© Full Grown

A forest of chairs

Posted on 18 June 2015.

Going against the grain in the wood industry, Gavin Munro grows trees in the shape of pieces of furniture that are slowly coming to life on his plantation.

The Full Grown method probably uses only 25% of the energy needed to produce a conventional chair.

From a distance it looks like a vineyard. But when you look more closely, you’ll see strange blue shapes mingling with the perfectly aligned rows of plants. On just one hectare in Derbyshire in England, it's not grapes being grown. The artist and designer Gavin Munro is growing chairs, lampshades and tables. A surprising project he began 10 years ago under the name of Full Grown.

Gavin uses recycled plastic molds to help his trees grow in a particular shape; they slowly develop around their strange supports. But it is more than a question of just watching and waiting. Every day, Gavin works his way through his plantation pruning young trees and gently guiding selected branches to grow in the right direction so he can join them to form a single piece of wood. Once the tree has the desired shape, Gavin leaves it to thicken for a few years, while continuing to take care of it every day. And when the chair is finally ready to be "harvested", he planes and polishes it. No sawing and no assembly is required. It takes years to produce a chair - four to five years for willows and up to nine years for oaks.

These trees are grown as naturally as possible, according to Gavin Munro. For example he uses milk to treat mildew, a fungal disease. On the Full Grown site, he explains that he is also trying to reduce energy consumption to a minimum, and recycles and reuses everything he can. The plantation therefore consumes the equivalent of eight 60-watt bulbs burning eight hours a day for an entire year of operation. In total, the Full Grown method uses probably only 25% of the energy needed to produce a chair conventionally. But it’s the whole process that is more environmentally friendly and for a very simple reason as the designer explains in The Guardian :

"To grow this chair, you don’t need a truck to transport [the wood], a chainsaw to cut down [the tree], you don’t need the factory with its machines. You don’t need to build roads through forests. You don’t need all that stuff."

The first chairs will be harvested in late 2016, before being sold for around 2,500 pounds (about 3,500 euros) each the following year. Beautiful, unique and sustainable pieces, developed in close collaboration with Mother Nature.