Newport Coast

Gaze out any terrace, patio or window at Pelican Hill,® and it’s instantly clear what defines this hillside luxury Resort ensconced off the coast of Newport Beach: the magnificent views.

Even walking inside the Resort through almost any lobby, room or hallway where there doesn’t happen to be a window, guests will catch a stunning view of a landscape or seascape. Instead of being framed by windows, these grand vistas are captured in the over-sized picture frames of luscious Plein Air paintings.

“All these paintings were intended to be like windows to the outside world. Wherever you look, you have great views,” said Darrell Schmitt, Principal of Darrell Schmitt Design Associates, ASID, and the interior designer for Pelican Hill. “A lot of times we won’t use landscapes in the interior because we don’t want to compete with it. In this case, we wanted to keep making windows through the art.”

Prominently displaying Plein Air paintings throughout the Resort supported the overarching design concept of Pelican Hill, “where everything is about the coastal setting,” Schmitt said. From the architectural style and layout to the design and décor, all decisions were based on showcasing the surrounding scenery.

“This was the far-reaching concept in that the interiors were designed with tremendous discretion so they would not compete with the natural setting outside,” explained Schmitt. “The interiors had to be quiet and laid back and draw your attention to the beauty outside. That’s where it all began.”

Designers sought out the top, contemporary Plein Air painters in California, and based upon their individual bodies of work, commissioned over 150 paintings for the Resort. The paintings depict views similar to those that guests see when they look out from the Resort: dramatic landscapes of meandering paths and hills covered with eucalyptus, oak and sycamore trees, seascapes of crashing surf and rocky coves and other images of nature, such as giant clouds or a single, silhouetted tree.

“We wanted the guests to enjoy the views even when there wasn’t a view to be had,” said Sari Miller, of Sari Miller Art Collections, who collaborated closely with the designer. “They are meant to celebrate the beauty of the area.”

The Resort also wanted to support the continuing tradition of Plein Air painting, which is a genre where painters work outdoors, striving to capture a fleeting image in light and color. Since the early 1900s, Southern California has been a center for this tradition of painting in nature. “Plein Air is very alive and well and there are wonderful working artists today,” Schmitt said. “The idea is to capture the moment in time and the effect of the atmospheric conditions.”

For three years, the design team evaluated and selected artists from throughout the state, decided upon the subjects of the paintings, supervised the custom framing and selected the exact walls where each work would hang. Many of the artists are award-winning and well-known, while some are just getting started.

“It all boiled down to our feeling on what the artist did well,” Schmitt said. One ballroom in the Resort showcases only seascapes by different artists, whereas another room features various subjects by only one artist.

“It’s exceedingly rare that any hotel has a public art collection that’s original, and furthermore, site specific,” Schmitt said. “This is a very important assemblage of contemporary work.”

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