Madam Chuah has been in the upholstery business for 43 years. (Photo: TNP)

Located in a corner of Beauty World Plaza is a shop is filled with leather, sponge and four cats.

Madam Jenese Chuah's love for making furniture and items by hand has kept her going for 43 years.

The 61-year-old owner of Cushion Specialist at Beauty World Plaza specialises in a range of upholstery and re-upholstery services.

They include commercial, industrial, residential, and also seat upholstery for cars, bikes, heavy-equipment and mobile machinery.

She says: "I just love working and making new things every day.

"Customers come to me if they want to restore their vehicle seats or furniture and I'll get it done within one to two days."

(Photo: TNP)

To replace the leather seats for a typical car, she charges $1,000 and gets the job done within two days.

She also designs and makes her own clothes to complement her coloured hair and bold jewellery.

Madam Chuah got into the furniture business in 1973 when her late husband, who had experience in the field, started a new business venture.

"Since I was 18, I observed how my husband would sew and cut materials," she says.

After trials and multiple cuts, she too mastered the skill.

The couple originally worked as sofa importers, but after about 10 years, they got into re-upholstery.

She says: "In the 80s, new competitors were emerging and we were working long hours with little profit."

"Even in recent times, furniture shops are closing down because there are so many competitors coming from neighbouring countries."


Shifting to re-upholstery was easy because she was already making all sorts of cushions.

She recalls an interesting customer who approached her about changing the material and colour of his coffee table about five years ago.

Madam Chuah says: "This customer showed me his brand new hour glass-shaped coffee table and I immediately told him it was impossible for me to replace the fibreglass base with leather because leather is softer.

"He was so persistent and kept insisting that I could do it. True enough, I gave it a shot and he was so happy with the results."

The finished product? A pink hourglass table made out of leather.

She says: "This customer still drops by every now and then to tell me how much he loves the table."

Such interesting customers motivate her even more, she says.

"If I stop working, I don't think I will be able to live," she says.

She runs the business with her son and daughter-in-law. Her husband died in 1997.

Her daughter-in-law, who wanted to be known only as Vanessa, says she loves working for Madam Chuah.

Vanessa says: "Among the three of us, my mother-in-law is the creative one.

"Most of our customers tell us they're very grateful because no one else can do re-upholstery services for them."

She also says the business is doing well.

Madam Chuah says: "We feel the business has been better than it was 10 years ago and we are very thankful for all the people who have supported us all these years."

Written by Seow Yun Rong for The New Paper