If 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.

But 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 construction.

Co-partner 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.

The 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 good.

Now, 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."

But 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.

"We have tightened various aspects of how we do business and that has allowed us to grow," says Dennis Allen.

In 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.

Dennis 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.

Dennis 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.

The bath in the villa give an unusual flavor to relaxing. (Photos by Stillmeadow Productions)

"We 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.

The 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," he adds.

This 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.

"This 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 completed.

The 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)

And 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.

"We 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.

Allen 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.

Dennis 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.)







This 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.)





The 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.)



Allen Associates
1427 Tunnel Road, Santa Barbara, Ca 93105
Phone (805) 682-4305

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