We take an entrepreneurial view of design.  We love the idea of long term relationships and always think in terms of partnership.  If our clients succeed we succeed.


Services are provided according to a process of collaboration between all primary parties.  Goals, tasks, and desired outcomes are organized around client approved parameters.


We are design advocates for our clients best interests, mentoring them through what can be a daunting process, happening in an area outside of their normal business practice



Gaddis Architect specializes in all phases of retail design, design management and construction. If maximizing the success of your business by optimizing the performance of your store, or commercial space design is a goal, then attending the following “Insights” could provide some very real benefits. Many common, and some not so common, design challenges are analyzed. Solutions aimed at increasing retail traffic, creating visual presence in various environments, and expressing not only a particular shopping experience but also the business’s brand, are presented. We think that all design is, on some level at least, retail design.  Please scroll on, start a dialogue, contact us anytime.

What do you mean by “Feasibility Assessment?”

Now What?

Now What?  How do I turn this in to a new store?

Contemplation – Imagine you are a retailer contemplating this tenant space.  Clearly, you might be asking yourself;  “now what?”  Suppose a few of the questions below move from unconscious reflection to conscious contemplation without ensuing answers, then assessing a project to see what is actually required could facilitate the decision making process and provide many benefits.

Resources – Landlord provided documents, previous project cost summaries, consultations with building departments, contractors, engineers and sometimes professional construction estimators are  all resources informing project feasibility.  The intent is to simplify, consolidate and summarize the probable scope of work, professional fees, construction costs and time that might be anticipated for a project.  It is the purpose of a feasibility assessment and a highly recommended means of beginning most retail projects.

  • Do I need to  build the walls?
  • Do I need to build the bathroom(s)
  • Why do I need 2 bathrooms?
  • Why do I need 2 entries?
  • Do I need to install the storefront system?
  • Can I use my own storefront design?
  • Do I need to have my own electric meter installed?
  • Do I need to install my own Air Conditioning and heating system?
  • What is the best mechanical system to use?
  • Is there water in the space?
  • What about hot water?
  • What about gas?
  • Where is the sewer?
  • How do I connect to it?
  • Will my store fit in this space?
  • Must I supply my own storefront sign?
  • Who will design it?
  • Can I design the store myself?
  • Can I turn a logo into a store design?
  • Where do I get the store fixtures?
  • What if I can’t find the exact fixtures that I need to display my products?
  • Are custom store fixtures required, if so who will design them?
  • What about lighting?
  • Who sets up the Point of Sale (POS) system and how do I hide the wires?
  • How do I accommodate the cabling and hard wiring for my computers?
  • How much can I expect to spend for all this?
  • A contractor told me he could build my store for $45/sq. ft.  Should I believe him?
  • Do I need a building permit?
  • What does an architect charge?
  • Can I get this done in time to open before I must begin paying rent?
  • How do a pick a contractor?
  • Is the construction allowance from the landlord enough to build the store?
  • Does the location have enough parking?
  • What is the visibility from walk and drive by traffic?
  • Is this space a good choice for my project?
  • If I don’t take this space do I need to start all over with a new feasibility for a different location?

Please feel free start a discussion here and maybe even see some answers.

Ever think about working with an architect? Don’t know what they do?

As an architect I find myself sometimes reluctant, especially in social situations, to tell people what I do.  Sounds crazy, considering it is an honorable profession requiring lots of education, training, testing, not to mention participation in many successful designs, and further considering that I am always looking for new projects.  Actually, this is an unconscious reaction that, until recently, I neither recognized nor examined, which begs the question;  “why now?”

First a word about teaching:   For the past couple of years I have been working to develop and refine a presentation designed to enlighten potential new clients and other interested parties on the details of architectural services performed, not only by my firm, but also design professionals in general.  In the beginning the project was unashamedly self serving, done because I found that successful projects often resulted when the client had some previous experience with building.  These clients were easy to please because their expectations were well defined.  My practice involves working with small businesses, many of whom are startups.  I thought that imparting some of this experience could prove immensely facilitating for both client and architect.  This lead me look for a way to teach about what architects really do, finally resulting in a two part, two hour long power point presentation, posted on our website, Youtube and presented live in various venues.  Although these efforts were naturally directed towards our specialized area of practice, there was a larger unanticipated outgrowth having to do with the pervasiveness of  misconceptions about the practice of architecture in general.

