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Stereoscope Coffee, Newport Beach, California


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We have followed the Small is the New Big trend for a long time now and we do not see it weakening. We predict that when the pandemic has become manageable, people will value and respect the small operators. And, as many small operators will not survive the crisis, many will miss dearly their favourite corner shop, café, dry cleaners, hair salon or flower shop.

But, we also believe that after the initial euphoria of just being able to move freely in the stores that DID survive, we will still continue to value the same basics of customer experience: Excellent product or service, great service and interesting and imaginative environment.

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In Newport Beach, Orange County, California, a 672 square-foot (62 square-metre) café on the ground floor of a six-storey office building is exhibiting all the signs of a ‘small that thinks big.’ It is like those little dogs that bark aggressively at fellow canines many times their size. They don’t let their smallness shrink their ambitions.

This is the second location of Stereoscope Coffee whose first location at Buena Park has earned the business of coffee connoisseurs who love the distinctive varieties that CEO and co-founder Leif An roasts at the company’s roaster/lab in Los Angeles Art District.

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The narrow, L-shaped space that the office building owners, Texas-based Granite Properties, had dedicated for the new coffee shop was at first glance a difficult proposition. Both ends of the L were open with one facing the building entrance and the other connecting to the exterior courtyard. But the owners were determined that this space would enliven the building and create some buzz.

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With that in mind they approached David Wick, principal and head designer at Los Angeles-based Wick Architecture and Design to help Stereoscope with the space design.

Wick and Andrew Lindley principal and lead designer of LAND Design Studio of Venice, California considered the space, Stereoscope’s minimalist style and especially the intriguing, 15-foot height of the space.

From their trips to Italy, they remembered the high-ceilinged cathedrals with amazing 3D frescoes, and in the end, decided to make the ceiling of the new Stereoscope its main attraction. They contacted Hawaii-born artist Christy Lee Rogers known for her underwater Renaissance and Baroque-style photography. They arranged for licensing her piece, The Reunion of Cathryn Carrie and Jean, and then transferring it to 3D.

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After a highly complicated process of transfer, printing, cutting and installation, the end result is a printed-vinyl-covered ceiling that bleeds down to the walls by fading gradually to white at eight-foot height. The 3D-projection was adapted and adjusted so that even those patrons who did not wish to wear the 3D glassed provided at the café, would still have a beautiful work of art to view.

The rest of the space design accommodated the art without trying to compete with it. Blue-tone marble, bone-hued tiles and rows of Astro Globe lighting, provide additional subtle nods to Italian design. Light oak benches and shelving echo the warm tones of the artwork. The overall impression is grand, open and inviting. Not a hint of timidity in sight. Tuija Seipell.

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Images by Benny Chan.

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