Christmas Tree Furniture by Fabien Cappello



Royal College of Art graduate Fabien Cappello has created a collection of furniture from unwanted Christmas trees.


Cappello harvested timber from the 1.8 million Christmas trees discarded on the streets of London each January.


The trunks become timber, the branches became dowels, and the needles became a new compressed board material.


Cappello says the project is not about waste collection or recycling, but rather how people integrate with urban environments.


Fabien's work is part of the Royal College of Art show two, which runs until 5 July (closed 3 July).


See our earlier story about Cappello's ECAL graduation projects.

See other Dezeen stories about 2009 Royal College of Art graduates:

Folding Plug by Min-Kyu Choi
The Drop Series by Olivia Decaris
The Toaster Project by Thomas Thwaites


Here are more details from Cappello:


This project is build up around the waste generated by the Christmas industry. There is 1.8 millions Christmas trees in the street of London in January. I took advantage of this huge amount of wood shipped every year in the city.


I collected these trees and treated them with basic wood tools that one could find in any local timber wood shop in London. I used the trunk of the tree and the wooden tree stand as wood, the small branches as dowels and I made a new material out of the needles. For the first collection I created a serie of small occasional piece of furniture, that can, because of their scale, go easily in the homes and broadcast the aesthetic and the vision of the project. I like to imagine, at a next stage, that temporary Christmas tree farm could use wasted space in the inner London. (e.g. a space waiting for refurbishment.) The open farm would provide a little greenery and Christmas trees for the local community and an ‘extra-local’ wood.


Extract from a conversation between Santa Claus and Fabien Cappello (January 2009).

Fabien Cappello : [about the project] I started this project back in mid-December 2007 when a Christmas tree stall popped out around the corner, where I was living in London. I saw the piles of trees arriving and I said to myself that it was quite a lot of wood. I think at this point, I actually noticed the fact that Christmas tree were also wood, I don’t think it came to my mind before… I waited for the beginning of January and I saw all the trees popping up in the street again, but this time the party was over. They were on the bin. [...]  I decided to collect them, and that was not difficult to get thousand of them.


[about recycling] My design is not about solving the problem of the collect of (nor it is about recycling)… maybe it does, but that is not the point. I am looking at how the things works. I am interested in how we live in the city for instance. And what truly compose a city. Not really at an urban scale but more in details. I like to focus on facts that I notice and analyse; for instance : there is at some point of the year around 2 millions of Christmas tree send into the city, this amount of trees represents a lot of wood. From those facts it creates a lot of possibilities. I like to investigate about details or facts that push the possibilities even further. For instance Christmas trees are one of the trees that have one of the faster growing, and most of the trees “consumed” over the Christmas periode are 2 or 3 years old (which is extremely young for wood). And of course this wood is also interesting because it is a part of a very precise system and economy organised around Christmas and I wanted to create my own world within it.

[about the inspiration] During the design process I kept in mind the  story of timber-rafting in North America back in the 19th Century. Timber-rafting is basically a log transportation method in which log are tied together into raft and drifted across a lake or down a wide river. This practise used to be common before the advent of the railroad and the improvement in truck and road network. The raft men -which could number up to 500 used logs to build galleys and organise the space they shared aboard. With the small timber they had to transport, they built cabins, furniture and tools. Those boats could navigate up to 5 or 6 months from one point to an other in an complete autarky. So that the raft became an island, with a micro-society evolving temporarily apart from the rest of the world and the wood shipping economy. Once arrived the logs were untied from the raft and the timber undo from the cabins and the pieces of furniture. The raft men were going back to their starting point or continued their trip further down another river, with a new boat and a new crew. I found in this story the most beautiful and strong aspect of locality. They created a real parallel society... but they were only transporting some piece of tree! They took advantage of and abuse (but in a very good way) the system they were living (and working) in. They turned what they had to achieve into a complete, and to my eyes, very beautiful way of life.


[about how the project could expand] As a next step for the project I like to imagine that Christmas tree farm could temporarily use wasted space in the city (a plot on a building site,  a section of a estate waiting for refurbishment, or even a section in a park that need to be re-designed). The growing farm will provide a greenery for the community, but also some extra local wood. I really imagine the Christmas tree carpenter (I) working and selling the Christmas tree collection in a small shop, in the center of the city where the tree grown up (or were picked up). I really like the way London kept a lot of small shops and local services, I wanted to create a new one. I wanted every step of this project to happen in the inner London : the raw material is picked up from the farm in the street, it goes straight to the small workshop where the pieces of furniture are made and sold... It is a project at a local city scale. Everything is manufacture with a very light wood worker equipment, the same machine a Londoner would find in his local joinery or carpenter workshop.


