Photography by Marc Gibson
From the moment you pull up to the McMaster home you’re overcome with a feeling of stepping back in time. It almost feels like the white, Victorian home from Practical Magic — and with it being October, bewitchment is in the air.
Glancing at the homes around theirs, you can see the difference. It’s not like anything else in their neck of the woods — and that’s exactly what Tanya McMaster wanted.
“Hi! Come on in!”
And just like that, we’re greeted at the front door. Meeting the homeowner and entering this home, both for the first time, is quite the contrast. Tanya, wearing a rather casual and contemporary look, stands in (what looks like) a turn of the century entry hall with staircase and piano. Victorian pieces gleam from the corners. But it’s a quick trip to the open living space and we’re chatting about the home she designed seven years ago.
“It was important to me that this house be on pier and beam, that I be able to look underneath my house and see from front to back,” said Tanya, who studied architecture while in college. “The integrity of this plan, the age that I was going for, it would never have worked if we would have put it on a slab.”
From the ground up, Tanya designed her dream home. It all started with her front doors — the first piece she acquired along the way.
“I was looking up architectural salvage in New Orleans and this place in New Jersey popped up — Amighini Architectural. They had items from Spain, Italy, Belgium,” she said, noting that she hadn’t done much online shopping prior to that (which was two years before she broke ground on her home).
From there she started actively searching for pieces that fit her vision, some coming into her life unexpectedly. “I looked up ‘garden statuary’ and this popped up,” she said, pointing to a rather large, ornate piece in a room off from the kitchen. “It’s over one hundred years old. It came out of a cathedral in Boston.”
And that’s Tanya’s style — antique eclectic. She loves mixing various eras together to create a truly, one-of-a kind feel. With the exception of only a few new, custom items, nearly everything in the McMaster home is salvaged, repurposed or reclaimed. Tanya calls it “green living.”
“I’m recycling and reusing existing pieces for what they intended to be from the beginning,” she said.
Tanya also mentioned that much of the home was designed around furniture she collected over the years. She even went as far as to completely change the placement of the living room fireplace to accommodate an oversized entertainment center. Her living room is the only contemporary room in the house, other than her white, wood and stone kitchen.
“I had the challenge of making the living space the more casual area transitioning from this formal area,” signaling to the entry way. “There’s just a wall and an opening. That was a challenge to keep it casual enough and nice enough to not be this sharp contrast.”
She did that with a neutral, tan color scheme picking up the various wood tones throughout. A leather arm chair sits nestled by the fireplace. Cheery, cobalt blue china pops on the mantle and coffee table help to make the space more contemporary.
The entry hall, as she put it, was the true cornerstone of the design plans. She knew since she was younger she wanted to incorporate it into her home.
“When I was 11 years old, I used to ride my bike down Highland and Fairfield. I would sneak onto the properties of abandoned homes (some just vacant) and take a peek around. One of them had a fireplace in the entry. It was the first time I had ever seen anything like that and I said, ‘If I ever to get a build a house, I’m putting one of those in,’ and I did,” explained Tanya. “It was important I have a large entry… It’s nice to have an entry to the home to introduce you to the feeling of the home.”
Off the entry way you’ll find a dining room straight out of Gone with the Wind. Black velvet curtains hang with crystal adornments. A portrait of Tanya and her two daughters, Sadie and Rose, greet guests as they enter.
“I have had a blood red dining room since I’ve been married,” said Tanya. “And when I die, my dining room will be blood red.”
And blood red it is, but don’t be fooled. She’s got a pop of bright color on the ceiling — just look up to the clouds.
“That’s a detail you’ll see in the New Orleans Garden District,” she said, which inspired much of her home.
Inside the dining room, she has another piece from Amighini, a large stained-glass door from Belgium, circa 1910. While it doesn’t open to anything, she smartly used it for her china closet. The inside has a window which allows the natural light to still pour through the colorful glass. Her dining table was from her father. Each piece in her home has a story, and Tanya knows all of them.
The grandest room in her stately home — the master bed and bath — is also located off the entryway. Walking by the tambour lace window furnishings, Tanya laughed and commented that “Martha Washington probably had those,” noting they were well over 100 years old. She even said she missed a tennis match bidding for them on eBay.
That’s something to know about Tanya — not only does she play tennis and collect antique furniture, she’s a painter, too. Walk through each room of her home and you’ll not only find art by her, but art she’s collected from all over the world.
The bedroom is the shining star of the main floor. It’s made of three separate rooms including a dressing room and sitting area. Crystal chandeliers and wall sconces give the space a well-lit ambience.
“Doesn’t it look like it came from the Titanic? Like it’s been underwater?” said Tanya, pointing to one of the light fixtures.
The king size bed is truly fit for a king — and queen. A chaise lounge sits at the foot of the bed. Colorful rugs help tie everything together. As she put it, it’s her own private Shangri-La.
“I was real insistent on having a big bedroom,” she said “I knew I was going to have a formal living room, but I knew in this plan that I needed to have the space in here.”
Up the staircase in the entry hall (make sure to say “hello” to her skeleton friends at the piano) takes guests to the landing of the second floor. A common area with a television greets you as you round the corner. Each room is thoughtfully designed, carefully crafted and styled to perfection. She’s even updated her son’s room for a nursery for her grandchildren.
And don’t forget — she designed her entire home. She used architectural software to completely construct her farmhouse escape. With the help of designer Dominic Tuminello and Clark Bairnsfather of Handle-It Construction, she was able to take her digital rendering and make it a reality.
While her two daughters and son, Anthony, are all out of the home, she spends her time there with her husband, Kevin, plus their two dogs, June and Jethro, their four cats and guinea pig.
You can usually catch Tanya entertaining friends on her back porch (soon to be a sleeper porch) or in the yard gardening.
“Every year I have a new project. I’ve put in all the landscaping myself, with the exception of the crepe myrtle trees,” she said. “I got a little tiller when I moved in and I’ve about burned that thing up.”
The attention to detail is apparent in this home and it’s even been featured in a Louisiana Film Prize short film. Tanya loves her big, old (new) home and she said she can’t see herself anywhere else. This is her forever home.