For Tess Sanchez and her husband, actor Max Greenfield, renovating a snug, three-bedroom house on a hill with views of the Pacific was a family bonding adventure.

Tess Sanchez walking in her kitchen in California

Thomas J. Story

“I was home all the time, for the first time. My kids didn’t know what to do with me,” says Tess Sanchez, a Los Angeles-based mother of two and longtime talent and casting executive for a major studio in town. “I got laid off at the beginning of quarantine in 2020. And I’m not good with idle time.”

You could say that Sanchez took on the project of remodeling a neglected and odd house in the Pacific Palisades, turning a cramped, dark space into a haven of natural light and beautiful textures, as a very exclusive hobby. While other people struggled to learn Italian, Sanchez designed a deck extension and toured marble yards with her builder via FaceTime. Some people got into jigsaw puzzles. Sanchez became an amateur construction forewoman.

“I’ve always been a big watcher of interior design and trends. It’s always interested me. Just to have a blank palette and free rein to create a vision I saw in my head,” says Sanchez. “But I hadn’t done a project of that scale before.”

Tess Sanchez on her deck in California

Thomas J. Story

More Videos From Sunset

At least half of the battle, when it comes to reimagining unappealing houses, is to be able to see through the limitations to find the potential.

“You wouldn’t believe this place before. It was weird,” Sanchez says, producing “before” photos on her phone as evidence. “There was a mural painted on the side of it. I don’t think the neighbors were sad to see that go.”

Without changing much of the footprint, Sanchez created the illusion of space, choosing a limited palette of white, cream, and beige and opening up the kitchen—replacing closed cabinets with floating shelves, and adding a couple of windows to let in the light. When she found a perfectly veined and elegant marble slab via the aforementioned FaceTime with the builders from K&M Contractors, she decided on the spot to buy the whole thing. Instead of limiting it to just the work surfaces, she extended the stone from the counters up to the top of the kitchen walls. Some of the property’s more charming original details, like seashell and tile mosaics inlaid in the cement walkways, were left alone.

California living room with brick fireplace

Thomas J. Story

“The original owner was a songwriter,” she says. “There is a piano keyboard in the walkway on the side of the house.”

2022 Garden Issue cover
Read more in:

Sunset’s Garden Issue 2022

More from this issue:

The layout of this vacation home is typical of many hillside dwellings in L.A., with a primary bedroom (positioned to enjoy the view) and living area on the first floor, and two bedrooms and a bathroom on the lower level. Sanchez came up with a strategy that allows them to fit visiting family and friends into a 1,500-square-foot house: The guest room has a queen-size bed and an extra daybed. The kids’ room has two sets of double built-in bunk beds.

“K&M executed everything I wanted with such artistry. I gave them a sketch and they made it happen. I’m so decisive. A lot of people waffle on stains or wood or marble. [The builder] would show me three options and I’d pick one, and I never looked back,” she says.

For the most part, the division of labor in the house is clear. Greenfield is the artist in the family, who paints and plays music on the side, when he isn’t acting in television shows like The Neighborhood and New Girl, which ran until 2018. But Sanchez says he also has a great sense of proportion, and knows when a room feels “off.”

“We are not afraid to move the furniture around,” says Sanchez. “Max can walk into a room and sense immediately if the flow isn’t right.”

Tess Sanchez and Max Greenfield cheers at California home

Coral von Zumwalt

Plenty of time spent watching home renovation shows has given Sanchez a taste for a “big reveal,” but her plans are often thwarted by logistics. “I love a good ‘unveiling,’ but I can’t lift as much as he can,” she jokes. “Sometimes I have to ask for his help moving something, so there are no surprises.”

Sanchez’s list of new hobbies might expand to house-flipper, if and when her real estate agent friend can talk her into putting this retreat on the market. For now, the family is enjoying their quiet weekends, walking to the beach across the only footbridge in the Palisades that leads right to Will Rogers State Historic Park.

“We love to watch the sunset in the evenings, or have coffee on the deck in the morning, and then we walk to the beach and spend the majority of the day there,” she says. “We come home for lunch, play with the kids. Chill and play board games at night and order in. It’s such an oasis.”

Get the Look

Kitchen open shelves with coffee bar

Thomas J. Story

Sanchez opened up the kitchen by replacing closed cabinets with floating shelves. A perfectly veined marble slab leant itself to both the counters and walls.

Dining room storage with pendant lights

Thomas J. Story

Many items are from The Hängar. “Walk through [the shop] and look carefully,” Sanchez says. “There are real gems.” The owner “has an interesting eye and great price points.”

California bedroom with surfboard

Thomas J. Story

A Maidenhome bed sits snugly in the primary bedroom, where Cedar & Moss sconces and a wooden surfboard add contemporary seaside vibes.

Bunk bedroom in California

Thomas J. Story

To accommodate visiting family and friends in the 1,500-square-foot house, Sanchez added two sets of double built-in bunk beds in the kids’ room.

Tess Sanchez at pass-through window on deck

Thomas J. Story

Design Within Reach furniture creates an inviting outdoor living space for Sanchez and her family.

Pacific Palisades deck with outdoor furniture

Thomas J. Story

In another area of the deck, white RH patio furniture offers a lighter, more meditative atmosphere. Rejuvenation sconces complete the look.