AFTER years of globetrotting, Ashley Sutton — the world’s top bar designer — is back in his hometown weaving his magic on Fremantle punters.
The welder-glassmaker who grew up in Perth’s southern suburbs took off 12 years ago for the bright lights of New York.
That was the start of an unlikely journey that saw his extraordinary fit-outs add wow factor to 40 bars across Asia.
Now he is at it again in Freo’s hipster west end as he transforms the old Sadleirs building in Henry Street. True to form, he’s not holding back with a nautical-themed bar called Darling Darling, which he hopes to open to the public.
Until the venue receives planning approval and a liquor licence it will operate as a function centre.
Darling Darling, with its ropes, anchors and ancient maritime maps, is a departure from the whimsical fairies and butterflies that dominate bars such as Ophelia, J. Boroski and Iron Fairies — all on the bucket list for tourists to Hong Kong.
Last year Ophelia, a peacock-themed bar, was named in the prestigious FX Interior Design awards as the world’s best bar. It adds to a string of other international awards, but Sutton says this project is purely a labour of love.
“It brings together everything I am passionate about,” he says.
After years based in New York, Hong Kong and Bangkok, Sutton jumped at the chance to return home.
“I was lucky to get this building,” he says. “I had been searching for a long time. I walked in for a private inspection and said, ‘I’ll pay you cash’.”
Ashley Sutton’s is a remarkable story of fairies, mines, tragedy, gin, horrible memories of school — and Marilyn Monroe’s bath.