[about the non-efficiency ] ...but the modernist values and ideal have been developed in such a different time than the one I am living in. Such ideas as the rationalisation of needs or the strong belief in the growing capitalist industry...This system doesn’t appear to me as an ultimate model to follow. And there is no rationalism value (related to industry) leading my desire of design. There is just desire. The desire of the amateur or of the passionate getting excited and being lead by the envy. It might sounds a bite naive, but it is like this French postman called “le facteur Cheval” spending all his free time on decorating his house with thousand of stone collected during his round. He does it, that is all. It is not solving any problems, neither it is answering any needs, but it makes his heart beats. I am interest in activity that does not answer to any economic logic. We call those kind of activity a Hobby.

Creating objects out of christmas trees became somehow my hobby. I am doing it very seriously and on the side of any official efficient production or any official economic society... I collect and use the left-over material from the party organised by the Christmas industry and take them apart from the capitalist economic system.

Posted on Thursday July 2nd 2009 at 12:07 pm by Brad Turner. Copyright policy | Comments policy

  • Mathias

    Cute concept but horrible result.

  • tanya telford – T

    there is alot in this project, I love the research related to the log floating in North America, I think there’s a lot in that story. I think what I would have really like to have seen is this guy being able to conduct some first hand research with locals around these disused spaces (i bet all sorts of people would have easily got involved),

    Also maybe interviewing property developers relevant to these sites could have been good.

    I would like to ask (although I have no idea of the answer, practicalites, viability etc.) is there a potential business model in this guys project? – Is such a thing as a small (in the city) cottage Christmas tree to furniture small business possible?

    I’m not so sure that its definitely not possible. I wonder why he wants to keep this just as a hobby? Could it be an enviromentally friendly good business thing for a city? ……….

  • de Laurens

    Un projet à la limite qui fait la controverse, des beaux détails on vois que tu y a pris du plaisir! n’y avait-il pas un autre projet pour ton diplôme?

  • Hol

    This is fugly, and the text makes my head ache.

  • rek

    The three legged table looks like some post-nuclear mutant nightmare, stalking into your living room to consume pets and infants.

  • christelle from Montreal !

    Fabien !
    Justement, je me demandais ce que tu devenais !
    On ne perds pas son temps ! Non! Non!

    Moi j’aime bien cette idée de récupérer cette tonne de matériel disponible à même le trottoir, c’est une idée universelle qui je pense à du traverser la cervelle de chacun d’entre nous… En tout cas, en Catalogne, ils font des ‘Tios’ avec des rondins de bois de sapins aussi… Les enfants s’assoient dessus… mais c’est plus décoratif en fait…
    Puis rien à voir, mais, ici au Québec, on dit: “tire toi une bûche” pour te dire de venir t’asseoir… Le retour aux origines en somme, comme dans les cabanes de bois ronds !

    Bon j’arrête là. Lâche de la nouvelle si tu tombes sur mon comment !
    Bonne continuation !

  • jc

    i like the idea, but agree with rek, i think the design itself need more work

  • Maxwell

    These are awesome. I love the recycled/found object approach, plus they looked like they were a lot of fun to make. Pure tactile enjoyment.

  • Dave

    C’mon, they’re not that ugly. They would fit well in any cottage in america. I love the idea and feel that it’s projects like these that are what make design and architecture great. I dread the day that everything we purchase will come off an assembly line, even our homes.

  • Sabir

    Objects not as appealing as the idea. Sorry.

  • CAB

    umm, sadly the pics don’t really portray them that well… one of the most pleasurable and tactile objects at the rca show. Great business too no? Sell the business model to someone and then go back to creating more nice bits and bobs for us to delight in …

  • love these! lots of character and individuality to each. i always thought something should be done with those poor cast off xmas trees. like this. and pine pillows ;) plus that compressed board is really cool too- and i bet fragrant

  • I love this type of art…found objects reincarnated to something of use.
    The design is not beautiful, but it is righteous in it’s own regard.
    Love the way the timber pieces are connected.
    Keep up the good work!

  • I do not feel bad the idea of ​​wooden logs, I'm looking for something different for a decorating project in rural country hotel, I think it may be interesane and different.