Filled with history, passion and, of course, high quality design, the homeware collection from Freud is both a pleasure to look at and a delight to use. Freud is also famed for its stylish café bars, making it ideally placed to create the most functional products for contemporary entertaining.
From delicate glassware to sturdy and stylish stainless steel, the pieces are created to bring some designer flair to everyday tasks such as brewing tea and serving drinks. We interview Gideon Freud, son of the Freud founder, David, who has been working in the business since he was 14 years old to find out more about the company’s rich heritage…
Q: Can you tell us where the company began?
Freud was founded by my father, David Freud, in 1986. He opened a design room and bar together in Shaftesbury Avenue in London. They are both in one architectural space which flows together. You come in on the ground floor and you have our design room, then you go downstairs to where we make cocktails, teas and coffees.
This blend of cocktails and coffee is not one that is seen so often in the UK but in Europe it is much more commonplace and this is where the inspiration for the business began. The idea of the bar was a central European idea as we discovered an interesting gap in British hospitality; you could either go to a pub if you wanted a beer or to a coffee house for a hot drink but each experience was entirely separate. My father had grown up with his father’s stories of the coffee houses of Vienna where everything blended together. He wanted to create a space in which all kinds of life could happen at once and where many different people from all walks of life could gather too.
Q: When did you join the business?
Freud has always been a family business. I’ve been working with my father since I was 14 and first began during the Christmas holidays, working in the shop itself and did everything from selling products to sweeping up the floors after a busy day. I’ve been working with the company on and off since then and when I turned 18 I started behind the bar and then worked my way up through the business to where I am today. I’ve now been full-time for about two years since I graduated from University and feel I’ve now properly joined Freud for the long-haul.
Q: How would you describe the Freud aesthetic in terms of the Freud café?
The idea is that anyone should feel comfortable in the space, we’re there to entertain people and they are our guests. The style of the café is classic and without pretension. In London, the design is the same as it was in 1986. The building is an old Georgian town house and my father was heavily involved in the design of the space and brought ideas from right through architectural history. Before he began Freud, he studied the history of art and completed his Master’s at The Courtauld Institute of Art in London. The bar is almost a homage to his favourite buildings and echoes his belief that the past is a library of ideas. It feels very earthy now, almost quite cave-like in a way. We change the art on the walls but other than that it’s very natural and I think that’s where Freud comes from. There are stone floors, slate bar tops and the walls feel very sandy, there’s nothing that’s synthetic – just the way I like it!
Q: Freud is well known for its café bars and the design side of the company continues to go from strength to strength. What is the Freud secret to a good a design?
We create designs that will stand the test of time, but I would say in the early design stages of Freud products, the initial idea is that the design has to be accessible and useable in everyday life. For example, one of our major bugbears is when you grind pepper then put your pepper mill on the table - you end up with lots of dust which scatters all over the tabletop. It was this irritation that inspired our successful stainless steel collection and so we were compelled to create a pepper mill with minimal mess which was a joy to use every time. So we created the Freud Spice Mill - an object which would look elegant, sit nicely and gently rock, but would also have a very functional aspect which is that you end up eradicating any dust because it sits upside down. The handle works really nicely, it’s a very nice thing to hold and it’s been a real success!
Q: What about other designers? Who do you most admire?
For me, the designer that I love most would definitely be Charles Rennie Mackintosh. We’ve reproduced some of his work including dining chairs that we use at home every day. They’re quite spectacular and again they are timeless – this is the interior aesthetic I am most drawn to. Our first foray was making Rennie Mackintosh furniture. We went to the original designs and the drawings themselves and reproduced them but it was very important that they weren’t out-priced. From there, we also began to produce a piece which became iconic in the 1980s and 90s which is the Freud fan. Through our design inspiration, we took a very classic design but brought it up to date.
Q: Where does your product inspiration come from?
Lots of our ideas are drawn from the past and given a contemporary twist. They should feel comfortable in any setting and you shouldn’t really be able to date when they were designed. As we began to produce more and more, we decided to start designing things from scratch and we began with our alphabet range of cups. People were saying, ‘We want to make our tea in Freud ware’ and so from there we began to expand our stainless steel collection and delight our tea connoisseurs too.
Q: Do you have a piece that stands out from the collection as a favourite?
The stainless steel collection has been an incredible success and encompasses everything from our Freud Espresso Maker to the ever-stylish Spice Mill I mentioned earlier. It’s so hard to choose as I adore using all the products equally. The handle of the Spice Mill actually inspired our successful Tea Ball collection and I feel the tea ball feels really nice to hold and to use, which is crucial.