How did you get into the interior design industry?
I started my working life in the civil service in the valuations office in York. I used to go out and value properties and I was always more interested in the architecture. I was always getting into trouble. A friend, who was a designer, said to me, ‘George you should be doing interior design’. And I thought, ‘you’re right’. So I went and trained in London at [exclusive wallpaper and fabric designer and retailer] Osborne & Little.
Why did you decide to move back up north?
I decided to move to Newcastle, where my mother was born, after I met my partner. I opened my interior design shop, selling exclusive wallpaper and fabrics from all over the world, in Newcastle’s Central Arcade. People in London said to me it would never work and for the first three months it didn’t. Then it just took off. Within 18 months, I had to find larger premises. I moved to High Bridge and I was there for around 15 years. I wanted to move more into the commercial sector so I sold the shop and now work from home.
How did the television work come about?
I was a member of the British Institute of Interior Designers and, through that, I was asked to do a screen test for the Better Homes programme. I went down to London with no expectations. In the test, I was just me; I didn’t know the camera was on. Afterwards, they said they’d let me know in a couple of weeks. They rang that night when I was on the train going home saying the job was mine. I was shocked – and terrified. I did the Better Homes show with Carol [Vorderman] for seven years. Carol and I have become great friends. She’s been – and still is – a huge influence in my life. She regularly flies up to Newcastle [Carol has her own pilot’s licence] and stays with me. The television work had a big impact on my business; it took everything to a different level and I was working all over the country on lots of different projects.
What has been your greatest achievement in your career?
Winning five stars at the International Property Awards, two years in a row [2013-14, 2014-15]. Five stars have never been awarded outside London before. It’s a huge accolade. It’s like the Oscars for interior design.
Which have been your favourite projects?
I designed Bianca Jagger’s London apartment on the Embankment. And I also did the New York apartment for a high profile society lady. We got on like a house on fire. She was lots of fun.
George Bond Commercial Designs has also recently completed a hotel in Baghdad. It was owned by an Iraqi whose family had to flee when Saddam Hussein came into power. After he was deposed, he could go back and reclaim the family’s properties and one was a hotel. We completely redesigned and transformed the interior and it is now quite spectacular, especially the rooftop swimming pool. But I did it all from plans and photographs. There was no way I was going over there!
How did you get involved in the Northern Design Awards?
I was asked about six years ago. I brought in HRH Princess Katarina of Yugoslavia and [Lord] Julian Brinton to join existing judges which included George Clarke and Linda Barker. The awards cover the area north of Birmingham up to the top of Scotland and include architecture, interior design, furniture design and landscaping. It was very difficult to pick the winners. The standard was extremely high this year. The awards ceremony [which took place on October 30 in Liverpool] was spectacular and next year, I’m pleased to report, it is going to take place in Newcastle. We’re currently looking at venues.
What makes good design?
Thinking outside of the box. I say it all of the time. It’s like cooking, anyone can follow a recipe; the outstanding people create something new and original. You have to look to break the rules.
What is your favourite building or interior in the North East?
Architecturally, I really like Grainger Town. There’s so much detail on the outside of the buildings, which you don’t find very often. You have to keep the façades, of course. But you can have spectacular interior design inside the buildings.