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‘Listen to the space’ – the Australian designer behind The Iron Fairies Bali shares his avant-garde ethos

‘Listen to the space’ – the Australian designer behind The Iron Fairies Bali shares his avant-garde ethos


Ashley Sutton’s unorthodox style and career path have earned him the moniker of a ‘design maverick’ in parts of Asia. 

Originally from Fremantle in Western Australia, an unexpected turn of events brought Sutton to the industry from a background in mining and a stopover as an author. The Iron Fairies Bali, a new bar and nightclub designed by Sutton, actually draws inspiration from his children’s trilogy of the same name, which maps the journey of miners who forge exquisite fairies from iron ore in their bleak despair.

Ashley Sutton
Ashley Sutton

“I built a fairy-themed factory in Bangkok to produce fairies and merchandise for my brand,” Sutton tells Australian Design Review of his first foray into interiors. 

“To inspire my staff, who couldn’t read my fairy book or fully grasp the magical world, I designed the factory to look and feel like a fairytale. This immersive environment helped them connect with the fantasy. After a few months, it became known to the public as a must-see and I started receiving requests from other property owners to design unique spaces for them.”

Iron Fairies Bali

Since then, Sutton has brought unique concept venues to life for hospitality group Boutique Bars, including Dragonfly, Maggie Choo’s, The Mixing Room and The Iron Fairies in Bangkok and Hong Kong. 

Bali is the latest location in The Iron Fairies franchise and has become the island’s biggest indoor thematic bar and nightclub. Its fairytale design comes together with vibrant live entertainment and decadent cocktails to create enchanting multi-sensory experiences. 

Live performance at Iron Fairies Bali
The Iron Fairies Bali

Inside, The Iron Fairies Bali recreates the dimly lit passageways and dark caves of Australian mines. Over three floors, three bars and a main stage for musical and art performances, the venue pays homage to an ironsmith’s workshop, with raw iron, timber, leather and mining machinery details throughout. Facilitating more intimate and private experiences, eight VIP ‘furnaces’ are crafted from cast and forged steel.

Dimly lit passageway

“My design is not very clean or minimalistic, but that’s because I just want to design something that excites my mind and gets me passionate for the build,” Sutton says.

Visually, The Iron Fairies Bali marries dark and light, placing delicately hand-crafted iron fairies, glittering gossamer and butterflies against a sooty industrial backdrop. According to Sutton, every part of this venue is handmade and took thousands of hours from hundreds of craftspeople to complete.

Iron Fairies by Ashley Sutton

I’m a tradesman myself so I understand its value,” Sutton says of his appreciation for craftsmanship.

“I chose timber interiors for The Iron Fairies Bali mainly because I knew the Balinese are masters of woods. If I had opted for steel, like in other countries, it wouldn’t have achieved the same authenticity and quality. Craftsmanship ensures that the design not only looks good, but also resonates with the local expertise and cultural context.”

wood crasftmanship

Not one to keep up with trends – he “despises” smartphones and doesn’t own a computer – Sutton says his design approach is to “listen to the space itself; it often tells you what belongs within it”.

“You’d be surprised at the stories four walls can share when you truly pay attention.”

Iron Fairies

Read more about The Iron Fairies Bali here.

Photography supplied by The Iron Fairies. 


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