Art

Old Is New Again for a Local Furniture Maker

David Ellison creates one-of-a-kind pieces at the Lorimer Workshop

Posted

The Lorimer Workshop’s founder David Ellison knows that a table is never just a table. It’s a meeting place; a place to entertain and celebrate, to catch up and enjoy the comfort and company of family and friends. That’s why each piece that David custom-designs and handcrafts is as unique as the carefully chosen lumber it’s made from and customer it’s made for. “People want to be part of the discussion,” says David of his customer demographic and their creative input.

When David took an “early retirement” eight years ago with plans to spend more time pursuing his lifelong hobby of restoring antique furniture, he had no idea that his passion project would become a full time business. He started an online Etsy store to sell his furniture, and the company that specializes in sales of arts and handicrafts was so impressed with the product they placed an order of their own, filling their Brooklyn offices with dozens of David-designed desks. Now with a staff of seven and a work- shop in an addition to Providence’s renovated Dyerville Mill, David and his team are crafting custom tables for homes across the country.

David has always been interested in the history and functionality of design, a love he credits to his mother and a childhood visiting old houses all across his native Scotland. His tables have a story already engrained in their purpose and construction technique, whether crafting a utilitarian American farm table or a contemporary industrial design with legs crafted from old cast iron machinery. “There’s almost an excitement about building something the way it would have been built 100, 200 years ago, with some improvements, with modern materials and saws.”

David draws inspiration from the unique origins, eras and cultures of table styles, as well as from the customers themselves. “The creativity over the years has been the customer’s creativity,” says David on the input and collaboration he embraces. Often customers will bring him an idea or even their own design, and David will work to adapt their vision into a piece of furniture that will become part of their home and family history. David documents the whole process, giving insight into the artistry and workmanship behind each table and acquainting the customer with their table before it even arrives. When he can, David personally delivers the product, sharing a glass of wine and toasting the memories yet to be made around the table.

He likes to use salvaged wood as often as possible. He has long-standing history with the demolition crews around the state, and on a recent road trip tells me he pulled off the road twice upon hearing of old mill spaces that were being gutted on a timber beam treasure hunt. “Its tremendous fun to look at a board, and envisage how to make it into a table that has that same uniqueness.” David’s designs don’t just include the natural flaws of the wood, they embrace them, in a way that can only be described as art. Nothing goes to waste in his studio. In fact, things seem to accumulate. His love of items and antiques that tell stories of past owners and lifetimes is evident from walls covered in vintage posters and a covetable collection of typewriters. An old bicycle sits in a far corner. “I probably can’t make a table out of that,” David jokes. But that won’t stop him from trying.

Touring through the studio I begin to see the endless possibilities in everything through his artisan eye. Something tells me I’ll be back to make some hardwood history of my own.