Bird Motifs

By Karen Parr-Moody


Along with spring’s happy return come the signs of birds and birdsong. In home décor, avian motifs remind us of this beautiful link humans have to the heavens.


Since ancient times, birds have been symbols of immortality, a supernatural link between heaven and earth. Historically, they have been represented in the decorative arts in a variety of ways. The ancient Egyptians included them in hieroglyphics. The ancient Chinese included flower and bird patterns on pottery and bronze, and by the time of the Tang Dynasty, they were included in paintings.


When the chinoiserie movement swept through 17th- and 18th-century Europe, it brought with it all manner of floral and bird representations, from fabrics to furniture to vases. And the Victorians loved to keep their pet birds in elaborate cages, which are collectible to this day.


In the home, birds can be the little black dress of decorating. They can be classic or modern, depending on how one works the look. For example, a classical bird style – such as a naturalistic rendering in a creative frame – can bring a traditional element to modern rooms. Alternately, adding modern bird figurines to a traditional space can create an instant update.


The chic avians in the photo, above right, represent the chinoiserie style of “blanc de chine,” or white porcelain or ceramic figures (birds, $12 each; Booth B-112). With a dash of pizzazz, such a menagerie creates an instant focal point, especially when set against a brightly colored wall or wallpaper.


Vintage flamboyance can bring charm to any space, as designer Jason Parker Counce well knows. His booth is currently a virtual aviary of birds. Within his vintage and hand-made selection are these fanciful sachets, pictured at left, printed with a variety of feathered friends (sachets $5.95 each; McCoy pot, $45; Booth B-309).


“Birds are a big hit this season,” Counce says. “I used an 1800s lithograph print of birds to make these lavender-filled sachets. They look good enough to leave out as instant art, too.” 









Counce is known for the crafty owls he makes from vintage fabrics and buttons, and the ones he has whipped up for spring simply breath fresh air into GasLamp (photo, right; $12; Booth B-309). The bonus? They are filled with lavender, to secretively scent any room. Can’t you just picture one of these as part of a “spring tree” decoration, or tucked into a basket?



The crisp look of an Audubon bird print is lightened up with this duo, left, from the appropriately named “Birdland” booth. The flirtatious background is so fetching that it adds a whimsical touch to the scene, which would be lacking in a more realistic rendition (pair, $32; Booth B-103). The tomato red frames add to the spring-like palette. This pair makes one think of spring’s lifestyle of cold lemonade, garden vegetables, and listening to crickets.








Decorating with antiques is about taking history, then creating a fresh look by using them in a new and different way. The famous decorator Dorothy Draper was a fan of using birdcages as accessories back in the early 20th century. And what Victorian didn’t hanker for a bell jar containing a taxidermy pheasant? The vintage birdcage at right is re-worked for the modern day ($63; Booth B-305). With some moss, tinsel-wrapped branches, and a few bare twigs, this cage makes a fresh statement.


Spring is definitely the time to take flight with one’s home décor by bringing nature’s beauty indoor with birds. So whether in the form of wall decoration, objects d’art, or something functional, it’s time to complete the leafy oasis of spring with some avian touches.

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