The man behind Maggie Choo's and The Iron Fairies in Bangkok is bringing the fantastical to a new entertainment venue on The Avenue in Wan Chai. Rik Glauert speaks to designer Ashley Sutton.
Ophelia tells the story of Wan Chai shopkeeper Mr. Wong and the treasures he amassed on his travels, including a stuffed Javanese peacock with a tag on its foot that is labeled ‘Ophelia.’
For designer Ashley Sutton, the creative force behind this new nightlife destination, it was about creating “the feel of a hidden jungle of dreams and wild animals,” he says. “I wanted the design to be so unique that it looked like something out of a dream, a place where fantasies can turn into reality.”
Guests enter through an aviary-like reception area flanked by two grand peacocks. Birdcages made from coconut tree wood, custom-made, distressed jade ceramic tiles and an antique wooden Japanese cash register also welcome guests to this fantasy land.
This theme continues throughout, with 600,000 tiles individually hand painted with the eye of a peacock feather. Lush velvet, shiny copper, glazed ceramics and shimmery peacock hues of green, blue and purple add to the other-worldly feel.
Sutton’s favourite space is the entertainment area where two custom made peacocks and two swings are placed on either side of a stage where the dancing ‘muses’ will be performing. “I like the backdrop of the girls blending in with the feathers of the peacocks, it’s like a moving mural of art,” Sutton said.
However bending the space to his elaborate mystical dreams was one of the biggest headaches for Sutton. “The space itself wasn’t ideal, due to massive structural columns and a huge elevator shaft in the centre,” he says.
He managed to work around this, though, by sectioning the venue into different areas separated by arched gates like those found in Chinese gardens. The labyrinthine vibe lends itself to the opium den feeling the nightclub exudes; something Sutton drew inspiration from, alongside Hong Kong’s 19th-century history, when dreaming up the space.
Ophelia has an olde-worlde feel to it, but there is also something industrial about the space – a feeling that is in keeping with that of its older sibling, Bangkok’s The Iron Fairies. The bar has been laser-cut to include sunken peacock ‘footprints’. The steel surfaces were acid-etched and then lightly sandblasted to replicate the texture of a footprint in soft sand. On the outdoor terrace, the roof and walls are clad in steel plates.
Sutton’s own love of metalwork comes through here, too: he hand-sawed and re-welded tubes of steel before covering them in leather. These now act as the bar rail, emulating the reptilian nature of peacock’s legs.
The overall effect is heady and hedonistic – and it is sure to transport you to another world.
Ophelia is located at Shop 39A–41A, 1/F, The Avenue, Lee Tung Avenue, Wan Chai.