Leo Čellár is the soul of JAVORINA. As the guardian of its uniqueness for the past 25 years, he has brought the quality of design and technological processing to a world-class level. His recent triumph at one of the most esteemed international design competitions serves as a testament to his unwavering dedication to his craft, refusing to be swayed by fleeting trends and forging his own path. The following interview was conducted on the occasion of the German Design Award 2024 for his innovative SOFT bed.
Čellár's visionary designs have given rise to iconic collections like ULTRA, TERRA, NEXT, KA, LINK+, and many more. He has won numerous awards for his designs both at home and abroad. Despite his remarkable achievements, he remains a humble and kind-hearted colleague, deeply respected by all at JAVORINA.
What was your educational and professional background in design prior to joining Javorina?
I didn't study design, I'm basically self-taught. In the past I studied and worked in the field of agriculture and plant biotechnology. My design education has been shaped by immersion in the world of furniture exhibitions, particularly in Cologne and Milan, alongside a deep engagement with interior design and furniture magazines.
How has your position in Javorina changed over the years?
From the very start of my tenure at Javorina (1999), I have been deeply engaged in design, woodworking technologies, and furniture construction, while also helming the company as its director. So basically I have been involved in these activities for almost 25 years, currently exclusively. During this time, Javorina has won more than 20 design awards, mainly at domestic but also international exhibitions.
You have currently received one of the most prestigious international design awards. What has been the historical performance of Javorina in international markets?
The defining moment arrived at the turn of the millennium, when Javorina unveiled its immense potential as a manufacturer and supplier for international brands. It was confronted with the quality demanded by Western markets and this shaped its know-how. At that time, collaborating with our Dutch partner Frans Hamers, we directed our efforts primarily towards the Benelux region. For the Dutch market, for example, the successful cubist DIRECT range was created, which has remained in our portfolio for 20 years. It was a time of major international exhibitions, where the brand presented itself under its own name and gained confidence.
What is the biggest change you have managed to introduce in Javorina?
I consider the most important change to be the transition of Javorina from a manufacturer of simple wooden decorative items and semi-finished products in various areas to a specialized production of our own solid oak furniture.
Why solid oak?
I am convinced that what had value for our grandfathers has value today. And while there are many easier paths, ours is the one we love. Not everyone has the energy to pursue solid wood because wood stays alive. Its inherent 'liveliness', as it responds to changes in humidity, necessitates designs that are inherently responsive to these variations.
This often-challenging material serves as a valuable teacher, shaping our approach and fostering a deeper understanding of its nature. The ability to work with a material that is not only alive but also fragrant, organic, and genuinely unique has become increasingly rare.
Solid oak wood empowers us to push the boundaries of strength, enabling us to maximize the economic utilization of this increasingly precious raw material. Due to the material's costliness, we do not like to succumb to short-term trends and therefore develop designs that are functional and timeless.
The GPS Forest project is your initiative?
Yes, it was my idea. Trees can endure for over a century before they reach us. We aim to provide them with a new home in the form of our wooden products for at least another hundred years, while simultaneously establishing a new forest in return.
Unfortunately, most of Slovakia's wood is exported. What we do buy is from certified sawmills and farm forests whose regeneration exceeds harvesting. That is why more than ten years ago we started planting oak seedlings for each of our customers in several forest locations in eastern Slovakia. Today these are already young forests with several thousand young trees.
What would you consider to be your most notable accomplishment in your professional journey?
My greatest achievement is the enduring legacy of Javorina, a company that has thrived for more than 75 years, crafting modern furniture that graces homes across the globe. We've cultivated our own unique production processes over the decades, ensuring an authentic and meticulously controlled journey from raw material to finished product—a testament to our commitment to quality amidst the dynamic market landscape.
Alongside our exceptional team of talented individuals, I am confident that Javorina's future is bright. In the field of design, I appreciate the multiple awards in the National Design Award, as well as many other awards and nominations for Javorina and our design at domestic and international furniture exhibitions. And of course the recent win in the German Design Awards 2024, which surprised but also delighted me.
What do you think made the SOFT bed impress the international jury and win the German Design Award 2024?
Its soft headboard lines evoke a feeling of privacy and softness. This combination with its solid wooden frame and integrated oak slatted base is exceptional on the market, bringing not only comfort but also an unusual aesthetic impression. The result is a bed that smells, doesn't creak, can last for generations without any harm, can reliably support hundreds of pounds of live weight, and is beautiful and made from local wood to boot. There is simply no better solution.