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A Long Beach couple lovingly restore an architectural gem

All things considered, it’s a bit of a miracle that this Edward Killingsworth-designed house in Long Beach even exists.

Built in the late 1950s as a model residence for the Marina Tower, a 12-story oceanfront condo building, it was meant to be knocked down 18 months later once construction on the building started.

Instead, the grand project failed and the house stood and then withstood a series of depressing renovations.

Though Killingsworth is one of Southern California’s most celebrated architects, known for his Post-and-Beam-style, Midcentury Modern masterpieces, ensuing owners had trouble staying true to his vision, replacing the original kitchen with stock cabinetry and French Country-style flourishes, glass walls with plywood.

So when it hit the market in 2013, potential buyers were looking to go with the original plan: tear it down.

Instead, Kelly and Ted Hyman appeared to fulfill a different type of destiny.

The couple, who had been living in a modern downtown Los Angeles loft, heard the home was on the market and went to see it on a whim. “A free architecture tour,” laughs Ted, a partner in the architecture firm Zimmer Gunsul Frasca Architects.

Once inside, they encountered a far more dire picture than the one broadcast by real estate photos. Still, they sensed the magic. “This is the house an architect should live in,” recalls Kelly, the professional organizer behind Organized Clean Design.

This despite the fact that the floors they took for travertine in the photos were actually cork, disintegrated by dog-dug holes and accompanying urine.

Yet the Hymans, with their elevated aesthetic and seeming prophetic vision, saw past it. They bought the home, and even as Kelly stood atop a ladder wiping grime and rat feces off the cabinet tops and Ted bolted to Home Depot for tarps when the faulty roof brought the rainstorm indoors (on Thanksgiving, to increase the drama), they were excited.   

They started their tenure with a six-month “just live with it” plan before taking any steps.

During those months they cleaned and painted, planted new bamboo out back, and plotted and researched like a pair of academics collaborating on a thesis. They toured several Killingsworth homes, his office building, then drove to Santa Barbara to recover the original seven-page plan for the house. With that in hand, Ted sat at an Ikea table in the study, hand-drafting their restoration plan.

To see the house now, with gleaming white marble and Corian, furniture by modern design legends from Isamu Noguchi to Eero Saarinen, and a view of water from every inch of the home, it’s hard to imagine the house looking anything other than idyllic. 

And since completing the renovation, the Hymans have had their share of appropriately cloud nine moments.

Chief among them, hosting a 75-person wedding for their daughter (a clear motivation to get things done on time); also, welcoming Laura Killingsworth, Edward’s widow, for a visit.

The Hymans beam with pride as they recall her reaction to the home she hadn’t visited since 1958 and her eagle-eye approval at the historically accurate restoration, right down to the knobs on the living room console —  the fruits of Ted’s 20-some-hour online research.

Even the few and minor departures from Killingsworth’s plan were in the spirit of his work, like a window added in the bedroom to bring in more light (a move that earned admiration from Laura Killingsworth).

The Hymans’ success is not just a testament to their hard work, but also to their teamwork.

“Every time we came to an impasse on what to do, we didn’t move forward until we came to an agreement,” says Kelly. “And the collaborations that came out of that — those always ended up being far superior to either idea.”

Adds Ted: “With a project like this, you either get divorced or it strengthens your relationship.”

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