Business / furniture

Sophisticated manufacturing expertise

This family-run Croatian company is a leader in bespoke furniture. Their commitment to excellence makes them a valued partner within the luxury-residential, hospitality, and retail sectors. Established in 1991, Internova is committed to maintaining ethical business and environmental practices during the entire production cycle. 

The greatest value of Internova is its employees. Not a single piece of furniture goes into production without having been through the processes of the technical preparation team, whose task is to make designs for production and designers. 

Only once the designers have approved the design and all the accompanying details does production begin. 

In production, although Internova has state-of-the-art technology, each piece ends up in the hands of a carpenter who passes, inspects and gives the final touches. This is where the difference between standard series production and Internova is gaining traction. 

We had a great conversation with one of the founders and co-owner of the company, Nenad Carić. 

Nenad Carić

The specificity of Internova is the cooperation with international design studies – how do you choose a partnering university? 

In fact, they find us. The way it works is that the investor is the one who selects the project studio most suitable, establishes a contract, and then tenders the whole project. 

The one who has the best price-quality ratio gets the job. That has been the case most often so far.

But as every rule has an exception, so does this one. We are just finishing a project in the very centre of Vienna, where we are equipping the public spaces of a boutique hotel. The owners of the hotel stayed in Croatia in the hotel we equipped, inquired about the contractor, contacted us, and signed a contract in less than two months. 

I hope that there will be more and more such exceptions.

What encouraged you to invest your life savings and move from your ‘comfort zone’ profession – economics, into the furniture manufacturing business? 

It was in the 90s, when an acquaintance, who was already in the business, offered me the option of importing Italian furniture. My wife and I, both young, ambitious and with a great desire for progress, accepted the offer.

Imports mainly included high-quality designer office furniture, and we later moved towards home furnishing. We established our network of contacts, from investors, designers and end customers, and recognised the market’s need for custom-made furniture.

At that time, after 5 years spent in the store, quite inexperienced and brave, we bought the first machines, hired two workers, and started production in the rented space.

My wife and I, both economists, without any contact with carpentry production, threw ourselves ‘into the fire’. Together with my colleagues, we went through absolutely all operations and absorbed knowledge. Trial and error have been a part of our daily lives, but we learned. We were persistent, maximally present in every detail, and that market recognised us as two enthusiasts with a huge drive.

In the beginning, we never rejected projects, even if they were one closet, one bed, or a kitchen. 

The first major job for us at the time was a project we did as a partner of Export-drvo, which at that time was the absolute leader in wood and furniture, locally and internationally. 

The project we did for them was to equip the Russian Bank, and later the hotel in the city of Sochi. This could be described as our milestone which opened many doors in the local market and when we actually started collaborating with interior design studios in Istria. We are still cooperating with them and that’s one of the indicators that all our efforts have paid off.

The ‘Maslina Resort’ project at the island of Hvar was challenging for you, and you mentioned you needed a bit of persuasion?

The niche we are in is the production of high-quality custom-made furniture, where each element is unique and where deviations are measured in millimetres, so each project is a challenge in itself.

No two projects are the same, no two projects repeat the same processing of wood, metal, stone, and with each project we learn and grow. 

When we get contracted for a project, we might not be sure how we will deliver a certain detail. But as we love challenges, and investors already know that, we will find a solution, or at least a good compromise between the desire of the designer and the material itself.

That was the case with the Maslina Resort. One very comprehensive project, very complex, where every piece of furniture was 100% custom made.

Special wood processing was required, a special type of oiling of wood. Everything in the hotel was made of organic materials with which we were not 100% familiar with at the time. 

One of the most challenging and new elements for our production was a wooden bath, modelled on the Japanese style. Here we were most impatient until the final product came, which was later tested for water, chemical damage, anti-slip and proved to be a top product, a recognisable part of the hotel and its offer.

You are partnering with the Vladimir Nazor Elementary School to positively influence younger generations and make them interested in careers in trade occupations. Do we lack organised initiatives? 

In general, Croatians are not aware of the opportunities that a career in trade offers. I might dare to say, we are oblivious to the fact and I don’t understand why. In western economies, such occupations are valued, respected and pay far more than one can imagine. 

Being aware of this problem, and the fact that the number of students who are enrolling in vocational high schools is getting lower each year, it is clear to us that in a couple of years we will have problems with the workforce.

That is why we started a conversation with the Primary School to allow us to present to the students what production really means, in which environment the work is being done, and what products are created.

We started a little over nine months ago and we can already see great interest.

This is proof that there should be more similar activities, that would include the city administration, crafts chambers, all secondary vocational schools, through perhaps media sponsorship, scholarships, organisation of ‘craftsmen festivals’ and occupations where students other than the secondary school are presented to by the companies in the industry.

How did you identify your ‘niche’, a 4 or 5-star hotel with two hundred rooms?

The niche in which we are positioned is actually a combination of two variables: our vision and strategy in targeting customers, in a sense that we strive for more complex projects where we sell ‘know how’. 

In these types of projects, each element is a combination of human hand and technology, and investors and designers who recognised that in us pushed us into such projects, so we grew with them. 

One of the possible next steps is your own furniture brand. Have you already conceptualised what would be its recognisable features?

In the company, along with my wife and me, are our children, Antea and Matej. Internova is celebrating its 30th anniversary this year, and it is somehow a logical step to go in that direction. 

So Antea and Matej wanted to design Internova’s own furniture collection. Throughout all those years, we worked on projects based on other people’s ideas and designs. This time we want to show something of ours, what we consider as quality furniture, with a combination of different materials and where it can be seen at first glance how someone dealt with the details of processing. 

We want to create a timeless piece of furniture whose purpose will be functional art in the space, but we’ll be able to share more in the coming months. 

Nenad Carić

And the last question – if you could give yourself advice 30 years ago when you started this story, what advice would it be? 

Internova has grown over the years, slowly but surely, with annual growth of 3% which isn’t bad, but what I might have done differently was not to let fear hold me back so much, I would trust my intuition more, where I would surely then accept much more complex projects I didn’t believe we were up to at the time. 

I was also held up in believing that a small manufacturing company from Croatia, a country that was not recognised for the furniture production, can’t provide anything new to the European market. 

With my current knowledge and experience, I can say with certainty that we have a lot to offer, we at Internova, as well as other Croatian industries. 

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