Lifestyle: Grow Your Furniture


By Cody Fenwick

Nascent British company Full Grown plans to offer a limited but unique range of furniture pieces–though perhaps its greatest offering is its innovative approach to production.

Eschewing traditional methods of lumber harvesting and construction, Full Grown grows its chairs, frames, lighting features, and a few other experimental items, from the ground up. Trees are grown and shaped around molds into the desired final form to eliminate the inefficiencies of carving up and reassembling mature trees, as is typical in lumber manufacturing.

BTR spoke with Gavin Munro, founder of Full Grown, who thinks of the method as a kind of “organic 3D-printing.” In a TEDx talk he gave on his methods, Munro mused that wood is just “solid air and sunshine.” He reasoned that if he could coax the trees into growing into a desirable shape from the start, he could eliminate much of the energy that it takes to build furniture.

Once production and cultivation are streamlined, Munro estimates that the process might require as little as 25 percent of the energy of conventional furniture manufacturing methods. However, he cautions that these are preliminary numbers.

Additionally, chairs from Full Grown should be sturdier and longer lasting than typical chairs, which have joints that tend to loosen over time.

As Munro is happy to admit, his approach is not an entirely new idea. But Full Grown’s development of the concept brings the capacity for continual refinement and scalable production.

For instance, one insight Munro has gained is that it’s most effective to grow chairs upside down, starting with the back of the chair, from a single plant. It’s much more difficult to grow four trees, starting with the legs, into a single solid piece, as he first tried.

“I did 200 attempts before I got the first prototype chair, so there’s been a few mistakes,” he quips. Munro hopes that once all the kinks are worked out, the methods can be shared for anyone interested in taking up a similar project.

Full Grown expects the first chairs to go on sale in the middle of 2017, with details forthcoming. Thus far, Munro has favored fast growing willow trees for his purposes, though he also uses sycamore, ash, hazel, crab apple, and two kinds of oak, each of which has pros and cons.

What other kinds of objects can the public expect Full Grown to grow in the future? Munro says the possibilities remain wide open at this point.

“It’s a matter of starting to figure out the shapes and patterns that work best, and starting to think of what can come from those,” he explains.

But it seems the public has no shortage of ideas.

“We are staring to get interesting requests,” he says. “You’d be surprised how many people want a coffin grown.”

All photos courtesy of Full Grown, Ltd.