you would have told Dennis Allen in the late 1960s after he had
completed graduate work at Princeton University in international
finance that he would become a partner in one of the most prestigious
custom home building companies in Santa Barbara County in less than
two decades, he probably would have suggested you check your sources.
now, active he is, and in a very big way as a principal partner
in Allen Associates, known throughout the Santa Barbara area for
quality custom home building and remodeling as well as commercial/industrial
Ian Cronshaw also has a college degree from UCSB in math and science
and originally planned a profession in medicine. But fate and his
love of construction work had a way of bringing Ian and Dennis together,
and now their expertise in the industry and their combined backgrounds,
both in building homes and in management and finance, lend credibility
to their work and their business dealings.
partners have enjoyed building since childhood and remember creating
tree houses, "four-story forts with trap doors," and other
projects. The fun was not playing inside their creations after they
were finished, Ian recalls, but in the actual construction work
and figuring out how to make everything fit, work right and look
on a much larger scale as a company, Dennis and Ian take pride in
their reputation of being one of the top builders in the area. "We
also take pride in quality and service, not that that's unique,
but we like to do a super job," says Dennis. With 75% of their
work in residential, Allen Associates includes many craftsmen with
licenses who specialize in framing, finish carpentry , and concrete
work. "Our people put the spit shine on every project,"
explains Dennis. "That's what people see. That's what gives
us repeat clients, people like what they see."
Allen Associates is also concerned about what people don't see.
They are certified and specialize in seismic retrofit work, tying
older homes down to their foundations, even retrofitting whole foundations
under a home. And Dennis believes in "walking more gently on
the planet" by serving the community as a "green builder"
one that uses responsibility and quality products which have recycled
contents and don't deplete the area or add toxicity to the site.
have tightened various aspects of how we do business and that
has allowed us to grow," says Dennis Allen.
fact, that is how Dennis originally began in construction. He became
interested in alternative energy in the early 1970s and was asked
to build a solar home for a friend. He built another solar home
a year later and found that he really liked the blend of manual
physical work with the mental "It keeps you thinking all the
time," he says, "and I like working out of doors."
He had to change his own social perspective but felt the work was
the perfect combination for him personally. He initially worked
under the owner/builder title for hourly wages, but his group soon
evolved into a crew of six workers, and by the early 1980s they
decided to become licensed contractors.
also explains this period of time became a valuable learning experience
in the area of management and finance, and his group was able to
overcome economic problems and become incorporated in 1985. "We
have tightened various aspects of how we do business and that has
allowed us to grow to about 40 employees," he adds.
is a member of the Santa Barbara Innovative Building Review committee
and participates in the Board of Sustainability Project for San
Luis Obispo and Santa Barbara counties. He also has worked with
the University of California extension service to create, delegate,
teach and oversee the curriculum of the owner/builder series. It
was at one of these extension classes that Dennis met Ian, then
a student, and, after a tiling class, offered him a job. With college
behind him, Ian had built a house with a friend and traveled around
the world and was ready to begin a career in construction work when
he took the extension class from Dennis. Ian also has built homes
in Hawaii and New Zealand and is an expert in laying tile, plumbing,
framing, and efficiency, as well as being organized. They have been
partners since 1990. The employees at Allen Associates are a team
with a family atmosphere.
bath in the villa give an unusual flavor to relaxing. (Photos
by Stillmeadow Productions)
are all friends and we socialize together," says Ian. "This
makes Allen Associates a strong team, and when you look at the length
of time we've been together, it tells people we're getting better
and better," he adds.
lead carpenters with the firm are asked to take the initiative and
be a part of the company's marketing and outreach program. "Anyone
of our main people could be on his own because of their university
education and expertise, but we choose to stay together because
of the wealth of resources it creates within the company,"
says Dennis. It provides answers for those hard questions. The financing
is centralized, but they expanded to individual computers and are
looking for modems for each contractor. "We also meet together
with our clients at least once a week, which has kept all lines
of communication clear and helps keep the construction on track,"
type of management has made Allen Associates more competitive, efficient,
flexible, and easier to work with, not only for architects and subcontractors,
but clients as well. "The people we work with become our friends,"
says Ian. "Lots of clients say they really miss our crew after remodeling
projects are finished," adds Dennis.
is the positive feedback we get rather than the nightmare tales
that often go with construction work." The strong teamwork gives
the latitude Allen Associates needs to try something new without
taking away from efficiency and professionalism. "I get excited
when we try something new ," says Dennis. "Our people have the insights
and the creativity and the projects always come out beautifully
." One new project Dennis would like to try is a Planned Unit Development
and he is looking to develop a site in Goleta. This project, along
with others, Dennis feels, will stand and speak for itself when
villa kitchen is open and airy and definitely a magnet for family
activity. Architect working with Allen Associates on the villa
was Don Nulty, AIA. (Photos by Stillmeadow Productions)
that is another thing he loves about construction: the ability to
find ways to give back to the community. "We are really blessed
to be able to live in this community. It gives us the opportunity
to keep our standards exceedingly high and to excel with some of
the finest craftsmanship anywhere in the country ." Referring
to the area's "no-growth" politics, Dennis finds it challenging
to be a contractor in the area.
really put our best into every project, as well as use the flexibility
of where the market takes us. We are in favor of thoughtful growth
and the pressure to keep quality high. This philosophy is very important."
The results of this philosophy have been numerous awards for Allen
Associates and having their work featured in such publications as
Fine Home Building, Santa Barbara Magazine, Solar Age, The Los Angeles
Times Magazine, and Sunset.
Associates stresses efficient management with expert craftsmanship
for the most discriminating eye, no matter the project. Their slogan
of "builders of distinction" continues for their clients
for years afterwards. This outstanding relationship with clients,
architects, suppliers, and subcontractors attests to the stability
and integrity of Allen Associates.
Allen, left, and Ian Cronshaw stand beneath distinctive arches decorating
the Montecito villa. Architect working Allen Associates was Don
Nulty, AIA. (Photo by Stillmeadow Productions.)
Santa Barbara cottage, recently completed by Allen Associates, includes
a wide lighted stairway and built-in bookcase, right, and a rustic
bath, above, designed by architect Dennis Thompson, AIA. Interior
designer is Marty Loge. (Photo by Stillmeadow Productions.)
family/dining room in this Santa Barbara cottage finished by Allen
Associates features large windows, cozy hardwood floors and access
to the outside deck and spa. (Photo by Stillmeadow Productions.)