Meet the Designer: Tanya McQueen

Take a look inside reality TV star and designer Tanya McQueen's barn-style Nantucket home.
2 Projectnantucket Photo By Julie Bidwell Exteriorfront Tanyamceen

Reality TV personality and interior designer Tanya McQueen sits with her dog, Never, in front of the grand front windows that face out toward Nantucket’s East End. Never is the “matron of the house. We live with her,” says McQueen. Photography by Julie Bidwell

When one thinks of the quintessential Nantucket home, they think of a wood-shingled seaside cottage surrounded by lush hydrangeas. Leave it to reality TV personality and interior designer Tanya McQueen to go against the status quo and completely reconstruct an 1800s New Jersey dairy barn into the Nantucket home of her dreams. Originally transported to the island via ferry in the 1990s, the 3,400-square-foot structure was expanded into nearly 4,000 square feet of remodeled beauty.

McQueen, who made her TV debut as a designer on ABC’s “Extreme Makeover: Home Edition,” collaborated with her TV producer husband, Tom Forman, to reinvent “La Grange,” the name of the Nantucket home that pays homage to McQueen’s Texas roots and directly translates to “The Barn.” With five-bedrooms, five-bathrooms, and no shortage of coastal charm, read on to hear more from McQueen and her influential design.

C&G: Tell us more about the history of the home. What motivated you to tackle such a feat?
Tanya McQueen: My husband and I came across the real estate listing, each on our own, actually, and fell immediately in love. Generally, the homes on Nantucket have a traditional, iconic New England feel, but the barn is something all its own. It gave us an opportunity to be uniquely ourselves and to create a home for our family on the island that feels like us.

What inspired you and your husband the most during the design process?
Most homes on the island follow very similar patterns of color and design, but we wanted to embrace the warmth and history of the barn. When we got our hands on it, the barn was in rough shape with bathrooms straight out of the nineties and incredibly outdated electrical standards. Someone else may have torn the barn down to build a new home from the ground up, but we felt this immediate warmth we knew was worth saving.

8 Projectnantucket Photo By Julie Bidwell Diningroom Copy

A fridge is set within the dividing kitchen wall, providing guests an opportunity to grab beverages and refreshments without disturbing kitchen users. A photography piece by Julie Blackmon is centered on the other wall. Photography by Julie Bidwell

Is there a particular room that stands out to you?
The kitchen is special in that it ended up so differently from my original vision. I pictured a large, modern, open kitchen for us. But after we spent the first summer living and working with the original, we realized it was everything we needed. When it came time to renovate the kitchen, I let go of my initial vision and kept the smaller footprint. We fully gutted everything to the studs but held onto the quaint kitchen feel.

Walk us through your vision and design execution of the kitchen.
The beauty of the kitchen is that it sits right above a basement that holds all the operational and plumbing systems. With that, I wasn’t confined by any existing waterlines or similar hindrances. An old barn with an open basement really allowed me to do anything I wanted!

As for the design, I wanted a fun, modern pop that still played nicely into the old barn. The soapstone countertops and raw, organic white-oak countertops look like they could have been there forever, but then we pulled in the True Residential fridge for that contemporary feel.

10 Projectnantucket Photo By Julie Bidwell Kitchen

A deep set soapstone sink and matching countertops complement the wood cabinetry. Photography by Julie Bidwell

What is the story behind the staircase? Is this another original feature of the home?
Yes, the staircases are original! When we bought the house, the staircase leading to the primary bedroom had a landing that felt like wasted open space just a tad larger than it should have been. We’ve turned it into a little transition space that we genuinely enjoy spending some time in. There’s great light coming in from a skylight, and I love to sit and read there. We’ve turned that side of the house into the primary “suite” by closing in a bedroom loft space to give Tom an office space.

16 Projectnantucket Photo By Julie Bidwell Stairwell

An original staircase leads up to the second level. Photography by Julie Bidwell

What challenges, if any, did you face when blending the barn-style with traditional Nantucket architecture?
I brought in special antique pieces from all over the country to curate a home that feels uniquely ours but wanted it to also feel authentic to the barn and to Nantucket. We worked with local craftsmen and contractors and scoured local thrifts, garage, and estate sales for well-loved nautical pieces that captured the island’s charm. I feel incredibly connected to every piece of the home. It almost feels like everything has already been here.