out Parayno's Section 8 fixer-uppers.

Readers' Pick: Berkeley Potters Guild

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