Friends are welcome—and bare feet are de rigueur

Jane Seymour has to rough it on TV as Dr. Quinn, Medicine Woman, but when filming is over, she knows the right prescription for leaving the Old West behind. At her 2½-acre Malibu estate, the actress treats herself and her family to all the trappings of a resort paradise: stunning ocean views, a backyard beach, lush gardens, tennis and basketball courts, a swimming pool, screening room, art studio, putting green and Rollerblading path winding around the three-level sandstone house. "Jane's sisters in England come for their vacations because they say, 'You have everything we'd ever want here,' " says Seymour's husband, James Keach, 49, who directs Jane in the April 30 CBS movie The Absolute Truth. "But even though it's big, it's very friendly. It feels like a real family place because it is."

Seymour, 46, chases their 16-month-old twins, Kristopher and John, around the 11,000-square-foot home in bare feet ("We never wear shoes in this house," she says) and sits around in the family room Sunday nights watching 60 Minutes over Chinese take-out with Keach, Katie, 15, and Sean, 11 (from her marriage to business manager David Flynn; Keach's son Kalen, 19, from his marriage to homemaker Holly Kahn, is away at college). "We do not cook on the weekend," says Seymour, who, to save time, taught her housekeeper to make her favorite recipes. "We order in or you starve."

The couple often invite guests, including Reach's parents and brother, actor Stacy, to share the wealth. "Jane is one of those people that when you come in, it's 'Are you thirsty? There's the refrigerator. Are you hungry? Help yourself,' " says her friend, hairdresser Kelly Kline. "When they go away for a weekend, she says, 'Come over. Go swimming. Have a party' Her theory is, 'What good is all this money if my friends aren't having fun too?' "

The property, which last belonged to comic Rich Little, had been built decades ago as a monastery. "It was perfect for a scary movie, very Gothic," says Seymour, whose other home is a 1,000-year-old restored monastery in Bath, England, where she and her family spend several weeks each year. "It was wonderful if you wanted a spooky English home, but we have one medieval castle; we didn't need another."

To brighten things up, they bleached the oak floors, painted the cabinets and beams light blond and added skylights and a Jacuzzi to the master bath, where Jane and son Sean don swimsuits to bathe the twins. "It's the only way," she says, to "manage the naked boys. They wriggle a lot."

Before the renovation, "the bathroom was so hideous," Seymour says.

"It was not our taste," says Keach.

"It was wonderful for Las Vegas," says Seymour. "It had chandeliers. And everything was mirrored."

While they remodeled, the family rented the house next door, and Keach took time off to direct the yearlong undertaking himself—a move his business manager estimates may have saved $1 million in construction misunderstandings. "I cut a hole in the fence so I could keep a hands-on view of what was going on," says Keach. As the work progressed, he began landscaping, installing ponds around the property that he filled with exotic Koi, and planting lavender and English roses in the backyard. "I'm a gardener, that's my thing," he says. "During the days when I didn't have a job as an actor, I used to sell the vegetables I grew to the market."

Seymour, who oversaw the decorating with interior designers John Mandel and Steve O, chose a palette of pale colors. "We made everything very light and beachy," she says. But none of it is off-limits to the kids or to their eight cats and golden retriever. "Even though Jane decorates with white, it doesn't ever say, 'Don't touch me!' " says friend Daracie Volpe, a homemaker, comparing the house to its owner. "People think of her as being so glamorous, famous and unapproachable. It's completely the opposite."