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How Marcus Wong, pulled his family business, Danovel, out of a 10-year rut

How Marcus Wong, pulled his family business, Danovel, out of a 10-year rut
How Marcus Wong, pulled his family business, Danovel, out of a 10-year rut

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There aren’t many mod cons that capture a zeitgeist quite like the sofa — ubiquitous enough to bleed into the background of a domestic diorama, yet distinctive as a marker of shifting trends.

Consider it as a centrepiece of popular culture: Characters from sitcom Friends perpetually coiled around a chintzy, dimpled orange mohair settee like vines, blithely bandying about their first-world grouses over oversized coffee mugs. It’s also employed as a literary device. In F Scott Fitzgerald’s The Great Gatsby, dissolute socialite Daisy Buchanan and her friend are described as being buoyed on a sumptuous couch “as though upon an anchored balloon,” symbolising their carefree but ultimately vacuous existence.

It isn’t really that profound for third-generation sofa specialist Marcus Wong. While his family’s bespoke furniture firm Danovel may major in plush upholstery catering to all manner of sybaritic whims, he sees the couch as a repository of memories rather than status symbol. Sprawled in their living room is a four-seater sectional sofa that has been re-upholstered multiple times over the course of three decades and is inextricably seamed with his childhood.

“It’s where I faked sleep so that my parents would carry me to my bedroom, and where we did our homework as kids,” recalled Wong. His heirloom may not be the most extravagant, but to him, old is gold. “A well-made piece of furniture is one that you can pass on to generations; not everything is made to be thrown away,” asserted the 42-year-old.

CHASING THE SINGAPORE DREAM

Longevity is a running theme in our conversation, which traced Danovel’s heritage as a realisation of the ‘Nanyang dream’. In the 1960s, immigrants such as skilled labourer Koh Khee Khim converged at Singapore’s shores on a wing and a prayer, to pursue economic opportunities beyond the grip of China’s tumultuous Cultural Revolution. A Shantou native, Wong’s maternal grandfather fell into furniture-making by chance, which paid off during Singapore’s meteoric nation-building epoch.

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