Signs of Success

A husband-and-wife team brings stylish wooden décor to the South Shore

By Courtney Raymond
Photography by Jack Foley

Inside a large warehouse in Hanover, pine boards are stacked on pallets and rows of wooden blocks hand painted with starfish and anchors sit out to dry. Brian and Melanie O’Neil never could have imagined that their love for one another would open the door to a true labor of love in the form of a new business venture. From humble beginnings to the big leagues, the couple has taken their rapidly growing wooden décor business from a small garage to a 50,000-square-foot facility with state of the art equipment and plenty of room to test out new ideas.

It was just about four years ago that the O’Neils, who were getting married, decided to whip up a few homemade signs bearing the surnames of close family and friends using leftover wood from a recent flooring project. The reclaimed boards were beautiful, but no single piece that was long enough to fit the names. The O’Neils decided to improvise, sawing several planks into small blocks and linking them together like Scrabble letters.

After tying the knot in 2012 and giving away those fateful gifts, the O’Neils began receiving numerous sign requests from family and friends. Inspired by the positive reception their signs received, they decided to take a leap of faith and turn their hobby into a business, establishing Rustic Marlin Designs.

The popularity of their signature piece—now known as the Marlin Classic Block—spread like wildfire. The company now produces many different sign designs, from pet silhouettes and names of places to patriotic and nautical flags. They specialize in custom signs and the creative team works closely with each customer to create personalized pieces. Customers can select the colors, size, words and adornments and the finished products arrive in about two weeks. Everything is constructed from New England pine and has a recognizable rustic-chic style.

Since Brian grew up on the South Shore, the couple decided to test out their products at the Cohasset Farmer’s Market and later approached the South Shore home staging company Setting the Space Interiors, about selling their products. Today, Rustic Marlin signs can be found in all five Setting the Space locations, as well as more than 1,000 other boutiques and retailers throughout the United States and Canada.

“It’s crazy for us to think how this all started in our garage,” says Melanie O’Neil. “We never imagined this as a business, but we couldn’t keep up with demand and started asking people to help.” They now have a team of 30 people that includes designers, craftsmen and artists.

A large part of the couple’s success can be attributed to their commitment to high-quality, authentic collections, but also to their perfectly matched career backgrounds. Brian, who has a degree in design as well as a strong background in sales, describes himself as the visionary and design guru, while Melanie is all about managing details and keeping their visions on track, thanks to her past work with startup companies. “We never imagined working together every day, but our strengths are perfect for one another,” says Brian. “Our customers come up with an idea and we bring that idea to life.”

The O’Neils recently designed a special sign for actress and reality star Jenny McCarthy and her husband, New Kids on the Block star-turned-actor, Donnie Wahlberg. The sign featured a heart, the year the couple were married and both of their last names.

With increased demand for their products, moving to a larger space seemed like the next logical step. “Moving out of our house is going to make us so much more efficient and allow us to really connect with the community,” says Melanie.

“People love that our products are not only made in America, but in Massachusetts,” explains Brian. “We love the South Shore community and are excited to take on new projects and connect with new customers.” With a continued commitment to producing high-quality home decor with a personal touch, Rustic Marlin Designs is making memories–one sign at a time.

For more information on Rustic Marlin Designs, visit rusticmarlin.com.

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