‘Picker Sisters’ sees vintage gold in junk yard cast offs

Despite plenty of competitors, Lifetime’s new “Picker Sisters” has found a niche following Tracy Hutson and Tanya McQueen in a vintage-centric show from a feminine perspective.

In an exclusive interview with Antique Trader,  McQueen, of “Extreme Makeover: Home Edition” fame, talks about the show and how her rural Texas upbringing helps her turn farm scraps into Hollywood ‘junque.’

Antique Trader: In your first episode you’re standing in a junk yard and you spot a roll of barbed wire rolled up on an old log. How does your mind take you from that perspective to a funky lamp set worth $1,500?

Tracy McQueen: I attribute it, honestly, to our parents. Tracy and I were both raised in the Texas country. We both loved keeping interesting things around the house, taking some piece of junk and reworking it until it’s interesting and utilitarian. As a kid I would watch people take down barbwire fences and I remember thinking, back then, seeing how cool, these beautiful orbs were. It has great, great color and texture. I didn’t see it as barbedwire.

Garage Sale America 

ATYour show really has a different perspective on antiques, vintage and collections. What’s your main goal with the program.

TM: We work hard doing what we do and the network sees that it really is different. We love [Mike Wolfe and Frank Fritz from American Pickers] and love antiques and vintage. But we wanted to have our own niche and show people how you can not only collect and decorate with vintage finds but in some cases turn them into something more. It’s so amazing to see an industrial piece or old wood or old cars or things that are not supposed to be together and see, something like … a lamp!

ATWhere do your design ideas come from? 

TM: We’ve both been interior designers for years. It’s really who we are. I’m a magazine junkie, too. I rip out photos everywhere. It’s a good way to come up with ideas – look at things you really like and start to think about how you can put your own twist on things and make them your own.

ATWhat two pieces of advice would you give people who may not collect but want to truly decorate with their vintage finds.

TM:  First, sometimes when people find new pieces they don’t give it an opportunity to be something more than it was made for. If you find a crazy plow blade don’t think of it as a plow blade – don’t take it at face value. Imagine it serving as a table. Really think out of the box when it comes to furniture. Take the wood we bought for little to nothing in the first episode. Take that wood and turn it into a pair of adirondac chairs. Don’t just line the walls with wood, sit down, dig and come up with something unique then do it.

Second, a lot of rooms with collections can get tchotchkied up. Nothing stands apart. Pick a few things or one collection and let them stand alone in a room. If you’re collecting bottles, do something dramatic – put 50 on a table as vases and let them stand alone as a group.

picker sisters vintage antiques
Tracy Hutson and Tanya McQueen’s home decor pop-up shop in Los Angeles in the in the new “Picker Sisters”.

AT: Why did you and Tracy decide to use a pop-up shop instead of a more permanent retail space

TM:  The pop-up gives us a place to display the pieces we create and a place where customers can see them. It worked perfectly. There are many, many storefronts out there that are vacant and retailers are more comfortable taking a 60 day lease. It’s smart financially and it generates excitment. People are curious: What’s in the space now? It is so brutal out there to occupy space. Business owners know how hard the economy is and they’re not interested in a 9 to 5 retail situation where they’re committed to selling a bunch of little things. The pop-up storefront has really worked beautifully.

Eventually we’d like to get a warehouse space with a design area and a store upfront. We’d like to develop a space where not only can customers see what we’re working on but also see how pieces come together.

More from Antique Trader

Video: Tracy Hutson and Tanya McQueen share how they came to be “pickers.”