Good Thinking

Trees trained to grow into furniture

Trees trained to grow into fur...
A full-grown chair is created from one single intertwined tree
A full-grown chair is created from one single intertwined tree
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A hexagonal mirror frame growing
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A hexagonal mirror frame growing
A full-grown chair is created from one single intertwined tree
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A full-grown chair is created from one single intertwined tree
A full-grown chair is created from one single intertwined tree
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A full-grown chair is created from one single intertwined tree
Chairs being created over plastic formers
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Chairs being created over plastic formers
The face of the wood is planed and smoothed to provide a comfortable, flat surface
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The face of the wood is planed and smoothed to provide a comfortable, flat surface
A timber spiral lampshade
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A timber spiral lampshade
A timber spiral lampshade is a unique object
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A timber spiral lampshade is a unique object
A spiral lampshade growing
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A spiral lampshade growing
A hexagonal mirror surround after harvesting and finishing
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A hexagonal mirror surround after harvesting and finishing
A round mirror surround after harvesting and finishing
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A round mirror surround after harvesting and finishing
Each Full Grown timber item is unique
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Each Full Grown timber item is unique
A group of lampshades growing
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A group of lampshades growing
A prototype willow chair
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A prototype willow chair
Trees are grown into chairs over a period of years
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Trees are grown into chairs over a period of years
A mirror surround being grown in the field
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A mirror surround being grown in the field
Coaxing trees to form chairs
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Coaxing trees to form chairs
The process of growing chairs straight from trees is a lengthy one
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The process of growing chairs straight from trees is a lengthy one
A row of trees over formers growing into future chairs
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A row of trees over formers growing into future chairs
Chairs grown from trees should outlast ordinary, assembled furniture
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Chairs grown from trees should outlast ordinary, assembled furniture
An assembled wooden piece that inspired Gavin Munro
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An assembled wooden piece that inspired Gavin Munro
A set of assembled wooden pieces that inspired Gavin Munro
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A set of assembled wooden pieces that inspired Gavin Munro
Coaxing trees into chairs takes years of patience and nurturing
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Coaxing trees into chairs takes years of patience and nurturing
Gavin Munro and one of his creations
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Gavin Munro and one of his creations
An early willow prototype chair as proof of concept
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An early willow prototype chair as proof of concept
A field of growing furniture
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A field of growing furniture
The branches of the tree wind around and around a plastic former
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The branches of the tree wind around and around a plastic former
Many lampshades growing in a row
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Many lampshades growing in a row
Each piece of furniture is planed and smoothed after harvesting
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Each piece of furniture is planed and smoothed after harvesting
There are no joints at all in this furniture
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There are no joints at all in this furniture
Many types of wood are planned to be used in future pieces
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Many types of wood are planned to be used in future pieces
Each and every piece is a uniquely grown item
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Each and every piece is a uniquely grown item
The small, but intensive, field in which the furniture is grown
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The small, but intensive, field in which the furniture is grown
Furniture slowly growing in a row
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Furniture slowly growing in a row
An early attempt at growing a chair, sans former
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An early attempt at growing a chair, sans former
The chair growing process in a nutshell
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The chair growing process in a nutshell
Eventually, Gavin Munro and his team hope to grow tables too
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Eventually, Gavin Munro and his team hope to grow tables too
View gallery - 36 images

Much of our furniture is made from timber. The wood to make that furniture has to be harvested from a felled tree which is then milled, sawed, planed, sanded, put back together with glue and screws, and finished. Wouldn't it be easier to avoid most of these steps and simply coax a tree to grow into a piece of furniture? That way, it would be one-piece, inherently strong, and could potentially last many years longer than assembled furniture. Gavin Munro thought this, too, and about a decade ago set about achieving this goal. He now creates furniture by cajoling trees to grow into one-piece items that are not only inherently practical, they are also eminently beautiful.

Munro is a man with a great deal of patience. Over a period of between four to eight years, he trains trees to grow over plastic formers to become chairs; carefully interlacing their branches to form a solid, intricate unit. Each tendril is slowly and deliberately coerced into creating entwined legs, stiles, rails, and stretchers that create a fully-formed piece of furniture.

Of course, to support his business (and probably help retain his sanity) in the intervening years between tree chairs, he is also creating quicker-growing mirror surrounds and lamp shades for sale before the chairs reach maturity. Though, when we say "quicker" these, too, take more time than the average person would call fast; the standard tree in Munro’s repertoire – the willow – still takes several years to grow big enough for a mirror surround.

To create this fascinating, one-off furniture, Munro has been slowly bending and shaping trees over plastic formers for nearly nine years now. Another year or so away from a large harvest of fully-formed furniture, Munro has still managed to produce the aforementioned mirror surrounds, some lamp shades and one or two prototype larger pieces to prove the concept.

