Saving (and Splurging) with Style: Hollywood House Flippers Amanda Pays and Corbin Bernsen in Upstate NY

It was time for Amanda Pays and Corbin Bernsen to move—again. After years of living in LA, the multi-talented actors—Amanda is now a full-time designer and Corbin has serious carpentry skills—were newly settled in their upstate New York farmhouse (see Hollywood in the Hudson Valley) when they decided they liked the scenery but needed more space.

In California, the couple lost count of their joint house productions at 20: they purchase, overhaul, stay a while, and then flip. The practice continues upstate, where, Amanda says, the cold climate calls for “wallpaper, sexy colors, lots of layers,” and others elements of her English upbringing.

Their new 1880 property came on the market while the couple were at their Family House in the South of France, the only property they say they’ll never sell. Two of their four sons did the touring and inspecting, and they bought the farm from afar. In addition to five bedrooms and a pool, this one had original details lurking under the carpeting and paint: “It was promising,” says Amanda, “but very, very tired.”

During the eight months of construction, the couple assumed their roles: Corbin is the space planner, cabinet designer, and fence builder. She orchestrates the overhaul, selects the finishes and furnishings, and does the bargaining. Together they scour auctions, architectural reclamation yards, and appliance stores in Paramus, New Jersey: they’re willing to drive hours for a find and are of the “walk away if the price is too high” school of shopping. “Don’t madly fall in love with every piece,” instructs Amanda, “keep looking and ask to try things at home.” She invited us in for a tour, and was happy to share where they shelled out and where they saved.

Photography by The Lillie K. Team (@buyingupstate), courtesy of Amanda Pays.

amanda pays and corbin bernsen upstate ny house. 0 Above: A few days after their offer was accepted, Amanda flew back from France on her own and headed straight from the airport to the house: “Fortunately, I fell in love.” The structure came with 12-panel, wavy-glass windows, original cladding, and a viable roof—”a huge savings.” Formerly pale yellow, it’s now painted Farrow & Ball James White and Benjamin Moore Baked Terra Cotta—colors that wind their way through the house as a way to tie together the update. front porch with sky blue ceiling, amanda pays and corbin bernsen upstate ny ho 1Above: The porch had a lot of rot—”pillars were dangling”— and required rebuilding; the couple widened it and had it turn the corner to extend off the living room. As for the sky blue ceiling: Amanda says, “It was already there, I just made it more pronounced.”

The contractors on the project were Hudson Building and Restoration: “I saw their sign in Germantown, called them, they came over and started work the next day. I’m now on my second house with Mike and Joe.”

amanda pays, corbin bernsen and family 2 Above: Amanda, Corbin, and family are now bicoastal. amanda pays and corbin bernsen upstate ny house. 3 Above: Amanda painted the front door herself: “I like to take on jobs where the end is in sight.” The stair is original. The walls are Benjamin Moore Province Blue, which matches the couple’s bench—the rustic and refined freely mingle here.

Corbin bought the burl walnut round table from Finch Hudson, a favorite shop of Amanda’s on Hudson New York’s Warren Street: “Owners Andrew and Michael posted, ‘Be in the alley at 9 am on Friday for our unload.’ I went to the optometrist and sent Corbin. He texted a photo when only the base was visible. The price was in the three figures; it seemed reasonable and exactly what we needed for the front hall; we bought it before we’d even seen the top—with no regrets.” The antique candle pendant light came from Luddite Antiques in nearby Germantown—”we had to pay more than we’d like for that.”

amanda pays and corbin bernsen upstate ny house.front porch with sky blue ceili 4 Above: The living room has new French doors that open to the porch. The space calls to mind the couple’s past living rooms courtesy of favorite paintings that have been moving with the family for years. The HG Buttercup Vermont Sofa came out of a house they staged in the Hollywood Hills—it arrived as part of a bulk shipment of the family’s things from LA. The walls here and throughout the house are painted Farrow & Ball’s Wimborne White. amanda pays and corbin bernsen upstate ny house. 5 Above: The mantel—also painted by Amanda (it’s the same Baked Terra Cotta as the front door)—came out of the adjoining family room, which had a blocked-off fireplace but “a much sweeter design than the one that was in here.” Corbin bought the red abstract painting while he was in Vancouver filming the tv series Psych. The Lars leather sling chair was purchased at Room & Board 15 years ago.

