It may only be the 3rd of January, but if you’ve been circling the block, you may notice that the sidewalks are already littered with last year’s Christmas trees. A terribly sad and wasteful end for one of winter’s most revered symbols, you’ll be relieved to know that designer Fabien Capello is offering the yule tree a new life as beautiful furniture.
While a student at the Royal College of Art and Design, Capello recognized that this was the one time of the year that the city would see the greatest influx and disposal of wood – over a million in his resident London alone – and he found himself with the perfect source of free materials for his projects. Working on his own since 2009, this year Capello was invited by the Gallery Libby Sellers to take on commissions that would give him greater opportunities to transform the trees into new pieces of furniture.
Initially taking the Christmas tree from the client who commissions a project, if Capello is short on materials, he will usually take on a second or third tree he finds on the street. Once upcycled, the tree will then be returned to its owner in or around three weeks in the form of a new stool, table or something even more extravagant.
Given how young they are when they’re harvested, Christmas trees can be a troublesome material to work with – lacking grain, and maintaining a rough bark. As Capello tells The New York Times, “It’s quite an ugly wood, actually. It’s probably one of the ugliest trees ever, if you just see the trunk. Because it grows so fast, there is almost no grain. I did experiments to turn the trees into wood, removing the bark and doing this sort of chopping, which is the pattern on the legs. So I’ve been finding all sorts of techniques to work with it.”
He continues, “There is this idea that you actually buy a tree and cherish it so much for a short period of time, and then you just throw it away. I thought it would be quite interesting to use this material. I wanted to do something that could come back into the house.”