The American Institute of Architects:  Every year, during the first week in April, the AIA, of which I am a member, holds a celebration of architecture.  AIA chapters all over the country offer events and activities geared towards architectural subjects of interests to the profession and public alike.  In the burst of activity leading up to this event, I came across a request for local volunteer architects able to participate in an event entitled “Working with an Architect.”  The event, centering on discussions about the processes and advantages of working with an architect, will consist of local architects making themselves available for free, open, informal discussions on just about any subject having to do with architecture, design, and building.  At the time of this post there are ten local architects participating, and considering, my previous discussion, it is not difficult to see why I will be one of them.

Project by Crafted Architecture LLC Project by  Randall Mars Architects  Project by Laura Campbell Architecture Project by Great Seal LLC Project by Gaddis Architect
Project by Laura Campbell Architecture

What cannot be defined, cannot be valued:  I have come to the conclusion that AIA, its members, and architects in general are facing an identity crisis.  One manifesting in the assumption that what cannot be identified, cannot be valued, which speaks to my original question.  I sometimes dodge talking about my profession because I fear that the term architect has become and empty word, susceptible to all of the follies, misconceptions and romantic notions of popular culture.  Clearly most people understand that the Guggenheim in Bilboa, Spain was designed by an architect named Frank Gehry.   On the other hand, how the architect relates to the dry cleaner on the corner or their neighbor’s home addition is often a mystery.  AIA, to its credit, is taking steps (beyond the scope of this discussion), toward correction, but we as individual architects bear a lot of responsibly.  The profession has become increasingly complicated.  In addition to design and construction of the built environment, issues of technology and business must be part of the architect’s skill set.  How well these many disciplines are managed and assimilated is an indication of a successful project.  And if this is the measure, most architects that I know are successful indeed, because what they contribute, how they accomplish what they do, how they practice their craft, is so essential as to completely disappear into the fabric of a project.  In short the craft of architecture is successful not a little by dint of how well it dissolves into the buildings it creates.  This, of course, is a very “zen” idea, having great appeal to the artistically and academically inclined, while at the same time making life difficult for the more pragmatic among us.  Value is easily assigned to the finished house, barn, school, or office building.  Defining how that building was actually accomplished, not so much.

What it is like to work with an architect:  Architects know in multifarious detail what goes in to one of their projects, what benefit is offered, what improvement is made, how life is made easier, better. Communicating these numerous, lists, plans, sketches, drawings, products, services, consultations, consultants, research…,  into some understandable format is our challenge.  “Working with an Architect” is an event designed to help us meet this challenge.  I am happy to participate and invite anyone interested, moderately or otherwise, to chat with an architect about their projects, their thoughts, their love of the subject, even about their favorite “starchitect.”  Please join us on Sunday April 10th.  A link to the event and a list of participating architects is below.  Samples of their work are in the slide show above.

Refreshments will be served. There is no charge to attend and no reservations are necessary.  Additional information may be found here:  “Working with an Architect.

Participating Architects:

Christine Kelly AIA, Crafted Architecture LLC
Steve Kulinski AIA, Kulinski Group Architects, PC
John Nolan AIA, Maginniss + del Ninno Architects
Rebecca Bostick AIA, Rebecca LG Bostick Architects Inc.
Laura Campbell AIA, Laura Campbell Architecture
Paul Trombley AIA, Studio 66 LLC
Randall Mars AIA, Randall Mars Architects
Eunice A. Murray, AIA, Eunice Murray Architect
Lyndl T. Joseph, AIA, Great Seal LLC
Bridget Gaddis, AIA, Gaddis Architect

Retail Architect takes on karma.


Marcel’s Yoga Boutique,

has turned out to be one of our most sophisticated designs. Recently completed, it was featured in the Old Town Crier, and we were also happy to answer some questions posed by Cindy Laidlaw, Principal of Laidlaw Group, the marketing communications firm who does the blog for the company who manufactures the shelving system. The content is especially informative for anyone thinking about a new retail project so I am posting some of it here along with links to the articles.

Question: Where and when did the idea for the studio start? Answer: Marcela came to me on the recommendation the local Small Business Development Center. As it turned out, my office is exactly across the street from her shop. Talk about Karma?

