Eric Friedman - Ryan Associates

The Devil is in the Details

For over three decades Ryan Associates have built exceptional homes in San Francisco, the Napa Valley and beyond.  Having had the pleasure of representing a number of these properties for sale, CaenLucier reconnects with Eric Friedman of the San Francisco based firm to discuss highlights of past and current residential projects, a look behind the scenes at the art of fine building and the ins and outs of working with architects, designers and his noteworthy clientele. 

CaenLucier: You have worked with Ryan Associates for over two decades.  How has the profession of high end renovations grown/changed over the years?

Eric Friedman: I don’t think we’re able to print houses yet, but there’s plenty of amazing modeling software out there that really helps to communicate design intent as well as solve the possibility of certain construction problems. We commonly use software to program the CNC router that make perfect parts every time, but for the most part we still make things by hand.

CL: What sets Ryan apart from other builders in the Bay Area?

EF: I think if you talk to our subcontractors they will tell you that there are many fine builders in our community, but Ryan is a league apart.  They’ll tell you that we do all of the things required to help them be successful enabling them to do their best work.  We’ve worked really hard to forge these mutually beneficial subcontractor relationships, but ultimately our design partners and clients are the winners.

CL: What are the most common mistakes clients make when interviewing a general construction firm to build their home?

EF: The danger that clients face is not understanding the consequences of hiring their team piecemeal.  They have to understand their motives and goals for the project and then need as much coaching as possible in unifying those interests in building their team. The traditional point of view of the owner is that you hire the architect first. The traditional approach works just fine if the architect believes, as we believe, that collaboration is a fundamental part of a successful project. One of the keys to our success has been our ability to team build on the client’s behalf.  It’s really a question of drawing out from the client what their top priorities are, what their design instincts are, and then start to match the correct design partners and resources.

CL: San Francisco has many talented designers and architects.  Who are a few of your favorites to work with?

EF: Our interest is in working with architects and designers who are invested in the collaborative process and who value the services we provide. We’re not attached to working with starchitects.

CL: How would you describe the perfect Ryan Associates client?

EF: The perfect Ryan client is clear around their goals, is invested in everybody being successful and wants to have fun along the way. It helps if they don’t think of themselves as a builder, designer or tradesperson.  Clients who understand they’re in a rarefied territory and rely on our expertise really get the best performance from us. 

CL: What is the most fun part of your job?

EF: I get to work with a range of incredibly talented and gifted people who inspire me on a daily basis.  Architects, engineers, all the makers and builders, but especially my co-workers for whom I have unlimited respect. It’s a really good feeling that comes when putting in an honest day working with our crew.

CL: Tell us something we don’t know about Ryan.

EF: We’re known for doing the big house on the hill, but our core business is the $1m to $5m remodel.  We are in the service business and are set up to do small projects and service work.  We want to take care of our clients’ homes forever regardless of the need.

CL: What is your most favorite project that you are working on right now?

We’re doing a modest but lovely 2,500 square foot bridge-to-bridge apartment on Russian Hill in a somewhat disintegrating 90 year old building.  The clients are so happy and excited that the good feeling has permeated the dozens of people that have contributed to the effort. It may or may not get published, however we’re very proud of what we’ve built.