Step Inside Ellen Pompeo’s Midcentury Malibu Beach House

She actually first went to scope it out several years earlier, when the house was originally up for sale and Grey’s was still in its infancy. “I knew I couldn’t afford it, but I didn’t tell anyone that,” she confesses. She swooned over its incredible bluff-top location and “perfect proportions,” but had to walk away. The house came back on the market in 2013, and she seized the second chance. It didn’t hurt that Pompeo was by then one of the highest-paid actors in television—a nice position to be in if your passion is beautiful houses.

As her fans know, Pompeo is a bona fide interior-design enthusiast whose weakness for real estate has resulted in the renovation of a series of stunners, including a modern barn in Sag Harbor and her main residence, a 1920s Mediterranean-style villa in Los Angeles (AD, November 2014). “I truly enjoy the craft and art of houses,” she says. “It exercises a different creative muscle.”

More often than not, AD100 designer Martyn Lawrence Bullard—the British-born maestro behind pleasure palaces for Cher, Elton John, and several members of the Kardashian family—has been her partner in these pursuits. “We’ve been in each other’s lives for so long we know what the other will like before even showing it to them,” says Bullard, pointing out that the beach house marks his fourth project with Pompeo. After so many collaborations, he considers her one of his closest friends. 

Built in 1979, the house is modestly sized—currently about 3,000 square feet, after a later addition—and designed more as a machine for living than a mogul’s mansion. But what it lacks in magnitude it more than makes up for in intimacy and drama, thanks to its central courtyard and phenomenal ocean views. “We didn’t change its flow or footprint,” says Bullard, “but it did require updates.” He recloaked the exterior in fresh teak and swapped the weathered doors and windows for sleek black powder-coated metal ones that now, once opened, seem to disappear. In place of the terrazzo floors (“too slippery”), he installed earthy concrete. And though Bullard may be best known for his fanciful Morocco–goes–to–Beverly Hills aesthetic, he proved he could pull off midcentury utilitarian chic with the compact, gleaming white kitchen, an apt match for the house’s modernist spirit.