Newport Beach is one of those cities with a name that seems to drip wealth. The coastal haven, located in Orange County, California, boasts one of the most expensive real estate markets in the country. Coveted for its sandy beaches and enviable climate, it’s been home to plenty of celebrities over the years, from Humphrey Bogart and Lauren Bacall to present-day A-listers like Emma Stone and Tiger Woods. 

Newport Beach is accordingly home to plenty of upscale coffee shops poised to cater to such prestigious clientele. It can be hard to stand out from the crowd when seemingly every establishment boasts not just delectable fare, but uber-cool design identities. 

One new coffee shop, Stereoscope, has taken the principals of minimalism and combined them with a cosmic trip of surrealism, resulting in one seriously chic — and blissfully unique — café. 

Designed by David Wick and Andrew Lindley (of Wick Architecture & Design and LAND Design Studio, respectively), Stereoscope has been, according to a recent press release, “turning heads with its cathedral-like opulence.” The second Stereoscope location in Orange County, it is located on the ground floor of a two-building office complex. Outside, these two structures share a common courtyard. Granite Properties, the Texas-based investment, development, and management company that owns the complex, wished to create a “buzz” among tenants. The best way to turn the complex into a hip-and-happening spot? A sophisticated coffee shop, of course. Established roasters Stereoscope were brought in and, together with the design team, they transformed the existing space into an otherworldly hub. 

“We were approached to assist Stereoscope Coffee in creating a ground floor amenity that would not only provide a service, but which would also generate excitement,” Wick shares. “The client wanted something that had never been done before, and we believe that we have given them exactly that.” 

The space itself presented a unique challenge. It was long and narrow, with an L-shaped footprint, while the ceilings were a soaring 15 feet. From one end, the shop would be accessible from the building’s lobby; the other end would lead to the exterior courtyard. 

The overarching inspiration for the project came from a recent trip to Italy, where Wick and Lindley had viewed Correggio’s Assumption of the Virgin. This fresco on the dome of the Cathedral of Parma dates back to the 16th century. The work features the Virgin Mary being lifted upwards to the heavens as singing angels and flat clouds usher her into the bright, lofty heights. It’s a fascinating play of perspective, one that served as a precursor for the dramatic, illusionist ceiling paintings (often featuring trompe l’oeil) in later centuries. 

Using this concept as a launching pad, Wick and Lindley dreamed up a modern-day interpretation that would turn the cathedral ceilings of Stereoscope into an optically rich work of art. Drawing from the word ‘stereoscope’ itself (defined by the Oxford dictionary as “a device by which two photographs of the same object taken at slightly different angles are viewed together, creating an impression of depth and solidity” — that is, a precursor to modern 3D technology), they decided to bring an artist onboard. 

“We recalled an artist named Christy Lee Rogers, who is renowned for her unique underwater Renaissance and Baroque style photography,” said David Wick. “We approached her with the idea of licensing a piece of her work, The Reunion of Cathryn Carrie and Jean, and then transferring it to 3D.” 

With the work in hand, Wick and Lindley were then faced with questions of colour, perspective, and placement. For instance, should it be black and white? In colour? Should it exist solely on the ceiling or extend down the walls? 

“After extensive study, at the end of the day we felt that the strongest interpretation would require the use of color on the ceiling,” explained Lindley. “We also chose to gradate the image downward to have it seamlessly fade into the white of the walls.” 

During the printing process, the team adjusted the level of the work’s 3D projection so that the ceiling would be optically appealing both with and without 3D glasses. (The latter of which are on hand for adventurous customers.) It was then applied like wallpaper via 5-foot vinyl rolls. 

The artwork fades to white at the 8-foot mark on the walls. Here, Astro Globe lighting fixtures from Andrew Neyer’s Suff® collection are used to delineate between the surrealist ceiling and the sparse minimalism of the coffee shop below. These more reserved choices of design and décor, including natural concrete floors, oak bench seating, and bone-white matte tiles, ensure that the artwork above does not overstimulate or compete for attention. 

“This project is a prime example of how interior design can transport a vision beyond the confines of the space that it occupies,” said Wick. “We’re proud to have pushed the boundaries of traditional design to deliver something truly distinct and remarkable for our client.” 

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Credit to: V2com Photo credit: Benny Chan