Yes, you read the title correctly. This couple grows custom furniture. The couple, Alice and Gavin Munro, started their farm Full Grown back in 2012 when they became fully dedicated to the business of custom grown furniture. Gavin got started back in 2006 when he first started an attempt to grow a couple of chairs. Now, the company grows chairs, lamps, and tables.
This idea isn’t anything new. Glass mosaics date back to 300 B.C. and, as with numerous forms of art, shaping trees and greenery dates back to ancient times from the Chinese, Japanese, and Romans.
Gavin’s inspiration was two-fold. He was born with a curved spine and, throughout his youth, he spent a significant amount of time wearing a corrective metal brace that was meant to gradually guide his spine into the correct direction. This, combined with seeing a Bonsai tree that resembled a throne sparked his interest in guiding nature into creative shapes.
“Instead of force-growing a tree for 50 years and then cutting it down and making it into smaller and smaller bits, the idea is to grow the tree into the shape that you want directly. It’s a kind of zen 3D printing,” said Gavin.
He also reflected on the care and excellence of the medical staff who helped him at a young age and aims to make Full Grown a place that emulates those behaviors. Of course, guiding nature to grow into particular shapes, namely furniture, is no easy feat. The couple has seen their fair share of disasters, including an initial attempt being stomped by cows and chomped by rabbits.
There’s also the direction of nature to consider. They discovered that forcing a tree in a direction it didn’t want to grow would stunt its growth. Learning this, they discovered the best way to effectively grow things in the right direction was to guide the trees into shapes using their naturally occurring growth patterns/directions.
The main idea of their process of live-sculpting growing trees into furniture is environmental sustainability and one-of-a-kind design. Manufacturers use 30% of the energy in the United States and the furniture industry is a notorious global contributor to logging and deforestation. Lessening environmental impact while providing uniquely beautiful pieces of art that grow naturally is what they’re looking to do.
“You know the damage that we do with forestry. We’re only just starting to really understand that. This is kind of the opposite really, we use ancient techniques that we used in the stone age,” Gavin said.
Still, the furniture growth process is time-consuming, labor-intensive, and more than a little delicate, so the price points are fairly hefty. By 2030, some 20% of the U.S. population will be over the age of 65, but, in a statement about Full Grown back in 2017, author Richard Davies reflected on the words of writer Annie Dillard: How we spend our days is, of course, how we spend our time. How we spend our time certainly transcends how much time we spend; something the Munros understand quite well.
The average attention span of online shoppers is eight seconds, but the uniqueness of Full Grown’s products has had no problem grabbing attention across the world from individuals to museums to art and design houses. The pieces to come from the Munros are already commissioned out through 2030, though the first round of ready-to-purchase lamps and chairs will be ready by 2022 or 2023.
After a house and a car, furniture is the third most expensive thing we’ll buy in our lifetimes. This furniture is certainly no exception, but for good reason. They estimate that a grown chair will take between six and nine years to grow, then another year to dry out before being ready to sell. This meticulous of a process has price points to match: lamps range between $1,120 and $2,780, tables between $3,120 and $15,600, and chairs sit just under $12,500.
“Once we can get our Furniture Orchard having regular harvests then we can begin to plan a whole farm and start some larger-scale experiments in production and ecosystem design,” said the Munros.
As nature is ever-moving, so are their plans to bring its beauty to those who would most appreciate it. You can invest in their company and help its future. By purchasing shares, investors will receive payments from the sales of the furniture. They expect that those payments will begin with the first round of furniture that’s ready to sell.
“By buying a share in our chairs, you are investing in 180 increasingly desirable and unique pieces of art and design. At the end of each year when the chairs are harvested and sold, investors will receive payments. We expect payments to begin around 2021-22 and to continue over the following 5-7 years until all the chairs are sold,” said Gavin Munro.
This investment in art, design, sustainability, and an irrefutably unique idea is something that we don’t often see in a lifetime. You can learn more about Full Grown here.