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Best of 2018: Growing furniture in mass-production

Originally published on 15 April 2018

Perhaps you have grown your own vegetables, herbs, or even your own lampshade made of mycelium, but have you ever grown a chair? Rather than using traditional methods, or even modern ones like 3D printing, to make furniture, the company Full Grown just lets them grow in mass-production!

Wooden furniture is traditionally made by sawing a tree into appropriately sized and shaped pieces, which are then put together. However, cutting a tree to size of course leaves a lot of sawdust and other waste material. In order to cut out this waste material, and slashing the carbon footprint and energy consumption of furniture production, designer and artist Gavin Munro decided to start growing furniture, using living trees.

The idea of growing furniture is not new. Banker and farmer John Krubsack was the first to create a living chair, which was harvested in 1914 after having grown for 11 years. Others followed his example, and even took it to the next level to create entire buildings (a technique called baubotanik).

However, what is new about Full Grown is that the furniture is ‘mass-produced’. The company has an orchard of 500 trees, which are grown in the shapes of tables, chairs and lamps. The carbon footprint and the energy consumption is 75 per cent lower compared to normal furniture manufacture. In addition, the trees absorb CO2 while they grow, emitting oxygen. The orchard is also a haven for wildlife.

The trees used for the farming include willow, oak, apple, hazel, cherry, ash, and sycamore, which are bend into shape using frames and ties. Each tree grows differently, so every piece of furniture will be unique. Of course, this type of ‘Zen 3D printing’ takes a lot of time, so customers have to be patient. Willow is the fastest growing tree, and is ready to reap in 3-4 years, while oak, the slowest, takes 6 to 10 years to create a chair.

Photos: Full Grown