By George! Posted by Reef Magazine - 11 August 2014 New York born interior designer George freedman has a very impressive track record. Since arriving in Sydney in 1969 on a major commission as representative of international design firm Knoll, he’s gone on to design some of australia’s favourite restaurants, corporate and retail spaces and to create private homes for a list of names (fairfax, Packer, oatley among them) that reads like a confidential who’s who. In the 1980s freedman and his partner neville Marsh were celebrities with celebrity clients. Their designs for Tony Bilson’s legendary Kinsella’s (with architect Glenn Murcutt), chez oz, claude’s, Bilson’s and Quay ushered in a new era of contemporary dining glamour that continues today. later, with Ralph Rembel, he worked on projects as high profile and diverse as the revamped Queen Victoria Building (with ancher Mortlock & Woolley), set designs for Sydney dance company’s Mythologia, iconic restaurant Buon Ricordo and Hamilton Island’s qualia. freedman is loved for his bold, innovative flair with colour, his modernist sensibility and a rare talent for creating interiors with palpable mood and personality. Ian oatley recalls a particular room at ‘Edinglassie,’ an old colonial country homestead owned by his father, Bob. It seemed to him to encapsulate freedman’s magic. “He’s very clever with the colour palette,” says Oatley. “In the drawing room everything was green - carpet, curtains, furniture, everything – you stepped into this room and it was like moving into a dream. That’s his talent, he’s able to create feeling.” At qualia, Freedman’s brief was to create interiors that were elegant, relaxed and inviting. He went beyond expectations. Paying passionate attention to detail, he managed to weave a seductive atmosphere of almost meditative sensory awareness and calm. “We went up and looked around at the environment,” says Freedman. “The island, the sea, the dawn and the dusk – it was the geography in a sense that influenced the choices.” Working closely with architect Chris Beckingham’s serene, harmonious use of timber and glass, Freedman was drawn to tones and patterning inspired by nature. Texture was very important: “Think of where we are! The first criteria was that every fabric selected would be physically comfortable to bare skin,” he says. Almost every piece of furniture at qualia is bespoke. “Starting from scratch, making prototypes and making them really comfortable, that was the goal,” Freedman explains. “The chairs are big enough that you can be in a T-shirt and a pair of shorts and curl up, if that’s what you feel like doing.” Recently Freedman’s new wave of fabrics was rolled out at qualia, a fresh, luxurious redesign with an almost mid-century Hawaiian feel replacing the more muted natural colours of the earlier selection. A nod to Freedman’s American modernist roots, perhaps? After all, he was tutored as he says, by Florence Knoll’s successors Peter Andes and Lou Butler. It’s an impeccable design pedigree. Last year, Knoll, the company that brought us some of the most recognisable furniture of the Twentieth Century, including Mies Van der Rohe’s Barcelona chair, Eero Saarinen’s Tulip table, designs by Harry Bertoia, Richard Schultz and Florence Knoll herself, turned 75. Freedman was invited to curate a special anniversary showroom at Sydney’s dedece and was honoured in a gala anniversary dinner in November. The tributes that flowed in were extraordinary, not just for Knoll and its farreaching influence on how we live today, but for Freedman himself. Freedman’s collaborative nature was celebrated, as was his ability (and as he says “the fun, the pleasure”) in working with clients and with architects. “Every interior is dictated by who the client is, and what their needs in the brief are,” he says. “Every interior is unique.” Furthermore, Freedman was acclaimed as a mentor. Many famous designers and architects credit a key element of their success as “working with George.” Sam Marshall said: “I learned that getting colours right is not as easy as it seems; that anything is possible, that you must never compromise…” Iain Halliday gives a delightful description of meeting Freedman at his first interview: “…Brooks Brothers shirt, blue and red polka dot bowtie, and a charcoal pinstriped suit with matching Scottish Terriers at his feet. He remains the model urbane designer: his quick wit, genius for colour, detail and above all, quality, are exemplary.” (These and other tributes were published by Monument magazine - and made available online by John Engelen on the dedece blog - to mark the occasion.) Freedman is currently involved in a number of residential projects with PTW Architects. That’s all the information he’ll divulge at the moment. Rest assured he’ll be doing something innovative and brilliant, and having fun in the process. Watch this space. About the Author 'REEF Magazine – Hamilton Island & the Great Barrier Reef' is a magazine that showcases all that Hamilton Island has to offer, from events, to an exciting array of activities, attractions and more. You can pick up your complimentary copy of 'REEF Magazine' at any Hamilton Island hotel, and you can also access some of our feature articles right here on The Island Blog.