Amanda Pays and Corbin Bernsen breathe new life into their traditional Tudor (and others) with beautifully repurposed finds.
Light mist lingers outside the Tudor-style cottage that actor/director Corbin Bernsen shares with his wife, English actress/interior designer Amanda Pays, and their four sons (Oliver, 23, twins Henry and Angus, 21, and Finley, 14). On a chilly spring morning Bernsen stokes the fire in the library while the family Whippet, Digby, warms himself at his owner’s feet. It feels like a typical scene from an estate in Bedfordshire or some other distinct British locale, except the setting is Los Angeles—a mere half-mile from where the former “L.A. Law” star was born and raised.
The couple acquired the Valley Village property in 2011 and spent the following year in renovations. Before Bernsen began acting, he worked as a carpenter—a skill he has put to use, from conceptualizing architectural details in the main house to building bookcases and a ladder in the barn’s loft.
Pays and Bernsen also added beams of reclaimed Brazilian wood to doorways and used old scaffold planks as treads on the staircase. “I used to frame houses, so I know what can and can’t be done,” says Bernsen, who currently stars on the USA Network television series “Psych.”
“What Corbin and I love to do is find old homes with great bones that we can repurpose, and we rethink the original features,” says Pays, who founded Amanda Pays Design in 2009. Actor Steve Martin purchased the couple’s first renovation project. He is just one of Pays’ word-of-mouth celebrity clients who appreciates what she calls her “version of green living.” Pays’ motto: Recycle and restore as much as possible.
“We are always looking for pieces like the factory doors and windows we found at an architectural salvage,” she says. “We built the kitchen around those doors.”
Much of the abode is furnished with treasures the couple picked up at swap meets, estate sales and antique shops over decades of travel together. Pays found a tufted sofa at a local flea market and had it recovered, to beautiful effect, with $5/yard linen from Ikea. Near the family’s second residence in the South of France, they found their favorite set of ceramic mugs at an outdoor market. Antique Moroccan carpets came from a souk in Marrakech, while vintage bread loaf pans and chicken feeders have been retooled into kitchen light fixtures. She has an eye for mixing in the unexpected to create an aesthetic she describes as “very unlabored, uncomplicated.” Traditional upholstered furniture pays homage to Pays’ U.K. heritage, but when set against a neutral backdrop of grays, creams and pale greens, the combination has Scandinavian-loft-meets-shabby-chic appeal. Spare pops of color, like bold orange, add an exotic twist and inviting warmth to the washed wood and plaster finishes.
Pays’ resourcefulness extends to her habit of recruiting family members to pitch in. Bernsen’s brother, Collin, constructed a table for the garden, and Bernsen crafted the chairs himself. Oliver, the couple’s eldest son, is an artist and filmmaker who made the wallpaper in the screening room out of a hand-painted collage incorporating his photographs from family trips to Europe, North Africa and across the United States.
Pays and Bernsen enjoy living in their home as much as they did creating it. Most evenings, you’ll find them with family and friends, gathered around their spacious farmhouse table for big pots of soup, coq au vin and warm fruit crumbles.
“Amanda is good at a lot of things,” Bernsen says with more than a hint of admiration. “She is an extraordinary cook. Her food is as good and simple and complete as this house.”
Written by Heather John Fogarty
Photographed by Amy Neunsinger