by Erin Quinn-Kong | Published by Austin Home

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Photo of Fossil Ridge, Gay Gaddis’s private art studio & gallery by Whit Preston

[ARTICLE] Revisiting a project originally designed by the team, Danze & Blood Architects enhanced entrepreneur Gay Gaddis’s compound.

Gay Gaddis has impeccable timing. In November 2019, the entrepreneur sold T3—one of the largest female-run ad agencies in the world—which she founded and headed as CEO for 30 years. Her plan was to paint (more on that later), write, speak, and mentor women in business. That same month, Fossil Ridge Creative Center, a 4,000-square-foot addition to her and her husband’s Double Heart Ranch in Marble Falls, was completed. “The timing was pretty crazy,” she says.

When the pandemic hit a few months later, Gay and her husband, Lee, had the perfect place to go to live, work, and pursue their creative endeavors. “It’s been a wonderful retreat during the pandemic, a source of joy and comfort for us,” she says.

When Gay and Lee first started talking about adding on to their ranch residence, they wanted to do something small. “We thought it would just be some outbuildings,” Gay says. “But then we decided to do something special—and we wanted it to all fit together.”

The couple called Elizabeth Danze and John Blood of Danze & Blood Architects, who designed the T3 Headquarters and the original Double Heart Ranch house in 1999.

The Gaddis’ new, grander vision was to build an art studio for Gay—an art major in college who started painting again in 2015 “for the heck of it”—an art gallery, and a space to bring artists and other creatives together. “It was a really beautiful idea,” Danze says. “They wanted to add the new addition to the existing buildings so it felt like one continuous project.”

The couple’s original 2,400-square-foot ranch house is a modernized version of a Texas Hill Country ranch house. “It’s not a traditional ranch house in a cliché sense, but it does embody the qualities of living on the ranch: connection to the weather, a large screened-in porch, use of natural materials like wood,” Blood says.

“It’s meant to be utilitarian,” Danze adds. “There’s a hardiness I would associate to a ranch, using sustainable and low-maintenance materials that are easily cleaned and maintained. It’s not a romanticized ranch, but an authentic, modern ranch.”

Like the original residence, the new structures were designed to embrace the connection between inside and outside. A continuous deck unifies the buildings along the length of the ridge and affords views of the canyon below. “Elizabeth and John used a lot of the same materials, and the buildings have the same look and feel. It looks like one big compound,” Gay says.

“We saw this as an extraordinary opportunity to revisit a project we designed 20 years ago, to build on the way the structures engage the landscape and continue the sensitive enhancement of the site with the new buildings as the Gaddis’ look to the future,” Blood says.

The jewel of the new project is the art studio, a glass- encased elliptical form. “Up against the background of these linear buildings, we thought that it was a really nice way to conceive of the site,” Danze says. Blood notes that the tilt of the elliptical roof is optimized for good light in the morning while minimizing the harsh light in the afternoon.

While Gay originally started painting just for fun, her hobby quickly turned into a new business. In 2016, she was offered a one-woman show for her Texas landscapes at New York City’s Curator Gallery, which sold out. Since then, she’s sold 180 paintings.

“I wanted my studio to be inspirational, and it is,” Gay says. “I walk into there and feel transformed.”

The interiors of the new creative space are another way that Gay shows off her artistic side. Since both she and Lee grew up on ranches in Texas, Gay incorporates family heirlooms and antiques into their home while mixing in new, modern pieces. The black dresser on the screened porch, which Gay got at an antique store in Burnet, used to store merchandise at an old Texas general store. The tabletop in the same room is made from an old barn door the Gaddises found on the ranch when they first bought it. And the green chairs in her art studio were her mother’s, though they used to have yellow seats. Gay had them painted and added green cushions to give the chairs a bold new look. “They’re pieces that mean something to us,” she says. “I like to refurbish something older and give it new life.”

Now that they’ve been living at the ranch for the two years of the pandemic, Gay says it is their home base. “We’ll keep an apartment in Austin, but we just love this country up here,” Gay says. “It’s so renewing and peaceful.”