Question: What is your background? Answer: This is the bio that I use in many blog post. Bridget Gaddis, is a Licensed Architect and LEED-Accredited Professional practicing nationally, and locally in the Washington DC area. She holds professional degrees in both Architecture and Interior Design, and has a comprehensive background in commercial retail design, planning and construction.

Question: What was the vision of the project? Answer: Marcela had a vision that centered around the lotus flower. It is part of her logo and where we started to design. I liked the water element inherent in the lotus environment and aimed at suggesting this by the use of curved glass shelves as a feature in the shop. There is a mystique attached to the idea of yoga and one way of visually representing the calm is with open space – not so easy in a tiny shop. By merchandising mainly the walls we were able to define really nice site lines that terminate in beautiful merchandise displays while at the same time maintaining the “karma” of open space.

Question: What inspired the design? Answer: The lotus flower.

Question: What were the installation challenges of the space? Answer: The building is old and the exterior walls are plaster directly on furred out brick. They were totally out of plumb.  We had to fur out a wall and use a back panel in order install the wall mounted standards.

Question: In addition to Rakks, what other materials were used? Answer: We used a rustic piece of wood, with the shape of the tree still in its profile, to anchor and complete the feature wall. The effect is very organic.

Question: How long did the project take? Answer: It took about 4 months.
y out of plumb, to the extent that, in order to use the wall mounted Rakks standards, we had to build a drywall stand out in front of the existing wall.

Question: What is the history of the building? Answer: The building is in the historic district of Old Town Alexandria, VA.

Question: Where can I find out more about the products on display? Answer: Marcela’s Yoga Boutique

Retail Architect asks if omni channel retail demands omni channel design?


Way back in 2012, John Freeman, a developer known for Bethesda Row, caught my attention when he said, in reference to main street retail, “I hate brands.” Since then, I have been considering the notion in relation to retail store design. I actually set up a google alert in order to be notified whenever “unbrand” came up in some online post, and was rewarded,

mostly with lots of spam. Nevertheless, I persisted until the topic finally turned up hot for 2015, when according to many retail gurus, the era of “conspicuous branding” was over, having been replaced by understated luxury, downplayed wealth, individual identities, personal taste, non-conformance, no labels, and resulting in the rise of, among other things, “fast fashion.” All of this was deemed to have not a little to do with a bad economy, underemployment, high debt, student loans, the rise of social media, and directly affecting the shopping habits of that ever to be courted target market of 18 – 34 year olds, the Millennials, projected to spend 1.2 trillion by 2020, and leading a retailer to ask, “now what?”

Non Logo Times

Certainly, adapting to the “…non logo times” has not been so easy. Few would argue that many malls are in trouble, department stores are closing

locations, and since 2013, at least, are moving towards smaller, more fragmented stores. Neither are efforts at “de-branding” always successful. In 2015, the Gap tried, with their “dress normal” campaign, to detach the name from the product and sales went down. As if to compensate, it seems that Macy’s at least, is now poised in 2015 to test out converting some locations to outlet type stores, competing with TJ Max, and others. So does all this tell us anything about what is to be expected in the 2016 retail environment?

2016 Projections

The beginning of the year is harvest time for those of us with an interest in projections about emerging trends in retail store design and planning. I leave the detailed explanations to the experts, preferring, for those inclined towards bullet points, to describe the trends in

terms of the numerous “buzzwords” inherent in the various texts, which process is a lot like what designers do, i.e., translate cryptic verbal prompts into visual images. If you care to dive more deeply into the subject, the articles are referenced in the links at the end. Otherwise, I offer the following description of the retail environment in 2016, which begs the question, “does ‘omni channel retail’ demand ‘omni channel’ design?”

  • Omni Channel Retail
  • De-Brand
  • Curated
  • Shopper-Tainment!
  • Off & Online Shopping
  • Expanded Value Chains = Mushrooming Brand
  • Non Tech Technologers
  • Less $ ≠ More Sales
  • Online Black Monday = Offline Black Thursday
  • Wearable Gadgets
  • Localization
  • Speed
  • Convenience
  • Cross Channel Personalization
  • IT Integration
  • Seamless Buying Experience


