CUMBERLAND — A chair or table crafted by Gregg Lipton isn’t just a functional piece of furniture; it could also be considered something of a work of art.
Lipton uses wood, veneer, glass and metal to make custom contemporary furnishings. The product line that he designs and handcrafts includes dining and occasional tables, seating, casework, desks and cabinets, beds and headboards.
His business, Gregg Lipton Furniture, also does commission work. Lipton’s custom commissions fit into specialized environments such as office suites, restaurants and other public spaces, and his designs also appear in many homes.
Lipton, 53, started his business in Portland in 1987 and moved it to Cumberland three years later. He does his work in an 1860s lumber mill that ran until the 1940s and later became a summer home.
About 20 percent of his clients are in Maine, while the bulk are in more metropolitan areas such as Boston, Philadelphia and Washington, D.C.
His contemporary works are “just the kind of design and style that comes out of me,” he said last week. “It’s funny; I don’t necessarily live with this style, but this is what I design and make.”
Lipton noted that “I just haven’t been stuck in any one look,” and the influences on his work vary – one circle-back chair he designed is inspired by Frank Lloyd Wright’s barrel chair.
He has done work for the Chebeague Island Inn, as well as the White Barn Inn in Kennebunk, New York City establishments, and several other places throughout the country, as well as for the Royal Caribbean Cruise Lines. He just shipped two chairs to a client in Sidney, Australia.
Lipton, whose benches can also be found at the Portland Museum of Art, noted that Maine has a strong furniture community.
“I love my peers up here,” he said, “I’d say the majority of the work that they do is more reproduction-like; a little more traditional.”
For him, getting into furniture making was turning a hobby into a career. Although he once helped start a construction company, he found that he wanted to work on a different scale.
Lipton was the only Maine exhibitor at the 29th Smithsonian Craft Show in April – which he noted was unusual – and only one of seven furniture exhibitors among the total 120.
Lipton’s other show this year will be this November, in Philadelphia.
While Lipton’s work has strong aesthetic qualities, he wants his clients to embrace the functional aspects of his designs. For example, he said he would encourage clients concerned about protecting a table he made to use the furniture for its intended purpose.
“It’ll still be around; it’s not going to fall apart,” he said. “It’ll show some character.”
Gregg Lipton, who has run a furniture business in Cumberland since 1990, with three of his designs: a three-seat bench, rocking chair and scallop-style mirror frame.