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UK Company Is Growing Furniture by Molding Trees into Chairs, Tables or Lamps

Money might not grow on trees, but it seems that furniture does! Gavin Munro, a UK-based designer, has come up with a brilliant alternative to chopping beautiful trees and converting them into furniture. He simply molds young saplings to take the shape of any piece of furniture he wants. Once matured, the trees are ready to be harvested and used with no cutting, sawing, or assembling required.

Munro, who runs a company called ‘Full Grown’, said he wants to “rethink our relationship with trees and time.” His idea is to get rid of environmentally unfriendly practices involved in the mass manufacture of furniture, and replace it with a much easier process.

“When you look at it from a manufacturing point of view and from a design point of view, it actually makes total sense. Why would you grow trees, chop them down with all the faff?” he questioned. “Why don’t you just grow the shape you want and it is eminently scalable? You can make thousands of these in the same way as you can make 10, but each one is unique.”

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He first came up with the idea of growing furniture when he was working as a gardener in California and also made furniture with washed up driftwood on the side. One day, as he was working on some wood, he recalled how his mother’s bonsai tree had outgrown itself to resemble a throne. That’s when he thought, “Why do we need to bring all of these things together – chop the trees down, make them small, stick them back together again. We can just start from growing the tree from the beginning.”

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After several attempts at what he calls ‘botanical manufacturing’, he finally managed to develop a prototype chair using four trees. Munro is now tending to a small 2.5-acre ‘furniture forest’ of 400 trees in a field north of Derby, England. He uses specially designed plastic frames to mold young willow, oak, ash, and sycamore trees into the shapes of chairs, tables, frames, or lamps.

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A forest that grows furniture sounds like a setting right out of Alice in Wonderland, but there’s nothing magical about it, just a lot of hard work. The forest consists of rows upon rows of trees covered in blue plastic molds, converting them into furniture as they grow. Once they take the desired shape, they are nurtured until thick, mature and ready for harvest. For every 100 trees, there are about 10,000 shoots that need pruning and 1,000 branches that need constant care.

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After harvesting, each piece is planed and finished to show off the wood grain inside. “It’s an art form in itself, keeping track of everything,” Munro said, describing the process as a “kind of organic 3D printing that uses air, soil, and sunshine as its source material.”

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“In essence, it’s an incredibly simple art,” he added. “You start by training and pruning young tree branches as they grow over specially made formers. At certain points we then graft them together so that the object grows into one solid piece.”

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The entire process takes about four to eight years, resulting in fully functional, organic, ec0-friendly furniture, more durable and long-lasting than anything else on the market. They’re grown and grafted into one solid piece without any joints that loosen over time. As Munro puts it, “these could last for centuries.”

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Quality isn’t an issue with forest-grown furniture, but logistics and scalability certainly are. For now, Munro expects to grow 50 pieces a year, with the first lot of chairs available for purchase in mid-2017, priced at around $3,700 each. Geometric pendant lamps and mirror frames are expected to go on sale later this year. 

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Photos: Full Grown Ltd./Facebook

Sources: The Guardian, FastCo. Design