Gen y Trends…End…Conspicuous Branding

Macys…Smaller Box Bigger…


The Era of Unbrand

Retail Trends 2016 Charlotte Bachmann Katz

Macys Outlet Store Backstage Discount…


Retail USA Whats In Store 2016

Think Tank Anjee Solanki Retail Branding

Retail Architect: billboards used as a store design strategy

Recently I have looked at some design features that can make a store stand out, or differentiate, from its neighbors in the mall scape, leading to a design idea that I may, or may not, have mentioned previously;  namely mall storefronts are being treated like billboards.  Compare, for example, the type of merchandising that is going on in the Aldo store with that of the Buy Paris Collection below.  On a practical level this may not be a very fair comparison as Aldo has rallied all of its substantial store planning resources around supporting and marketing their brand, while the shop in the Paris airport is  marketing multiple brands, probably with considerably less resources.  That said, this discussion is academic and I am using the contrast between the two shops to demonstrate a design technique.

Clearly, Aldo has used every inch of wall space to deliver a marketing message about their product.  It is a message being delivered to virtually every potential shopper with a view of the store no matter where that shopper happens to be located.  The desire to accomplish this is nothing new.  The installation of billboard size images on every available inch of visible wall, on the other hand,  is a fairly new trend.  I expect it is only a matter of time before the message, actually creeps onto the ceiling, and I am sure examples of exactly this can easily be found.

By comparison, the Buy Paris Collection casts its marketing net into a much smaller visual pond simply by dint of scale.  Certainly good design practice is employed.  The high contrast between the white illuminated sign on the black background along with the brightly colored banner are attention grabbing features.  The interior signage, illuminated graphics and nicely displayed merchandise all follow the store planning rules, leading me to ask;  is one of these techniques more effective that the other?

The question is one of relevance.  The retail environment, always competitive, is ever more so now.  Pressured on one side by online competition and the other by indirect competitors for the attention of the same customer base, retailers are feeling compelled to enter the context of entertainment shopping.  It is a fluid environment where relevance is everything.

Retail Architect: pattern, color and scale that delivers a marketing message

BBW store
I took this photo of a new Bath & Body Works store in a recently renovated local mall because the project is instructive on several levels.  First there is no doubt about who the retailer is.  The name is perfectly highlighted on the front of the main entry fixture, again above the wall display, and of course on the storefront sign, there but not shown.  Some landlords try to limit the number of times a retailer can repeat their logos in the line of vision.  I find that, recently, this practice has been giving way in favor of more flexible design guidelines, possibly in response to tighter retail markets.  Either way, repetition is good for the brand.

This project is about more that the name though.  It is about delivering a marketing message, which is done here by the clever incorporation of text into the very context of the store.  Let’s consider the context first.  The checked wall covering is extremely busy and could have, in a different application, gone totally wrong.  It is working here because the high contrast both attracts attention and supports the message in terms of scale.  In fact, it functions as a connection between the blocks of small merchandise and the actual text messages which are all offset in large solid color fields.  These solid color blocks show up as more that just backdrops for signage.  They are used in the back of displays, as plain color coded markers used to define categories of merchandise, and even as fat text turned into color blocked display fixtures.  The result is interesting and completely readable.

Retail Architect : perpetual student of store design.

A retail architect examines three design principles for focusing attention into a store and onto tiny merchandise.

Three design principles to focus attention into a store.

I took this photo in a newly renovated local mall because I thought that Pandora did a nice job of focusing attention into the store and onto the tiny merchandise.  Any retailer faced with marketing very small products knows what a challenge this can be.  Three principals come together to make the design effective.  First, areas of high contrast jump out of an otherwise mid tone world.  Think of the dark blue showcases on the left as the real shop entrance.  Notice that if this is the visual entrance, then Disney is written on the door.  Second, a progressively lighter version of the carefully placed pastel backdrops draw the shopper further into the space, until the brightest showcase is in the back.  Third, the progression is further reinforced, this time in terms of scale.  If the storefront is thought of as a single large display case then we see it divide into progressively smaller units as we move toward the perimeter of the store, effectively pointing until we find ourselves staring directly at the tiny products featured inside of the smallest showcase in the rear.  Such a sophisticated approach is very difficult for even the most experienced designer to achieve, often happening more by good luck than planning.  Planned or not, a retail architect will surely find several store design lessons to be learned here.

Retail Architect: Asking when is enough enough?

