Renovation Romance: Corbin Bernsen and Amanda Pays On House Flipping and Family

It’s hard to say what’s rarer: a Hollywood marriage that’s lasted almost three decades or one that’s survived a renovation. But when you’re talking about the husband-and-wife pair of Corbin Bernsen and Amanda Pays, who celebrated their 30th anniversary this year, renovations are woven into the fabric of their union. _DSC8409 The pair is well known, not just for their acting and other Hollywood-related efforts, but also for their prowess in real estate circles. Together, they have renovated 23 houses, mostly in and around Los Angeles. After selling their last project house in Sherman Oaks, the pair may soon be taking on the East Coast or possibly France, where they own a farmhouse and where a “Flipping France” TV show is in the works. Geographically unencumbered, now that their four boys are “off to college and making their way in the world,” says Bernsen, anything is possible. In between mulling their next move and preparing to publish Pays’ coffee table book with Gibbs-Smith, “OPEN HOUSE — Reinventing Space for Simple Living,” the pair talked to us about what it takes to execute a successful flip, their evolution of style and what they’ve learned along the way. Previews Inside OutHow did you first get into flipping? Corbin BernsenWhen we first got together, I had just finished renovating my first home, purchased during “L.A. Law.” Amanda walked in the door and immediately said, “Nice, but everything has to go!” She had her own ideas — great ideas — and being so in love and trusting her, I said, “Have at it!” She deconstructed all that I had just done, and the result was beautiful. To some degree, we’ve both done this “yielding” with subsequent homes, respecting each other’s vision. Amanda PaysIt’s really a reflection of our marriage, or maybe a metaphor for marriage in general: an equal partnership where we both have a voice and individual strengths. The key is figuring out how to complement each other instead of creating conflict. living_rm-2 Previews Inside OutHow have your styles evolved over the years? Corbin BernsenWe have had several reinventions of the look of our homes: country (English and French), Santa Fe, midcentury modern. With each, the simplicity and attention to detail persist. Amanda PaysWe respect the inherent style of each home, and we let that inform our renovations. But yes, each finished home ultimately has pieces of us in it. We always look to increase the light and usability, and create better flow. That often means taking down walls and reconfiguring the floor plan. Recycling and repurposing materials and fixtures have also been priorities. Corbin BernsenAnd then there’s color, which is all Amanda. The palette of the house is typically soft tones of white and gray and mud. It offers a blank slate against which someone can place their furniture and allow the pieces to have a life and space of their own, but it’s still warm and inviting. Previews Inside OutHow do you choose a home to flip? Amanda PaysWe don’t search for one thing in particular, nor do we look for perfection. Different houses speak to us for different reasons, and sometimes it’s the imperfections of a place that make it stand out. The challenge is in making the house reach its potential. Is there a “secret” to successful flipping? Corbin BernsenIt all starts with the price you pay for the house and the bones of the place. If you pay too much, you’ll lose. If the bones aren’t there, you’ll lose. Amanda PaysIf you have both of those important pieces in place, it then comes down to making the most of what you have and not overspending. Corbin BernsenSometimes, being forced to not spend creates the greatest piece of flipping advice of all: “Necessity is the mother of invention.” Previews Inside OutHow have you completed 23 renovations — while maintaining your entertainment careers and raising four kids? Amanda PaysIt wouldn’t have been possible if it wasn’t absolutely a labor of love. It’s also something we have always enjoyed as a family, which makes it even more rewarding. It’s our hobby, our sport and often our holiday. Where others take Saturday morning to play golf or tennis, we flip. Our families also share many of the same interests, including my brother and Amanda’s sister and mother. Of course, our four sons also get involved. Previews Inside OutAre you currently looking for another house to flip? Amanda PaysWe are passionate about homes, so we always have an eye out. But we aren’t involved in a flip at this particular moment. We’re mulling where the next one will be. With all four of our boys now out of the house, off to college and making their own ways in the world, we are free to not be bound by a house in any given place. For now, we are enjoying being empty-nesters and figuring out our next move. Corbin BernsenI think it’s fair to say we are always looking at houses and other spaces that can use a new perspective, but not always with the intention of buying or flipping. We have a beautiful farmhouse in France that we could easily settle into for the long run. But it’s away from other work, acting, family and even “flipping” as we’ve known it up to this point. That said, we have been trying to develop a TV show called “Flipping France,” where we would be flipping a house abroad with all the normal problems you’d expect, plus the added burden of language barriers, laws, customs, etc. We have done some looking at homes in Upstate New York and at an old plantation house in Virginia. We like the idea of living near or on a beach. In the end, though, it doesn’t really matter where we end up, because, as corny as it sounds, home is where the heart is. The rest is just walls waiting to come down.


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