Note the wall-to-wall woven carpeting: this was the only room that lacked its original wooden floor due to a long ago fire, so as an affordable remedy, Amanda went to a local carpet store and requested “the basic, original seagrass—it’s the cheapest; it’s what we had in England in the seventies and is great for layering.”

amanda pays and corbin bernsen upstate ny house. 6

Northeastern Chimney supplied the room’s wood-burning stove, which replaced the defunct fireplace. amanda pays and corbin bernsen upstate ny house. 7Above: The kitchen cabinetry was built to Corbin’s design by local carpenter Ross Brown of Romberworks. It’s painted Behr’s Black Bamboo and the backsplash zellige are from Zia Tile. The appliances are all KitchenAid and were bought as a bulk package from P.C. Richard: Amanda advises “do your research and see if they can match another deal you’ve found. And buy appliances as a package–it saves a ton.”

The mod stools are from West Elm, “they were originally bought for the flip house we did in LA during Covid.” The woven bull head is a souvenir from their place in France.

amanda pays and corbin bernsen upstate ny house. 8 Above: The counters and sink with built in drainboard are Caesarstone from Caliber Granite in Kingston, NY—hard-wearing and more affordable-than-marble (read the Pros and Cons). Amanda splashed out on the bridge faucet and companion pot filler: both are from deVol: see The Perfectly Aged Brass Kitchen Faucet. She found the English brass cabinet pulls and knobs from Yester Home on Etsy: “great quality and well priced.” 

Decorative vent holes—”a very British thing”—front the drawers that hold root vegetables and bread. “I had to teach our guy what they are and how to make them.”

amanda pays and corbin bernsen upstate ny house. 9 Above: The dining table came from the couple’s first visit to the Brimfield Flea Market: it moved with them from their last house—Corbin built a new, larger top for it to fit the space, and finished the sideboard with leftover Caesarstone. The wide floorboards throughout were found in mostly good condition under carpeting. In places that needed work, they “stole from the attic: it, too, had a wood floor.” amanda pays and corbin bernsen upstate ny house 10 Above: The Caesarstone-topped sideboard was built to Corbin’s design. Amanda says the Windsor chairs, purchased as a set of eight at auction, “add a pub vibe.” amanda pays corbin bernsen upstate ny house 11 Above: Mythical Land, a wallpaper from Andrew Martin’s Kit Kemp Collection, gives the powder room a frescoed appearance. The vintage sink came from Zaborski Emporium, a reclamation yard in Kingston, NY, and “probably cost $100.” amanda pays and corbin bernsen upstate ny house. 12 Above: The Red Room has Medlar wallpaper from GP & J Baker, Les Indienne’s checked pillowcases, and cloth lampshade from Alice Palmer & Co.—”all splurges.” amanda pays and corbin bernsen upstate ny house. 13 Above: The wallpaper is reminiscent of vintage endpaper. The orange-painted chair is from a “sort of Scandinavian” set of six from Furlong Home. amanda pays and corbin bernsen upstate ny house. 14 Above: The corner cupboard was the first piece purchased for the house before construction began. It came from a Hudson, NY, antiques warehouse, and was installed as is in Amanda and Corbin’s bathroom with a view. painted headboard and bird wallpaper, amanda pays and corbin bernsen house upst 15 Above: Amanda frequents George Cole Auctions in Redhook, NY, where she placed the winning $100 bid on this painted four poster. It matches the wallpaper she’d already chosen: Zoffany’s Eleonora. The bedside table is an antique Masonic plinth. amanda pays and corbin bernsen upstate ny house. 16 Above: As was once traditional, each of the bedrooms has a writing desk. The bird wallpaper is modeled after a design in Stockholm’s Drottningholm Palace. amanda pays and corbin bernsen upstate ny house. 17 Above: The barn garage is a new addition: it was ordered from Brad’s Barns of Kingston, NY, which offers Amish-built backyard structures that can be custom tailored. amanda pays and corbin bernsen upstate ny house. 18 Above: Corbin put up the required fence around the pool that came with the property. amanda pays and corbin bernsen upstate ny house. 19 Above: Corbin and Amanda’s get-around car is a 1974 Ford pickup.

Previous designs and remodeling tips from the couple:

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