2015-01-27 13.55.09

Every time I see one of these pink T Mobile stores I wonder if the glowing pink walls, circa 2011, have translated into increased sales.  The design, we are told, creates a positive customer experience by sporting an open plan, service desks, interactive centers, merchandising that puts device and accessory together, and mostly a wow factor.  In 2013 & 14 the number of customers increased dramatically thanks, we are told, to T Mobile’s “Uncarrier” program.  Whether the store design has had an impact is hard to say, excepting the wow factor part, which to my way of thinking has little to do with the customer’s experience and everything to do with presence in the mall scape.  Maybe, in a retail market where products are sold across every media type, showing up is all that is required from the actual “bricks & mortar” store.

2015-01-27 14.10.45

I question whether the same “just show up” type of design strategy works very well for product lines more dependent upon customer interaction to complete a sale.  I would suggest that, in this situation, the wow factor can actually cancel the customer experience, which is exactly what is happening to the sun glass shop in the photo.  Extreme light levels, positioned behind the merchandise, combine with the white “daylight” color temperature to obscure all product detail and and cast a ghoulish glow onto a shopper, even to the extent that the very white walls actually appear gray.  If this is not enough, the edge lit shelves become a focal point, a gimmick, attracting more attention than the merchandise placed upon them.  Theses are expensive displays with a lot of technology, and if creating a positive shopping experience is the goal, they fail miserably.  It was actually painful to stand in the space.  They do cause the store to jump out of the mall scape, though.  Is it enough?

Retail Architect 2015 Trends: between new and passé is timeless

It is possible to think of this shop as “timeless,” as a quick look says a lot about their customer. Doubtless a romantic woman who places feminine style before budget and appreciates a bit of drama.  Take a guess at the location and date? Then follow the link for the answer.

I started 2015 by attending and event about a subject near and dear to those of us intimately involved with the retail trade.  Namely, “Marketing Trends for 2015,” a worthwhile presentation sponsored by the Alexandria Small Business Development Center, and given by Maurisa Potts, CEO and Founder of Spotted MP Marketing and PR.  I left thinking that voluminous amounts of available market data make it possible to predict future buying habits of the American public and even help define a narrative about their expectations in terms of both on and offline shopping environments.  Knowing how those shopping environments will end up looking is something else entirely.

Jeff Green writing in Chain Store Age summarizes events of 2014, saying that retailers are being squeezed by rising real estate costs, increases in the minimum wage, and online shopping.  Furthermore, the last of these leads to value shopping and, at least partially, defines the challenge of 2015, which is for a retailer to successfully optimize sales over all distribution channels.  A tall order, addressed to the extent possible by author and “Retail Prophet,” Doug Stephens when he tells us 2015 will find retailers thinking of their sales force as either highly skilled brand ambassadors or clerical type order processors.  There will be no room for mediocrity as it applies to, not only product, but also staff and the physical environment.  New “brick and mortar” stores will be seen as places of collaboration, customization, and experience.  I have found some of this to be underway for awhile.  Certainly creating an “experience” focused shopping environment aimed at a target market has been an emerging store planning goal for at least 2014 and probably beyond.  Stephens says the trend is being further fueled by tech and media savvy shoppers with an insatiable appetite for something new and translating in a tendency toward shorter leases and popup shops, even to the extent that Stephens referred to future mall managers as curators.  As a retail architect I see this manifesting in specialization and variety and suggest a degree of caution, as straddling the line between new and passe is timeless, always a goal, not often accomplished.

What do retail architects really do? is probably safe to say that many people know little, if anything, about what architects actually do. How, then, can one benefit from an architect’s, or other design professional’s, services when faced with planning a new store? We have found that the most successful projects happen when our clients have a clear understanding of the architectural and store planning process. To that end, we are introducing the following free publications:

“From Idea to Bricks & Mortar Store – The Retail Store Prototype: What is it and why do it?”

This is a 50 minute power point presentation, so allow enough time, or start and stop as time permits.  Also, a transcript is provided if you prefer.  A comprehensive view of the architectural process required to build a new retail store is first outlined, and then related to the business plan.  It has valuable information for anyone seriously considering opening or expanding a retail store.

“Seven Mistakes Expanding or Startup Retailers Make When Building a New Store”

This is a one page document that outlines major catch points that can cost new or expanding retailers time, money or both.  It is a good quick reference for any startup or newly expanding retailer with a building project somewhere in their future.

  •  Please select the link to receive these “must read” free publications, especially directed towards expanding or startup retailers.

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