The island of Nantucket, Mass., has long been Tom Forman and Tanya McQueen Forman’s favorite place. Mr. Forman, 50, a television producer, grew up outside Boston and spent summers on Nantucket with his family. When he introduced the island to Ms. McQueen Forman, who is originally from Texas, she was smitten, too.
“We brought our family out every single summer since I met Tom, and we’ve been together for 18 years,” said Ms. McQueen Forman, 51, an interior designer and former TV personality on home improvement shows like “Extreme Makeover: Home Edition,” where she met Mr. Forman. “It was just our dream place.”
When the pandemic struck, they were living in Los Angeles with their two youngest children, Owen, now 20, and Bee, 18. (Their two older children had already moved out.) And they worried they’d have to break the Nantucket tradition, because travel had become so complicated.
Still, they managed to make the cross-country trip. Once they got to the island, they realized there was little reason to leave anytime soon. “We discovered that Tom could work from anywhere,” Ms. McQueen Forman said. “We came for our usual three-week trip and thought, ‘Why would we go back to L.A.?’”
They found a longer-term rental to stay for a few more months, but had no immediate plans to buy a house. “We always dreamed of someday owning our own home here, but thought we would have to wait until I retired,” Mr. Forman said.
But as serial renovators, they couldn’t help following the real estate listings. One morning, perusing the listings on separate devices, they simultaneously discovered a new one — for a 19th-century dairy barn that had been dismantled in New Jersey, transported to Nantucket and rebuilt as a 4,000-square-foot house in the 1990s.
“We were within earshot of one another, and I said, ‘I know we’re not buying a house right now, but there’s one for sale that we have to go look at,’” Ms. McQueen Forman said. Mr. Forman was about to suggest the same thing.
When they got there, “We just looked at one another and fell for it,” she said.
They bought the property for $3.295 million in October 2020. While they admired the former barn’s exposed posts and beams, there were things they wanted to change, beginning with the additions of the last three decades.
“There was so much to work with, but there was so much wrong, too,” Ms. McQueen Forman said. “I was determined to honor the coastal vibe and the history, but to make it very cool and hip, mixing modern touches with the old.”
The first step would be overhauling all five ’90s-era bathrooms. As construction began, it quickly became clear that those updates wouldn’t happen as quickly as they do on TV. It took roughly a year to complete the bathrooms.
“When you think about the fact that I met Tom on a show where we built a house in one week, doing five bathrooms that took a year just stumped me,” Ms. McQueen Forman said. “It was hard for me to accept.”
But after plying their contractors with doughnuts and coffee in the morning and beer at the end of the day, they got it done, including his-and-hers bathrooms off the primary bedroom. Ms. McQueen Forman got a bathroom with a free-standing, cast-iron soaking tub and floral wallpaper; Mr. Forman got beadboard paneled walls and a tadelakt shower with an arched doorway.
Renovating the kitchen took another year. Ms. McQueen Forman tucked new cabinets and appliances behind paneled walls that stop short of the ceiling. Aiming for a rustic vibe, she topped solid white-oak cabinets with soapstone counters and left the wood and stone unsealed. On the other side of one of the paneled walls, facing the living room, she added doors that open to a concealed pantry and a full-height beverage refrigerator that makes it easy to fill coolers for the beach.
Upstairs, where there was a sleeping loft overlooking the living room, she enclosed the space with divided-light windows to create a home office for Mr. Forman.
After figuring out how to conceal electrical wiring, plumbing lines and air-conditioning ducts around the building’s open structure, they added decorative touches: a large-scale knotted rope artwork by Alex Buchanan mounted above the fireplace; a wood dining room chandelier from the Round Top Antiques Show, in Texas; and a vintage rattan bar that Mr. Forman had shipped from Indianapolis.
With Bee leaving for college later this year, the couple plan to split their time between Los Angeles and Nantucket. So far, they’ve spent close to $1 million on the renovation, Mr. Forman estimated, but they continue to make updates.
“It’s been a painstaking, nonhistoric restoration,” Mr. Forman said. “It’s not a famous building or an important building. It’s just a cool building.”
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