Not just for the birdsBirdhouses are not...


Not just for the birds

Birdhouses are not just for the birds anymore. Folks are placing them around the house for a decorative touch, or bringing a bit more nature into their lives by grouping them in the yard.

Beverly Abramson, owner of Feathers and Lace on Main Street in Ellicott City, has devoted an entire room to the recent birdhouse phenomenon.

"We have collectors who have chosen to do a collection indoors or a collection of a whole village of birdhouses -- little stores and houses -- on a fence post," says Ms. Abramson, whose store carries birdhouses in a range of styles from rustic to hand-painted and delicate, done by artists from across the country.

The Nature Company at Harborplace carries birdhouses made of found wood and old pieces of metal, in keeping with the store's environmental theme. A Tennessee birdhouse collection by Garden Source Furnishings features a general store, church, log cabin and Aunt Edna's house.

It's a big seller, says Tom Drudzki, store manager. Another collection, made from old license plates, includes one made from a 1936 Oklahoma plate.

"Birdhouses have really caught people's eyes. There is a natural beauty to them. They fit into the scheme of back to nature," says Mr. Drudzki.

Decorative and outdoor birdhouses have also been spotted in Over the Garden Gate at the Gallery, as well as in the Spiegel and Pottery Barn catalogs.

G; Prices for birdhouses range from $20 to more than $175.

@ Ever wondered what a cow would look like in your favorite suit?

Out on a Whim, a whimsical craft and gift store at Harborplace, sells clothes hangers with painted cows, cats, horses, beagles, Jack Russell dogs, monkeys and a boy wearing a baseball cap featured on them. Just slip your suit or dress on the hanger and staring out at you is the face of a mammal. You can even turn your closet into a barn full of farm animals.

Cows and cats seem to sell the best, says store co-owner Nancy Levinson. A great gift idea for birthdays, anniversaries or weddings, the hangers sell for $12.95 each. "We sell dozens a day," says Ms. Levinson of the hangers, which are made by an artist from New York.

JIll L.Kubatko It doesn't hurt to be reminded once in a while that good taste needn't be expensive, or hard to find. That's the message Kmart is putting out to help celebrate its 30th birthday. The giant retailer has put together a collection called "Classics for the Home" that includes furniture, linens, housewares, outdoor furnishings -- even paint.

Examples: A grouping of nostalgic, white-painted wicker furniture that includes loveseat, two armchairs and a double-tiered coffee table ($267 for the four pieces), plus an old-fashioned rocker ($79.96), a side table ($39.96), and a fan-shaped magazine rack ($13.96). Cushions available separately cost $10.96 to $18.96. There is also a set of four toss pillows with Battenburg lace trim, an absolute steal at $9.99 each. And there are coordinated sheet and comforter sets from J.P. Stevens and Cannon Color Classics that range from $4.99 to The comforters come in six two-color combinations and the sheets in 12 colors (including three stripes). Shams, pillowcases and dust ruffles are also available.

The items are chosen for tradition, good design and good value, Kmart says. At these prices, they might well add "and good sense."


Karol V. Menzie They aren't cheap and they sure aren't easy to store or display, but slot machines, some of which are magnificent examples of spectacular design and decoration, do have their fair share of dedicated collectors.

The first slot machines to pay the gambler his winnings automatically as opposed to "trade stimulators," which don't have an automatic payout, appeared in the last decade of the 19th century.

Large, upright devices, they consisted of one disk that resembled a wheel of fortune, different-colored coin slots into which the player inserted his wager, a handle to start the wheel spinning and a payoff chute through which the winnings would come pouring out.

The smaller and more familiar counter-top, three-reel, side-lever machine, christened the Liberty Bell, appeared in 1905, the invention of a Californian named Charles Fey.

As far as prices go, a good guide is the recently published "An American Premium Guide to Jukeboxes and Slot Machines" by Jerry Ayliffe (Books Americana), which also includes jukeboxes, arcade machines and gumball vending machines, as well as information on pitfalls and restoration, a bibliography and a list of reputable dealers.

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