Hanging in the living room of actress Ellen Pompeo’s Los Angeles home is an arresting painting by Claire Fontaine: Printed on a cherry-red background is a snippet from remarks that fashion designer Marc Jacobs made about his 2007 collaboration with artist Richard Prince, in which the duo puckishly updated Louis Vuitton’s venerable handbags. “When something is so respected, you can turn it into something else, so that you are looking at it anew,” the piece reads. “Reinvention is invention.”

“That says it all,” Pompeo proclaims, standing in front of the painting.

She’s not talking about luxury handbags or even Grey’s Anatomy,her phenomenally successful television series, which recently began its 11th season of hospital drama and high jinks. Rather Pompeo is referring to the 1930 house she shares with her husband, music producer Chris Ivery, and their two daughters, five-year-old Stella Luna and baby Sienna May. Thanks to a recent top-to-bottom makeover, it’s the very soul of reinvention.

Located in the Los Feliz neighborhood, the 16,000-square-foot Mediterranean-style villa was crafted by the architect Paul Revere Williams for Antonio Moreno, a silent-film matinee idol. Williams famously worked in a variety of elegant modes—from Tudor to Colonial to streamlined modern—catering to a clientele that also included Frank Sinatra, Tyrone Power, and Lucille Ball and Desi Arnaz. By the time Pompeo and Ivery acquired the property in 2009, it had lost much of its original charm. Numerous renovations had erased period details, the structure was riddled with asbestos and lead pipes, and parts of the grounds were badly neglected. When Pompeo says, “I love a project,” she means it.

To help with the task of “giving the house the attention it desperately needed,” as Pompeo puts it, she enlisted L.A. decorator Martyn Lawrence Bullard, with whom she’s designed two previous homes. Together they conceived a wholesale metamorphosis attuned not to some nostalgic, satin-draped notion of Hollywood glamour—despite the dwelling’s pedigree—but to the vibrant spirit of a design-savvy actress at the top of the Tinseltown game today.

Having resolved to take the building down to its studs, Pompeo and Bullard seized the opportunity to rethink everything from room configurations and spatial flow to materials and finishes. Windows were enlarged to enhance light and capture sweeping vistas. Existing floors, mostly polished wood, were swapped out for vintage limestone pavers, reclaimed terra-cotta tiles, and planks of textured French oak. And antiqued moldings were added. “The house was scrubbed of patina over the years, so we went to great lengths to revive a sense of age and dignity,” Bullard explains.

The voluminous living room perhaps best exemplifies the sensibility of the revitalized interiors. Bullard blew out the stingy six-and-a-half-foot-tall wood-framed French doors and replaced them with sleek iron-and-glass versions that soar to 11 feet, flooding the space with natural light. He then filled the room with boldly scaled bespoke furnishings that balance grandeur and intimacy: sofas invitingly upholstered in brown mohair velvet, 1940s-style club chairs covered in blue silk velvet, and a cowhide carpet with an arabesque pattern. And just beyond those French doors is a spacious new terrace offering glorious views. “The living room is where I had my Joan Crawford moment,” Pompeo remarks, referring to a famous home-renovation scene in the movie Mommie Dearest.

The emendations didn’t stop there. In the area behind the house, what had been a steep, somewhat inaccessible wilderness is now a terraced playland with a stone double staircase that leads down to a swimming pool and cabana worthy of Esther Williams. Designed with the L.A. firm Inner Gardens, the landscape also features an outdoor kitchen with a pizza oven and a kitchen garden for vegetables, fruit trees, and a chicken coop. “It’s a total organic fantasy,” Bullard says.

At the front of the house, a drab courtyard was transformed into a Mediterranean-style garden replete with 50-year-old olive trees strung with wicker light fixtures, a 19th-century French fountain, and a generous dining setup. For convenience Bullard added a set of French doors leading directly to the manorial kitchen, an erstwhile warren of four poky rooms that have been combined into a cook’s paradise large enough to contain the entire household staff of Downton Abbey—or, in Pompeo’s case, lots of friends and family.

In fact, when it comes to socializing, Pompeo and Ivery have no shortage of accommodations. Chief among them is the lower-level lounge, a sultry lair tricked out with exotic Moroccan accents beneath a ceiling of distressed gold leaf. Off to the side of this clubby parlor is Bullard’s coup de théâtre: a dazzling hammam clad in veined Turkish marble, with niches lined in mirrored mosaic tile.

“The hammam is wonderfully decadent,” Pompeo enthuses. “Crazy follies were not uncommon in movie-star palaces built around the same time as this house, so it’s hardly out of left field. It’s exactly what Martyn and I were going for—classic L.A. luxe with a contemporary twist.” The result feels right for today. And more important, she adds, “right for our family.”