An Innovative Merger

An El Segundo family of five blurs the line between Spanish and modern design, with more than a little help from a friend.


When Marjorie and Dave Tong made their most recent home purchase, they were a family of two. “By the time they moved into their new home, they had their first child,” explains Bryan Winters, founder of hu mn+ lab,+inc. “During design, they found out they were pregnant again, and surprise … twins!”

After an extensive remodel driven by the family’s growing needs, creative vision and Bryan’s expertise, the Tongs have transformed what was once a humble abode—built in 1939—into a stunning merger of both Spanish and modern design.

For Bryan, taking on a project with elements of traditional Spanish architecture was a bit out of his wheelhouse. “I’m really a true modernist,” he says. “Modern doesn’t have to be cold and stark … I like inviting, warm homes that function for a family.”

“We have this huge communal area that we feel is the heart of the home.”

Cold and stark aren’t the only misconceptions around modern design. “People confuse contemporary with modernism,” Bryan says. “Contemporary means ‘of the times,’ and modernism is timeless. There’s a big difference.”

His decision to team up with the Tongs on this project was a personal one. “Dave and I met cycling and became good friends,” Bryan notes. “We’re still good friends,” Dave adds, “which is a testament to how well the project went.”

The original El Segundo home came down completely, with the exception of roughly four or five stud walls around the parameter of the house. Sean Icaza of Icaza Construction was hired as general contractor and, after nearly eight months of design and development and 14 months of construction, the home has transformed into a haven of natural light with clean, simple lines and a brilliant use of space.

The entry leads down a set of stairs to what is now a large, open kitchen and dining area with 12-foot ceilings, black-and-white hand-painted tiles, and large doors opening to one of the family’s outdoor areas. “We have this huge communal area that we feel is the heart of the home,” says Marjorie.

Ironically, what is now one of the main focal points of the house was once the crawl space. “One of Bryan’s biggest strengths is figuring out space issues,” Dave says. “That was an elegant, aha moment. We just couldn’t have done that without an architect.”

Gold accents, mirrored glass and exposed wooden beams add a touch of warmth to the space. “Marjorie chose the gold, which I thought was super fantastic,” Bryan notes. “She also added the antique mirrored glass … she was really good. I have to give her a nod. She was very influential to how this turned out.”

Participating in a project of this magnitude was certainly new ground for the Tongs. “We’ve never even remodeled a bathroom,” Dave notes. But after years of collecting inspiration—and with their new family needs—the Tongs had a clear vison of what they wanted for their home.

“It was absolutely necessary to have a house that would grow with our family,” Marjorie explains, “one that would accommodate three very small children but also work beautifully with three huge teenagers feel comfortable and full when it’s just me and Dave again. We were also thinking about how it was going to function with multiple levels. We wanted to make sure we had a master sanctuary upstairs where we didn’t have kid chaos over our heads.”

The upstairs is designated for the master suite, with a massive walk-in closet, 10-foot ceilings, a master bath and a green roof deck and shade lounge. “On the second story we reached for the maximum height envelope that was allowed by achieving the flat roof,” Bryan notes. “If we would have done another a-frame, we would have gotten a lower ceiling.”

As friends first, Dave, Marjorie and Bryan weren’t naive to the risks of working with friends and family. “Things could get sticky,” Bryan says. But the collaboration has proved to be beneficial in more ways than one for the trio.

“They’ve got such a great outlook, and they were so fun to work with,” Bryan shares. “Working with Marjorie and Dave really pushed the envelope in regard to combining two completely different aesthetics and mentalities into one harmonious result.”

“ was able to decode the look we were going for and help us achieve it practically,” Dave says. “And the interior look of the house was spearheaded by Marjorie. We couldn’t have achieved what we have without her vision.”

“The house is organized exactly how we wanted it; everything flows,” Marjorie adds. The end result is bold yet simple, modern and timeless. Overall, a great meeting of the minds.