Meet a Mom: Shelley Swanson of BirchBarn Designs

Meet Shelley, not your average woodshop mom ;)

By Christina Skeldon March 1, 2022

Every week, Macaroni Kid South Shore will introduce you to an amazing, local mom. Nothing makes me happier than supporting incredible women and I am so excited to have the opportunity to introduce you to some of the South Shore's finest!

This week, Shelley Swanson of BirchBarn Designs. Shelley is the mom and wife behind the husband and wife team of BirchBarn Designs out of Scituate. BirchBarn Designs is a local woodshop specializing in handcrafted artisan wood pieces. From cutting boards and serving boards to beer caddies and custom wood countertops, they do it all and they make it look good! Shelley left her corporate job in 2016 to partner with her husband, Matt, and it has been so awesome to watch them grow to where they are today!

Keep on reading to learn more about Shelley, BirchBarn, and all of the fun things she does on the South Shore (even though she once pushed to move to North Carolina) to keep her family busy! And don't forget to check out BirchBarn to see all of their beautiful work!

How many kids do you have and how old are they?
One daughter, Madison, who is 2.5 years old.

What town do you live in and what is your favorite thing about the South Shore?
We moved to Scituate (from Somerville) 11 years ago and we have fallen in love with the South Shore! But before committing to Scituate, I was pushing hard for North Carolina. I'm from Texas and my husband, Matt, is from Ohio. I thought we should be driving distance from family (...even if that drive was 15 hours! ;) But Matt made the very convincing argument that, by living on the South Shore, we would only be a 5-15 minute drive from dozens of amazing beaches. From that moment on, I was sold. We try to get to the beach as often as possible for a quick walk, evening picnic, or an all-day sandy adventure. It’s the best way to unwind and reset.

What do you like to do for fun with your kid/s on the South Shore? Without your kid/s?
From May-October you can find us on the beach, pretty much exclusively. We rotate between Egypt, Peggotty and the Spit depending on the tides. If it's not a beach day, we love wandering through the woods or local playgrounds. North Scituate Playground, Kids at Play Marshfield and The South Shore Children’s Museum are all favorites. The Scituate Library also ranks high on our list! They have fun seasonal activities set up in the Children’s room.

Please tell us more about BirchBarn! How did you start?
BirchBarn Designs is a local woodshop specializing in handcrafted artisan wood pieces. From cutting boards and serving boards to beer caddies and custom wood countertops, we design a wide range of products made from beautiful and exotic hardwood.
Matt started BirchBarn Designs when we moved to Scituate. He is a self-taught carpenter who loves colorful woods, slow-smoked BBQ, and craft beer. (Our product line was built out of things he wanted for himself so we have GREAT gifts for guys!)
Thanks to our local farmers markets, BirchBarn Designs grew organically for the first few years. But we wanted to expand the business outside of our home workshop. In 2016 I left my corporate job and partnered with Matt to grow BirchBarn Designs. We now have a retail storefront and showroom in the Greenbush neighborhood of Scituate. The shop is open Monday-Friday from 10-5, and you can peek through the workshop doors anytime and watch the carpenters in action!

Has the South Shore had any influence on your work?
Without a doubt! We would not be where we are today without the support of the South Shore farmer’s markets. When Matt launched BirchBarn Designs, artisan vendors were rarely found (and sometimes not allowed) at farmers markets. But the Hingham, Scituate, Cohasset and Plymouth Farmers Markets each believed in our products. They made exceptions to the rules and allowed us to sell our cutting boards and artisan pieces at the markets. Our first customers from the farmers markets are still repeat customers today. We are truly thankful for the support of the South Shore community!

How do you balance it all? Or do you?! ;)
Ha! That’s funny. But in all seriousness, I try to focus less on “balance” and more on a shifting scale. Being a retail business, there are times (particularly Nov/Dec) when work consumes 80% of our attention. During those times, the “work” scale is going to be heavier, so I try to shift my expectations for home balance. Instead of meal-prepping, I switch to frozen ravioli and pre-made Costco dinners. The vacuum might not run and the laundry might be a mess. And our toddler might have to play at the shop some weekends while we work (…thankfully kids love sawdust!). But then in the slower months, I’m able to give the “family/home” scale more of my attention with longer walks and playdates. I have realized that our scale is rarely ever balanced, and that’s okay. I do my best to fuel each side whenever possible…and accept a little bit of chaos ;)

Favorite places on the South Shore to:
Eat: We live for pizza picnics on the beach, so Crust and Maria’s are always on speed dial. (I think we’re the only people at Maria’s ordering pizza over subs. But trust us, their pizza is SO good!) And Nona’s ice cream feeds the soul.
Drink: Beer with friends at Untold or Stellwagen
Play: When the weather hits 60 degrees, you can find us at Egypt Beach night and day! Until then, we’ll be strolling the trails at Whitney Woods or playing at North Scituate Playground

Thank you, Shelley!