Gavin Munro used to be a conventional furniture designer in the U.K. His work previously required the typical subtractive process of taking lumber from trees and removing material to make furniture. But today he and his company Full Grown have developed an entirely different approach: They grow the furniture by managing the shape that trees grow. Literally, it’s furniture that grows on trees.
Part of Munro’s inspiration came from an overgrown bonsai tree that looked like a chair, and another part comes from undergoing intensive childhood treatments to straighten his own spine. “It’s where I learnt patience,” he said. “There were long periods of staying still, plenty of time to observe what was going on and reflect. It was only after doing this project for a few years a friend pointed out that I must know exactly what it’s like to be shaped and grafted on a similar time scale.”
To make his furniture, Munro trains and prunes young tree branches as they grow, shaping them over specially made forms. Additionaly, some sprouted furniture parts are grafted onto other sprouted furniture parts to shape the final piece. It takes four to eight years to grow a tree this way. There are chairs, tables, and lamps all growing in his carefully manicured orchard.
“The first challenge is the practical fact that what we’re doing is neatly organizing a small forest,” he said. “I’m only making 50 or so pieces per year but for every 100 trees you grow there are a 1,000 branches you need to care for, and 10,000 shoots you have to prune at the right time. It’s an art-form in itself keeping track of everything.”
He estimates his chairs grown on trees will take only 25 percent of the energy needed to produce a wooden chair with conventional means. Because there are no manufactured joints or glue involved, and the grain structure of the tree flows through all the parts, Munro thinks his furniture is especially strong and resilient and could last for centuries.
You can read more about it at his website fullgrown.co.uk.