As an interior designer, Jomecowood’s founder Joseph Teoh has always had a passion for using timber. “It matters to bring nature and natural materials into the home,” he says, “It adds warmth and style. I always try and incorporate about 30% timber into the finished design”. So, in 2007 when a business associate was looking to close his timber importing business in Malaysia to move overseas with his family, Joseph struck a deal to take control of his remaining stock. It was an ambitious move but one that he had a feeling would work.
“I like European design and wanted to explore how I could bring some of those principles to Malaysia. I decided to start with kitchen design.” At that time the Malaysian premium market had a strong preference for natural stone bench tops. Teoh says that he spent 6 months trying to convince people that wood was a reliable and beautiful alternative: “The existing mindset was that wood was for chopping boards.” He started by creating a display kitchen with the design anchored around a 3 metre long American walnut island bench and taking it to a local 3-day kitchen exhibition. “People couldn’t help but touch it,” he says, “they were asking, ‘is it real?’ ‘Is it laminate?’ I talked to them about how easy it was to care for and that it was an environmentally-friendly choice”. That first exhibition yielded 57 orders and established Jomeco as the go-to company for solid timber kitchen surfaces.
Teoh is a perfectionist and was concerned about the lack of local expertise in terms of production and specifically finishing to a high enough standard. The associate who had originally provided the containers of timber agreed to return to help set up and train the Jomeco manufacturing team. Jomeco now employs 40 people in its factory in Sungai Buloh, Selangor where attention to detail is paramount.
Having started in kitchens, which Teoh calls the ‘entry point for renovations’, the company quickly expanded and the business now produces timber wall panels, furniture and also Teoh runs a full design and build service. A recent project of which he is rightfully proud is a Damasara Heights bungalow renovation. The design has an industrial feel, softened by extensive use of American walnut flooring and a 9-metre long floating study table also in American walnut.
Teoh does occasionally use different imported timber species but his preference is for American hardwoods. “The supply is just more consistent,” he says, “in terms of hardness and quality they are excellent and they are also properly kiln dried.” Teoh also notes that American species meet the increasing customer demand for environmentally sound materials. “The chain of custody is important, and if we are working with architects then materials that satisfy the green ratings are requested.”
The story of Jomecowood’s success is one of passion, hard work and luck but also of a canny business mind who was able to spot an opportunity and a design trend and marry the two.