October 22, 2012 12:00 PM

Jeff Probst’s Big Splurge

A few months before getting married last December, Jeff Probst was still trying to decide whether or not to buy the expansive Los Angeles estate once owned by Hollywood legend Gene Autry. “My wife and I would literally walk into every room and say, ‘This is so much bigger than we need. What would we do with it?'” recalls the Emmy-winning host of Survivor (now in its 25th season), who also just launched his own daytime talk show. Probst, 51, admits that his humble upbringing in Washington State may have made him a bit sheepish about moving into the gated, 10,000-sq.-ft. abode; that’s why he decided to have his personal tribe of friends weigh in on the decision. “They all said ‘You have to do it,'” recalls Probst. “They felt really comfortable here and now 90 percent of the time we meet at this house. They treat it like their home. They pop in, open up the refrigerator and go ‘What the heck? There’s no food!'”

But the home required an extensive renovation-including a complete overhaul of the kitchen to make it more family-friendly-before it was fully ready for Probst, his wife, Lisa Ann Russell, 41, and their two children, Michael, 8, and Ava, 6, from her previous marriage to actor Mark-Paul Gosselaar. “We didn’t want a house where people are afraid to sit on the furniture or they need to take their shoes off,” says Russell of their interior-design game plan. “Every room is an everyday room.”

Probst’s favorite place to relax is the space he calls “the jam room,” the living area where the couple often entertains. “That’s the room that at the end of a night with our friends we come and hang out-we can get 20 people in there to watch a movie,” says Probst, who couldn’t be more thrilled that he decided to take the leap on buying the estate. “Now I can’t imagine not living here,” he says. “I feel like we’ll live the whole rest of our lives here.”

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