A hexagonal mirror surround after harvesting and finishing
A hexagonal mirror surround after harvesting and finishing

But, with every 100 trees grown there are an attendant 1,000 branches that grow with them that must be shaped, coaxed, and cared for and, in turn, a further 10,000 shoots that must be pruned at precisely the right time to preserve the health of the tree while maintaining the desired shape. It is not work for the flighty or the impatient.

While training and pruning young tree branches to grow over formers, once the interwoven shape is achieved, Munro continually nurtures the trees as they mature and thicken. Then, when they have reached the desired size and thickness, they are harvested in winter and allowed to season for some months afterward until dry enough to plane the faces of the seats and arms to provide practical flat surfaces and to reveal the wood-grain inside.

Along with the willow (salix viminalis) that Munro and his company, "Full Grown", started with, he is now branching out into other species, including Ash, Sycamore,Hazel, Crab Apple, Sessile Oak and Red Oak. This inclusion of new timber types means that other products can be grown to take advantage of different grain, hardness, finish, and texture. A fully-grown, one-piece table is just one such item that may be fashioned from one or more of these new sorts of timber.

Eventually, Gavin Munro and his team hope to grow tables too
Eventually, Gavin Munro and his team hope to grow tables too

The idea of turning trees directly into furniture isn’t exactly new; apparently the Chinese put rocks in holes with trees so that the roots grew up around them to form stools, and one man in England has been promoting the art of growing stools in people’s garden for some time now. But Munro’s process of farming trees into furniture at an industrial scale – rather than at a dispersed or cottage-industry level – is a significant point of difference for Full Grown furniture.

Another point of difference is that, despite being produced on a largish scale, the tree furniture does not consume enormous amounts of energy as ordinary tree farming does. The trees are not sawed down, chopped up, carted away, and milled, for a start, which saves a lot of energy.

Further, the tending of the trees uses the least amount of water possible, the new plastic formers used to shape the trees are made from recycled plastic, and the office area (a caravan) has solar power and a composting toilet. This all means, from early calculations conducted by Munro and his team, that they barely use around 25 percent of the energy required to make a timber chair using ordinary methods.

Not quite yet available for sale, Munro is in discussions with a few galleries, with the first commercially-available chairs expected to be ready for sale by around the middle of 2017. Other pieces – such as the geometric lamps and mirror frames are expected to be made available sometime late in 2016. Each piece will be a unique heirloom for generations to come, and duly marked with a Certificate of Provenance.

Source:Full Grown

View gallery - 36 images
17 comments
Deres
Great idea ! Why not doing a sofa or simple stools ? Why cutting them ? People may love to plant a living bench in their garden, especially if it also provides flowers each year.
Buellrider
I'd love to have 6 of those chairs. One of the neatest environmentally sound ideas that is actually happening now instead of just being "researched or studied" as are so many things being reported these days.
Esi 1976
What if they grow like car chassis, or even a whole car body!
Madlyb
Formed furniture has been around for literally centuries in the Appalachian mountains, but this take it to a new level of both functionality and durability...very cool.
ezeflyer
Beautiful, Zen-like way to pass the time. I wonder if Gavin has tried using hemp, or cannabis for his creations. It is a fast growing plant with one of the strongest natural fibers available.
Bruce Williams
Like the ancient Chinese tradition of binding a woman's feet into a lotus blossom and the practice of brass neck rings in Burma and other disgraceful acts of torture, all in the name of "beauty". I'm sure this hurts the trees. Not only is their appearance so bizarre to other trees causing embarrassment and shame in the forest, they are cut down in the prime of life only to have someone's ass sitting on what may have been their face. Someone needs to tell Greenpeace about this!
featherstone
The concept is high design. Wood is a miraculous material. If we learned how to speed up the process a little ( waiting some is good for us ) we could grow incredibly strong BUILDINGS even, that would stand up to horrendous shaking ( I live in L.A. ) and dispense with all sorts of nasty destructive construction methods. Living in the trees would foster many different kinds of sports and fun activities. Think of Tarzan on a vine. If you think this is absurd.......go look at a Central California Redwood Tree. A solid would musical instrument would take on new meaning. Featherstone
McDesign
I wonder about trying this with kudzu? Here in Georgia, we plant kudzu by throwing it on the ground and running away, so as not to overtaken. Hmmmmm - may have to experiment with this
jjsmail
I saw an entire room full of furniture like this in China some years ago, made for the town rulers. I would say this is just as astounding, and very beautiful! Any of it would be a welcome addition to our home.
JaxCavalera
@Bruce You do realize that the device you are typing on relied on the "murder"of a tree. I mean yeah lets call green peace because someone has a business venture that is causing LESS energy consumption and dealing MINIMAL er.. "wounds" to the trees being used. The communication components required to establish networking were delivered using cardboard or wood pallets. The device you are using was packaged using a by-product of wood too. Best we call green peace for that to right? Find a hobby and do something that actually matters... for real :) This is a great concept and it's nice to see things like this really taking shape. I bet the sale value on one of those furniture items will be brutally expensive!