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NEW YORK TIMES

REAL ESTATE Section

Bark Before Entering         

By CAROLINE BIGGS    OCT. 29, 2017

 

[EDITED FOR CHERYL HAZAN GALLERY]

Many animal lovers in New York and beyond, it seems, think nothing of the cost involved in creating a special space for their pets — even when that sort of customization might cut into the profits when it comes time to sell their homes.

Hunt Slonem, an artist celebrated for his whimsical paintings of animals (particularly bunnies), carved 1,200 square feet out of his 30,000-square-foot studio in Sunset Park, Brooklyn, for his bird family.

Mr. Slonem has kept birds as pets for most of his life, and he currently has about 60 of them, all rescues, including a 75-year-old macaw called Sebastian and a cockatoo named Clyde that follows him everywhere.

The space he has devoted to the birds features dozens of suspended cages, often left open so the birds can fly free, and tile imported from Nicaragua that Mr. Slonem said helps to “define the space and stylishly conceal the droppings.”

Inside this indoor avian community, Mr. Slonem’s birds are free to talk, spat and mate — some for life, as they see fit. The space is so open and accommodating that many of the more social birds, including a close-knit clique of Amazon parrots, make regular house calls to each other’s cages. Feeding the birds, which takes up to five hours a day, requires the full-time services of a professional bird minder who has worked for Mr. Slonem for 35 years and who serves them a fresh salad of leafy greens, melons, bananas, grapes and tofu.

In Mr. Slonem’s latest book, “Birds,” he describes them as his muses and confidantes. He regularly paints among them, and whenever he is within earshot of the aviary, he said, the birds begin to chant his name in unison. “They’re as smart as three-year-olds,” Mr. Slonem said. “And they have huge personalities. They’re my dear friends, a relief from the humdrum of life.”