Homegrown custom-made furniture company Danovel has seen its fair share of highs and lows in its 60-year history. Today, it is one of the few family-owned companies that has survived economic shifts and stiff competition from larger brands and companies. 

Not only has the brand built furniture pieces for five-star hotels like Pullman Orchard Singapore and Resorts World Sentosa Ora Hotel, but it is also a ‘Made With Passion’ recipient by the Singapore Tourism Board.

In this interview with Options, third-generation leader and business development director Marcus Wong shares how he is taking the proudly made-in-Singapore company into the future by using cutting-edge technology with a commitment to delivering high-quality custom-made furniture.

How has the business changed since you took over?

I currently lead Danovel as the third-generation leader and business development director. Since taking the reins of the business, I have prioritised investing in cutting-edge technology, including machinery and robotics, as I believe the way forward is to merge traditional craftsmanship with modern innovation. 

One of the key differences in our business operations is our keen investment in advanced technology. Danovel is Singapore's first upholstery and furniture company to have a laser and fabric-cutting machine. We have also invested in a five-axis Computer Numerical Control (CNC) woodworking machine. This CNC machine empowers us to build internal wooden structures for our upholstery projects in-house, enhancing our quality control and production efficiency while keeping digital records of our past works. Furthermore, we have also recently invested in robotic arms, supported by Enterprise Singapore, which will help to scale our manufacturing capabilities. 

Our tech-driven approach has given us a leading edge. Our advanced machinery facilitated quicker and more cost-effective solutions when tasked with a project requiring precise digital wood cutting. This, in turn, has also attracted the interest of other companies seeking to leverage our CNC machines for their own manufacturing needs.  

Is sustainability important to what you do?

We place importance on sourcing materials responsibly, reducing waste and adhering to eco-friendly practices wherever possible. During the initial stages of Covid-19, there was a shortage of masks. Since we had a lot of fabric offcuts, we repurposed them to make masks to address the needs of the pandemic while minimising waste. 

We firmly believe in creating furniture built to last for generations. Customers can return their furniture to us for repairs, maintenance or refresh.

We have also made a conscious effort to reduce our environmental footprint. Instead of using plastic shrink wraps to package our furniture, we offer customers the option to utilise our ‘reusable sustain-pack’ — a reusable fabric sofa transport bag designed to protect our sofas during delivery.

This not only minimises waste but also aligns with our mission to reduce the use of plastic in our day-to-day operations. 

More recently, we’ve also shifted to utilising low-VOC (Volatile Organic Compounds) eco-friendly adhesives in our practices.

They are less harmful to the environment, and although we’ve had to chalk up a fair bit more, we strongly believe it’s an imperative first step in being socially responsible to our environment.

What types of furniture can you custom-make?

Danovel specialises in upholstery and custom-made furniture such as sofas, armchairs, ottomans and bedframes. Our style can vary from classic and timeless to modern and innovative, depending on the customer’s preferences. Expatriates like European furniture style, while our local customers prefer the clean, modern and contemporary style.

Do you use any special fabrics?

We use high-quality materials and have over 2,000 fabric options for customers based on their design needs and cleaning requests. Aquaclean is one of the most popular fabrics; we get two or three weekly requests. It is antibacterial and pet-friendly and can withstand scratches and stains. It is very durable and easy to maintain. Stains and spills can be easily washed away with just clear water. 

What are your fees like?

Our pricing varies depending on the complexity of the design, choice of materials and fabric and specific customisation requests. We work closely with our customers to provide their dream furniture tailored to their specific needs and requirements, and it could range from $3,500 to even $15,000 if the customer chooses our proprietary premium Danovel Feather Sandwich seats and luxurious imported fabric silk yarn fabrics, cotton velvet or even mohair. 

Can you run through a typical order process?

We work hand in hand with our customers from start to finish to ensure that their needs are met, which can take between four to six weeks.

Firstly, our customers will meet our in-house designers to understand their needs, style, budget, seat depth, height and material.

We recommend suitable fabrics based on the customer’s budget and the look and feel they have in mind. Once the design has been chosen, we will get the specific measurements from the customer and prepare a computer-aided mock-up for the customer’s approval. 

Upon the customer’s approval of the design, our experienced craftsmen will turn that drawing into reality, and they start by building the wooden frame for the sofa.

While many upholsters typically outsource this portion, we believe it is crucial to do this in-house, as how you build the frame would affect the upholstery process. 

At any stage of the production process, customers are free to head down to the factory to see the work in progress, which customers would not experience when they purchase furniture off-the-shelf or online.  

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