Interview with Architect Ryan Leidner

  • Twin Gable House by Ryan Leidner | est living

    We chat with Californian architect Ryan Leidner about designing in San Francisco, his penchant for Mid-Century homes and how he continues to push the boundaries of indoor-outdoor living.

    Californian architect Ryan Leidner aligns his design principles with the Mid-Century period – cementing himself as the perfect candidate to take on iconic Eichler homes in his home state. A recent example is the designer’s widely applauded Twin Gables Home in Silicon Valley which graced the cover of est Magazine Issue #37.

    Establishing his practice in 2014, Ryan has built a portfolio of tactful modernist renovations in the past six years. The architect is inspired by one of the most defining features of Mid-Century design – integrated indoor-outdoor living – and finds joy in stripping these homes back to their foundations and reimagining the potential for modern-day living. 

    Speaking to Ryan, we learn about how he finds the beauty in simplicity, his love of California’s diverse climate and how a background in Ancient Art and Architecture studies informs his sensitive approach to design.

    Could you please tell us about your background, and the journey to starting your own practice?

    Ryan Leidner: I’m originally from Los Angeles and I went to college (Brown) and graduate school (Harvard GSD) in New England, and lived in that area for ten years before moving back to San Fransisco, California. In college, I focused my studies on Classics and Ancient History, but I always kept a creative studio practice of painting, drawing, and working with ceramics. Going to graduate school to study architecture felt like a really natural next step and way to integrate my academic and creative interests.

    After working at a few different offices through and after graduate school, I realised quickly that the process of working directly with clients to create spaces and homes felt really meaningful to me, and inspired me to start my own practice.

    What is most challenging, and on the flip side most rewarding about designing in California?

    Ryan Leidner: What I love about designing in California is that we have such a range of climates, topographies and environments that make every project unique. You can drive three hours from the surf to the snow, crossing such beautiful landscapes. Also, I’ve found that the people who move or live here have a shared respect for the place, and embrace that sense of freedom and possibility that the West has always held.

    What is a common misconception about designing homes in San Francisco?

    Ryan Leidner: Designing homes in San Francisco is always a process of balancing creative intent with local rules and regulations. We have so many specific building codes that can govern projects, so it’s always interesting to navigate those and figure out where there’s an opening for creativity. I love that the city has history and such a varied mix of buildings from different eras. Working within that context to create something new is always inspiring.

    You’ve had the opportunity to work on some rare Mid-century Eichler homes; what are your favourite aspects of Mid-century design, and how do you ensure your remodels remain respectful to the homes’ original era?

    Ryan Leidner: I’ve had the opportunity to work on a few Mid-Century Eichler homes and have always enjoyed the process because those houses were designed to be really straightforward and economical in their logic. The exposed post-and-beam structural design has a super clear, minimalist simplicity, which is always a great starting point for a project. The fun part is reimagining that concept using more modern technologies and pushing the goal of indoor/outdoor living even further.

    est living ryan leidner harrison st house 1

    Harrison St House by Ryan Leidner Architecture

    “Personally, I really enjoy being outside, and like the idea of imagining a home as a place where you can be both sheltered and free. I’ve found that being outdoors and in nature can be such a real reset, and I’m inspired by the idea of a house that can awaken that feeling.”


    – Ryan Leidner

    est living ryan leidner harrison st house 3

    Harrison St House by Ryan Leidner Architecture

    If you could give one piece of advice to young architects, what would it be? 

    Ryan Leidner: If I were to give advice to a young architect, I’d say that there is almost always potential in every possible project, so it’s really important to choose what you take on. Architecture inevitably takes time, and working with the right clients and partners is what will ultimately lead to a successful project.

    Who or what has had the largest influence on your work?

    Ryan Leidner: I think my background in studying Classics and Ancient Art and Architecture has had a big influence in terms of my respect for buildings that reflect clear design principals. When looking at ancient ruins, you think about how to read them, and how to draw inferences from what you see, and what elements and aspects of the architecture carry meaning. That quality of material simplicity and beauty, it’s almost platonic. Of course, houses are very different in their nature, but that feeling of honest space I find so inspiring.

    Your homes have a strong emphasis on indoor-outdoor living. Why is this important now, more than ever before?

    Ryan Leidner: Personally, I really enjoy being outside, and like the idea of imagining a home as a place where you can be both sheltered and free. I’ve found that being outdoors and in nature can be such a real reset, and I’m inspired by the idea of a house that can awaken that feeling.

    How has this year changed your perception of design, and how do you think it will impact what you design in the future?

    Ryan Leidner: I think that this past year has really made us all feel more attuned to our spatial awareness. Whether it’s been figuring out how to keep distance in public or how to be closer to the people we love, we’ve all become so much more aware of the spaces we inhabit and how they facilitate connection. My hope for any future space that I design is that it does just that, give people a true sense of place while also making them feel open and optimistic about what could be.

    Design Insider’s Guide:

    Favourite design stores?

    Ryan Leidner: Mjolk, Leibal and Gejst.

    Favourite galleries or spaces?

    Ryan Leidner: Teshima Art Museum, James Turrell Skyspace and Tate Modern (Olafur Eliasson version).

    Where do you go to look at great design?

    Ryan Leidner: Ratio 3, Sutro Baths and De Young Museum.

    est living ryan leidner 01

    Ryan Leidner

  • Ryan Leidner's Signature Style

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