5 Small Businesses You Might Like and how you can help in other ways

Now I don’t know about you but as we wade through the seventh week of lockdown, I have started to look at the shops again. It’s been a dilemma – should we shop anything other than essentials? Is it wrong to shop when so many people are struggling to buy food? Is it wrong to even look? Well I set out my stall on that at the start of this but have also recently noted the calls from small businesses pleading with us to shop if we can to help keep them afloat. So, in that spirit, I have today chosen five small businesses that you might like to investigate with some products that are loosely based around the kitchen. Also please read to the for details of three charity initiatives that you might wish to help with or spread the word about.

paraffin free striped candles from RE-foundobjects
paraffin free striped candles from RE-foundobjects £16.95 for a box of four


I don’t know about you but the rituals around eating have become much more important over the last two months. The teenagers sleep all morning and have breakfast as we lunch  – they have recently revealed that they meet in the kitchen at midnight for a snack and a chat – but we have all tacitly agreed that whatever else has happened we will meet for supper around the table at 8.30pm. And that table will be laid. And there will be jugs of water and a bottle of wine and, eventually if the gods of sourdough bless The Mad Husband, homemade bread as well. All that is, perhaps, missing is a gorgeous candle.

paraffin free striped candles from RE-foundobjects
paraffin free striped candles from RE-foundobjects who also sell these recycled glass candle sticks

In addition to these I found a company selling beeswax candles made from surplus honey collections which are non-toxic and naturally coloured. Have a look at Honey Bee Candles to learn more about their natural air purification properties and support this two woman business – Priscilla and her daughter Pravana.


sustainably made bar stool by woodmancote retro
sustainably made bar stool by woodmancote retro

We bought our kitchen stools from ebay about 10 years ago and we sit on them every day and am often asked where they came from. I have written before about the joy of the disrupter colour but if you are nervous of, or dislike painted wood (side-eye to The Mad Husband) then these sustainably produced stool from Woodmancote Retro might be the solution. They try to source everything within 100 miles of their Gloucestershire-based studio and you can have a seat in local ash or recycled plastic (30-40 bottles in each seat). The legs come in a rainbow of colours including this green, mustard, coral and signal orange and they cost £95. The terrazzo effect plastic seats are £110.

trestle desk table from woodmancote retro
trestle desk table from woodmancote retro

For £395 there’s also this rather fabulous trestle desk/table with a top made from salvaged iroko. You can contact them for different dimensions


stickback chairs from baileys for £295
stickback chairs from baileys for £295

Last year we replaced our modern kitchen chairs which were black for some vintage mid-century ones in natural wood. We had decided over the course of several months that the black ones were too dark for the space and we wanted new ones. I sold them over instagram very fast – they were the Muuto Visu, which I still love but didn’t want in black any more – and I started looking for new ones.

mid century modern chairs at
mid century modern chairs at

Over the course of several days I realised that I really didn’t want a modern chair (unless it was the unaffordable wishbone) and ended up on ebay where I found the chairs pictured above. However, this modern take on a classic is rather pleasing and looks really comfortable too. Chairs are expensive – they’re hard to design but good quality chairs will hold their value if you decide to move on or change things around. This traditional design could be painted to update it or sit happily in the corner of a bathroom or at a desk.


winebox ottoman by wearth
winebox ottoman by wearth london

Wearth partners with UK furniture makers who use reclaimed and sustainably-sourced materials to make  contemporary products. The online marketplace is dedicated to  making sustainable, zero-waste, handmade, natural and plastic-free  gifts and furniture. This double height wine crate (there is a single height version too) will provide extra seating and storage and can double up as a coffee table too. Multi-tasking furniture is definitely going to be a thing if we are going to be working from home more.

double length wine crate ottoman
double length wine crate ottoman

If you’re nervous about wine crates in a child’s bedroom then you can always paint it. Which brings me to our fifth company. And, by the way. I speak as one whose first child’s first invention was a “wine pincher”….


There are lots of environmentally-friendly paint companies and I am adding this one to your lists. Paint the Town Green was set up in 2007 by Phil Robinson offering a one-stop bespoke decorating service and a range of designer environmentally friendly paint with 42 different shades. They will hang wallpaper, paint kitchens, colour match Victorian radiators and even assist with the odd chore to help your project along. They will also draft in other trades or recommend good people to do the job if you need. Commercial work includes Damien Hirst’s London gallery, Conran’s The Shop at Bluebird, The Blue Bar at the Berkley and Marc Jacob’s Mayfair store.

Fade to Grey by paint the town green
Fade to Grey by paint the town green

Phil is a former musician who, in between gigs (you might apparently spot him on repeats of Top of the Pops and he played with Travis among others) also worked with Sarah Beeny and as a decorator. The colours are, of course, named after songs, and there was a conscious decision to limit the range to 42 shades after he realised that we are overwhelmed by too much choice and often end up picking the same 30 or 40 colours. As a result, he is proud that 80-90 per cent  of the chart gets selected regularly.

There is also a piano in the showroom and, since all the paints are named after songs, Phil often sits down and plays a tune for for everyone to guess the paint colour.

Dignity paint by paint the town green
Dignity paint by paint the town green

And if you are looking for tips and advice then do follow their instagram feed which is full of videos with how to’s and other useful information.

