Nantucket House Antiques -August 2015
A designing family hands over the reins to the next generation
by: Lindsay Pykosz
photography by: Jeffrey Allen
Going into the antique and interior-design business might seem a bit odd for two people who studied mechanical engineering and marketing in college. For Tucker Holland and his wife Michelle, however, it made all the sense in the world.
Tucker has a deep family history on both Nantucket and in antiques. His mother Sandi and father Hudson “Huddy” Holland Jr. established Nantucket House Antiques in 1973 out of their home at 8 Fair St. Back then, Gary Knight was the original interior designer, whom the Hollands brought east from the JL Hudson Company in Detroit.
The business moved to its current location in 1980, when Sandi and Huddy took over Bob White’s antique business and bought the building at 2 South Beach St.
“There always had been a hope that someone in the Holland family would carry on the tradition,” Tucker said of the antiques and interior-design business, and that hope was realized about five years ago when Michelle, who had her own design firm in Vermont, and Tucker began transitioning into the family business.
Prior to moving to Nantucket full-time, Michelle ran Patina, an established antiques store in Shelburne, Vt. housed in a historic building. They kept the name, and added an interior-design component called Michelle Holland Interiors.
It was about a year later when the couple started to get involved with Nantucket House, and moved to the island full-time in 2012 with their kids, Eli, now 7, and twins Beatrix and Edward, 5. That was when the real transition began from Sandi, who had been running Nantucket House solo since 1996, to Tucker and Michelle.
Since moving to Nantucket Tucker and Michelle have immersed themselves in the community.
Tucker has been co-chair of the Nantucket License Plate Committee, which was successful in its effort to have the state create a Massachusetts license plate containing an image of the island. He has also been on the board of the Nantucket Lighthouse School since 2013 and was recently appointed to the Community Foundation for Nantucket board. In addition, he is on the Nantucket Atheneum board and a member of the Strategic Planning Task Force since 2014, and was appointed by the Board of Selectmen to the Affordable Housing Trust Fund this summer.
In addition to raising their three kids and running a business, Michelle is on the Mimi Beman Library Committee of the Nantucket Lighthouse School. They are a very busy couple who have embraced living on Nantucket fully. And they still have business ties on the mainland.
“We still have clients in Vermont. There’s a lot of crossover,” Michelle said. “A lot of clients grew up coming here, and there are similarities in the way that they’re both historic towns.”
Tucker added, “They both have historic architecture, highly-valued open spaces, and both have significant summer populations.”
During those summer months, traffic in and out of the antiques shop is heavy. It’s when most of the sales from the floor and the shop happen. But it’s the offseason when Michelle’s design business is the busiest, as people are getting ready to decorate their homes.
Staying true to his parents’ roots, Tucker said the company is still known for its English and American country furniture, which has remained largely unchanged since the business was founded.
“We’ve incorporated more things from Quebec, more painted pieces, and we’re the exclusive representative for Kevin Paulsen’s paintings here on the island, and also (artist) Piero Fenci,” Tucker said. “Piero’s work definitely has a contemporary flair to it. Kevin’s
has an Old Worldliness to it, but with kind of a contemporary undercurrent. We’ve done very well representing his work.”
The couple goes on a few buying trips a year – one to England, one to northern New England and another to Quebec. It’s on those trips that they purchase a majority of the pieces for the shop.
Tucker and Michelle grew up in Grosse Pointe, Mich., and both attended the University of Michigan. Michelle worked for Toyota for seven years doing supply and project management.
“By the time I left, I was doing vehicle development, vehicle launches and making sure everyone was ready to start,” she said. “I did a lot of traveling, a lot of working with vendors.”
What are the connections between project management at Toyota and running an interior-design business? You’d be surprised, Michelle said.
“It makes sense, in retrospect, because I’ve always been very creative, but I am also very methodical,” she said. “I have a left and right brain that allows me to do that.”
“One of the things that her clients appreciate a lot about what she does is not simply that she has good taste and a good feel, but she listens to each individual client then brings back what she feels is going to work well for them,” Tucker said. “It’s very collaborative. Her project-management skills are highly valued, not only by the client, but by the architects and builders here.”
Often, Michelle said she produces lists in her meetings with builders and architects, and those lists become the ones that everyone follows.
But a lot of it is just listening, because every client is so different. At any one time, she can have 20 projects of varying sizes on her plate. This calls for strong organizational skills.
“The way they approach and the way they envision things is so different from one person to the next,” she said. “I think the way you approach it with each person is a little bit different, too. One of the things that’s important to me is I don’t want people to walk into the houses and say, ‘Oh, Michelle Holland must have done this.’ I don’t want them all to look the same.”
A certain chemistry is developed with each client, she added.
When Tucker’s parents were running the business in the 1970s and 1980s, he said a lot of people would furnish their homes exclusively with pieces from a certain period. Today, many are drawn to a style that mixes different periods together.
A house on the north shore off Lincoln Circle that Michelle just finished working on is a perfect example of this. The newer, fresher style boasts clean lines and modern lighting and ties into the understated style that the team tries to create.
“We’ve taken these things and used them to make them appropriate for Nantucket,” Tucker said. “I think part of the reason we’re fortunate to have the clients that we have, is it’s about them and it’s also that we’re very discrete. Our style is more understated than showy, and also comfortable. It seems like there’s some space in the market for the style that we represent.”
Since taking over the family business, Tucker’s mom Sandi has remained involved. Both he and Michelle use her as a sounding board. Both described her as “an invaluable resource,” always ready to help in any way she can.
The couple is expanding their design work into creating wallpaper and fabric lines, and said they’re looking forward to continuing and expanding their business.
“We want to continue the brand,” Michelle said. “It’s good, high-quality, very well-designed, and with a very custom, very personable service.” ///
Lindsay Pykosz is a Nantucket native and staff writer for The Inquirer and Mirror, Nantucket’s newspaper since 1821.