top of page

The Taste of Sigmund Freud

Like Monsieur Jourdain who wrote prose without knowing it, Monsieur Freud would have done decoration without being aware of inventing the grammar of a style that his followers, priests and followers of his new religion would perpetuate ever since.

by Philippe Renaud

sigmund freud 2.png

Freud has, in his living environment, around a couch, a new secular confessional, eclectic seats, occasional tables cluttered with cultivated bric-a-brac, bookcases loaded as indices of exceptional culture and display cases stuffed with antique trinkets, more or less broken archaeological traces found in the dustbins of antiquity. One imagines that these heaps of collections inspired him with his innovative theories and that the memories   of travels that he accumulates dictate his mythological or biblical dreams.  Cela fait il un style  ou  reste une simple  accumulation de collectionneur obsessionnel ?

The library
The office

To support his memoirs The good Doctor Freud certainly created a cozy, confidential atmosphere, specific to low mass and the modern act of contrition, but made him an unconscious decorator like the character inspired by Andrée Putman in Woody's film Allen "Interior" is more of an idea than a reality. "Let's marry her".

Kafka on Freud's couch
The couch ©Freud museum, London

The sofa is at the heart of the experience. In Vienna, as in London, at Freud's, it is a classic "diaper" inspired by the oriental "diwans" corresponding to the medical practice of the time. 

These sofa beds, Freud saw  at the Universal Exhibition of 1873 as  among his upper middle class patients  he surrenders before imposing  the rite of visiting his home. In his office, he therefore quite naturally places  the couch offered by Mrs. Benevisti to one of his patients (it is the one that can be seen in London in his last house), dresses it in Qashqai rug, like a nomadic layer suitable for the daybed, social conversation or sentimental happy hour. He will make it the tool of his practice, means of relaxation for the patient, almost hypnotic, seat of the liberating discourse and the confession of the desire for the fault  essential.

 Si, at the dawn of the 20th century.  Sigmund Freud was an essential innovator in the history of thought, a revolutionary analyst of sexuality and its mysteries in perpetual becoming, brilliant compiler of the intuitions and theories of doctors and philosophers who le  compete with or preceded him, did he at the same time create a Freud style in the rules he followed to create as part of his treatments. A real door opener on unhealthy curiosity and the enigmas of the brain, he simply flattered his world by remaining in the ranks of cultivated questions of the moment. By pretending to upset everything like a normally rebellious teenager, he remains   a good son of a Viennese bourgeois   at the dawn of the 20th century… It is therefore not surprising that he inscribe his daily life in the common framework of life of the wealthy Austrian intellectuals of the time who, without unnecessary ostentation, sought in a bohemian, eclectic and cultivated decor, to erase the Biedermeier taste too reserved to express the greedy disorder of the élites  Mitteleuropa,  great travelers in space and time, and collectors of everything and nothing. In Paris, at Charcot's he admired the collection of antiques:   he also piled up Greek and Roman, Middle Eastern and Chinese curiosities   like so many traces revealing mythologies to be reinvented to better understand the mechanisms of eternal drives. This tic still persists in analysts' offices as a sneaky distraction, but reassuring and necessarily useful for the silences that are part of the introspective game. Against the temptation of the blank page decor of the monastic cell or of the pure and hard modernist space, the Freudian walls are picture rails more or less encumbered with images which badly hide their hidden meaning. but effectively titillate the buried desire of the analysand as much as that nestled in the depths of the analysand.

Sigmund Freud (Heinz Bennent) and Princess Marie Bonaparte (Catherine Deneuve) in the TV movie "Princess Marie" by Benoît Jacquot, 2004

In order not to betray himself by displaying his reactions to listening to his patient, Freud sits in an armchair behind the couch. His, upholstered in leather, hesitates between an anthropomorphic aesthetic à la  Gaudi and the accessory of pleasure for a busy brothel. Coincidence or necessity? While Vienna is the stronghold of the Sezessionstill, Freud does not seem to espouse the ways of modernism and   seems to forget that an explicit sexual allusion can orient the memory in side roads that lead to the opposite meaning .  Freud, in a fit of lucidity, did he explore the notion of a failed act in his choice of furnishings?

In this space  the objects and works of art are the necessary echo of a mental landscape as beautiful as the mountains. They flatter troubled minds  by the oddity of feelings and promote the dream of finally becoming the artist of one's self...

Leather armchair with anthropomorphic aesthetics 

There are many implicit rules in the art of creating the atmosphere conducive to psychoanalytic treatment, but not in the Freud  style as such.

At best he is an influencer before his time. Subsequently, the master's disciples took liberties to recreate this atmosphere, but they remained attentive to creating, like the master, the reassuring cocoon which, according to the supposed culture of their patient, will allow him to leave the unspoken from early childhood. The decor inherited from Freud is nomadic but fatally heir, it breathes the culture of which it follows the mysteries of initiation and smacks of double meaning and intuitive interpretation in order, like the phoenix, to be reborn from its revelation when the analysand in turn becomes analyst...


Freudian decor is simply a nomadic myth that lasts and travels around the world, not a style.

bottom of page