We’ve been following Amanda Pays and Corbin Bernsen for years as they leapfrogged around LA. Amanda is an actress-turned-interior designer who has been on a decades-long house-flipping tear. Her style is pleasingly simple, sustainable (since before it was a buzzword), and thrifty: see, for instance, Backyard Bunkhouse and 11 Money-Saving Strategies from a Hollywood House Flipper. Her partner in the overhauling business is her husband: they’ve lived in 25 places in their 31 years of marriage (along the way, they had four sons), and Corbin—though busy acting, writing, and running his own production company—is a Star Handyman.
After being MIA for a while, they resurfaced last winter: “When Finley, the youngest of our four, graduated high school and took off for NYC, Corbin and I looked at each other and agreed it was time for another adventure,” she wrote us. “Our book, Open House, had just been released, so we decided to sell up in LA and take a book-signing drive across the country in search of our next project.” They made it all the way to the Hudson Valley, where Amanda’s old friend Priscilla Woolworth has resettled, along with a surprising number of other LA defectors. After experiencing their family’s first white Christmas, they decided to stay put.
They knew exactly what to do next: find a structure waiting to be given the Amanda/Corbin treatment. After four weeks of real estate hunting, they bought an 1880s little farmhouse in Germantown, New York, that “needed everything.” They camped out in a loft rental in nearby Hudson, found a local contractor, and started the demo. “Weather dictates a lot here, which was an eye opener for us coming from California—and also learning that life has a slower pace here; love that,” says Amanda. Here’s what the place looks like a year later.
Photography by Rebecca Westby, unless noted.
The couple bought the house from third-generation owners (who live nearby and were selling when their mother passed away). It had been pale yellow with a front door that was “purple and white with a bit of turquoise thrown in,” says Amanda. It’s now painted a greenish-charcoal called Deep River and the door is Grand Canyon Red, both from Benjamin Moore. Upstate gentrifiers have been accused of defaulting to noirish exteriors, but Amanda defends the choice: “it’s a classic color that draws attention to the architecture and looks great against the backdrop of all these seasons. Plus for every dark house, there are ten white farmhouses around here.” Photograph by Jessica Dube.