I hope that has given you some ideas for some guilt-free shopping knowing that you are supporting small, and often sustainable, businesses if you can. I’ll bring you some more ideas soon. Below are two things that I have bought recently – also from small businesses.  I realise that sometimes I share things on instagram and not all of you either follow me there or even “do” instagram so I am sharing here as well.

The first is this poster by Dublin-based graphic designer Annie Atkins, whose book Designing Graphic Props for Filmmaking is an absolute delight. She was inspired by the tips she was sent by friends on Instagram for getting through the lockdown. So she created a series of faux public information posters and chose to print three in a strictly limited run of 100 each. All but one have now sold out. I bought the one above for €85 ( it will ship when restrictions are limited) which I plan to hang in the bedroom. The poster below is still available and all proceeds will be donated to the Irish charity Alone, who support older people at home, and St David’s Hospice in North Wales, who cared for Annie’s mother, Mary, as she passed away in March 2020.

The other thing is a bookmark created by, a charity founded six months ago by Alice Moxley employing young homeless people who live in hostels. Alice designs the pieces and the makers are paid the London Living Wage. She has just designed this bookmark in the shape of a hug and has sold over 250 of them in the last few weeks. These pictures were taken by her mother who photographed hers on my book and send the pictures to me. My own bookmark hasn’t arrived yet.

Each one costs £10 with £2 going to the Crisis #inthistogether fund. Alice said: “Pivot is social enterprise which empowers people experiencing homelessness to pivot their lives through making and enterprise.  Pivot creates British, hand-made jewellery in hostels, whilst co-creating progressive routes out of temporary accommodation.

“Our mission is to contribute to the alleviation of homelessness by bringing purposeful, meaning and flexible employment to those who would otherwise not have access to it, and in doing so giving them the confidence and skills they need in order to leave temporary accommodation.  By engendering self-worth and self-esteem in young people who are trapped in temporary accommodation, we believe that they have the power to change their lives and break a vicious cycle.  It is our ambition to re-frame hostels from dead-end situations to places of momentum, creativity and opportunity which create positive outcomes for residents.”

She has also just been awarded a funding grant from the Shackleton Foundation to enable her to expand her business and keep going during these tough times.

To buy your own bookmark click here.

To buy a poster click here.

Right, last one. I realise I am in a privileged position to be able to help where I can, and while we are living on our savings I thought I would spend some of them in ways that might do good. I saw this new initiative the other day and thought it was also a great idea so I am sharing here in case any of you might also be able to help.

The Jack and Ada Beattie Foundation was set up by their son Trevor, the advertising executive, in 2011 in memory of his parents to help the vulnerable of London and The Midlands. Last week he announced the foundation of Tons of Help to support those most in need by giving them a £100 grant for basic needs and essentials. He is asking for donations of £100 as that is, apparently, the most common amount of money sought from a payday lender and will cover the average weekly grocery spend of a household of two adults or the average monthly energy, water and broadband bills.

To donate a ton or apply for a grant you can click here.

How to help small businesses with Kate Watson-Smyth during lockdown. Madaboutthehouse dining room table with vintage chairs. #diningtable #madaboutthehouse

Tags : bar stoolsguilt free shoppinglockdown shoppingsmall businessessmall shopsstriped candles
Kate Watson-Smyth

The author Kate Watson-Smyth

I’m a journalist who writes about interiors mainly for The Financial Times but I have also written regularly for The Independent and The Daily Mail. My house has been in Living Etc, HeartHome and featured in The Wall Street Journal & Corriere della Sera. I also run an interior styling consultancy Mad About Your House. Welcome to my Mad House.


  1. Hi, I’m fairly new to your blogs but am enjoying them immensely, along with the pod casts! I’m fascinated by your ceilings – can you tell me what you have used on the dining room ceiling featured above, and what colour you used to paint your office ceiling (I think!) please? It’s the room which is essentially ivory walls and gold ceiling. But please don’t tell me that it has been actually gilded by a Nicaraguan dwarf wearing stripped pyjamas because life is too short (or at least mine is!) for that, and I believe that there is a world shortage of sufficiently skilled dwarves just now. Sorry, it’s just lockdown fever has got to me. I really would like to know about the ceilings! Many thanks! Sue

    1. Hi Sue, this is the paint I would use – it’s the FTT-002 (film theatre and television) range from Mylands. So no gilding and no Nicuaraguan dwarves! Just a man and a ladder and a brush. To be honest I could have done it myself but I was frantically busy writing the book and working and was, I seem to recall, away to work in Glasgow when it was done too. But it is just paint and wasn’t difficult. The ceiling was covered in woodchip paint and I didn’t want to take it down as I was worried it might bring the whole ceiling down so we asked the decorator to stick some plain paper over the top and painted over that. It’s not completely flat but that actually brings a sort of vintage element to it.

      1. Thank you! Glasgow is such a lovely city, I was up there last year working for BBC really loved it. What’s on the dining room ceiling? It looks like tiles, but can’t imagine it would be!

          1. Wow! Just had a look at his catalog – can’t wait to find a place to use them! Thank you!

  2. Apart from my aversion to cushions on beds, I enjoy Mad About The House with my first coffee of the day. We have recently built a largish studio/office in the garden and have lost the space for a shed. I would really appreciate some ideas on garden storage where sheds are not an option in a typical London back garden. The storage of compost and similar is probably going to be the biggest problem. Many thanks Libby Kemp

Comments are closed.