This Orchard Grows Furniture

by 
Ron Kushner, for the Shuttle
Full Grown (fullgrown.co.uk) photos
A row of ash trees whose limbs are being shaped into chairs, top; above, a newly chair heads to the workshop for finishing.

In 2006, Gavin Munro had an amazing vision. Rather than cut down trees to create furniture, why not guide the trees to grow directly into chairs and tables that could be harvested right in a field? Munro’s “forest” could yield furniture the way an orchard yields apples. He started a company called “Full Grown” to bring his vision to reality.

In his garden in Wirksworth, England, there are rows of ash, oak, sycamore, hazel, beech and willow trees. Each individual tree is being formed into a piece of furniture. The chairs grow upside-down with their legs upward.

By 2016, over 500 pieces were in the field, ready for harvesting. 

Guiding the tree’s growth, Munro selects branches that seem inclined to reach in a given direction. As they bud and grow, the branches are tied to frames that keep them growing in the right direction. Later, they are bent to form the proper angles for the furniture’s seat and legs.

The idea of training trees into unique shapes is not a new concept. In 1929, Axel Erlandson, a farmer in California, planted a row of trees as a windbreak and noticed that some branches lost their bark and began to graft together. He developed a hobby of experimentation with tree shapes. He created many incredible shapes and designs. Unfortunately, he died in 1962 without teaching anyone the specifics of what he grew and how he actually did it.

Over the past 11 years, Munro has “harvested” a variety of furniture grown in this manner, including lamps, tables and chairs. One of the chairs is actually used as his office chair. He is continually learning how to work with a tree’s natural inclinations and growing differences.

Photos by permission of Full Grown. For more information, visit fullgrown.co.uk.