Do Less Harm: The Directory is Launched

Do Less Harm Directory Mad About The House

The Do Less Harm Directory is live. And you will notice that it’s far from complete. Hopefully it will never be complete until we can add every company making anything to do with the home but in the meantime I wanted to launch it so you could start to see what it looks like.

At the moment it has a lot of paint and a lot of bedding although those are two of the most important items for the home. I decided that rather than keep adding to it and having nothing to share for about three months I would compile what I had and then just update it every few days as new information comes in.

You will see there is a contact form at the bottom. Fill it in! And tell your friends and your PRs and tell me about companies you know that are doing well. I am in the process of contacting the High Street stores – although they don’t always come rushing back to me – but I need you to tell me about small businesses that are doing the right thing.

You will also notice that, at this stage, the entries are often long. This is because it was also a learning curve for me and I thought you might also appreciate the extra information. For example, Ted Todd says on its website that a “company can be FSC certified without selling FSC products”  which I wouldn’t have thought about once I saw the FSC label but now that I have read that I know to ask more questions.

You may also note that while many paints are actually vegan most companies don’t have certification to that effect so if a paint you like isn’t mentioned then ask them what their position is. And, when it comes to paint, this from Earthborn, was also interesting: “’Natural’ and ‘organic’ are words that have been borrowed from the food industry. In the paint industry however, these terms have no legal meaning and can be misleading. ‘Natural’ is often used as shorthand hand for ‘healthy, wholesome and eco’. However many traditional, natural ingredients in paint can also be hazardous. Think about lead and turpentine (derived from trees) which are either banned or controlled because of the harmful effect on health and the environment. When people ask for ‘natural’ they usually mean healthy and eco-friendly, and those are the criteria we use at Earthborn when formulating our paints.”

So yes, for the time being it’s a lot of paint and mattresses but, with your help, and a little more time, I aim to expand this to include the High Street, lots of furniture companies, accessories and lighting.

In the meantime, I have included a list of resources where you can find more information.

I also wanted to include this email, which I received this week from a small business, which I thought would also provide clarification on the difficulties they face and why, for many of them, doing less harm has to be done in small steps if they are to survive. They, like the rest of us, need the big businesses, the councils and the governments to help out.

“I am the 6th generation of a family furniture retail business, Reynolds Furniture, based in Bognor Regis. Your point on sustainability in furniture [on the recent podcast where Sophie Robinson and I discussed this campaign] really struck home, I went to the board meeting last year with my Uncles and Dad who are all company directors and said how important being honest with customers and improving the company waste was. It was received with much enthusiasm.

“As a small business the recession hit us hard in 2010 and we underwent many changes to reduce costs. Also the uncertainty of the last couple of years has made everyone slightly less open to big changes. Customers don’t want to spend the money they did on furniture anymore.  Many big brands mass produce in China, Thailand, Lithuania etc.
However some great upholstery is still manufactured like Parker Knoll, Duresta -and smaller companies like Alston’s are also very affordable to the public.

“As a business we recycle everything we can from the warehouse, but it all does come massively packaged  in plastic and cardboard. We recycle as much as we can but it’s amazing how expensive it is to recycle a mattress. It’s not surprising that many people dump them on the road side instead.

“I am very environmentally aware and try my best at home for the future of my kids. But as a business it’s very expensive even for us to have recycling collection from our council for our offices;  there is a lack of incentives for business.

“We do shred lots of our paperwork and it goes to someone who knows someone with a horse so it does have a second use.”

All valuable food for thought and, as I said, in the first post on the subject, this is why it’s so hard to do no harm – no-one is perfect but we must all strive to do less harm balancing that against supporting small and local businesses and keeping our high streets and communities alive as well.

This directory is just the start. I hope you will find it useful.

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. Thanks, Kate. It’s useful to know what questions to ask as much as who is on the current ‘good’ list.

  2. This is a wonderful idea Kate and thanks for all your Trojan work. Spearheading something like this must have been time consuming but it’s a great incentive to others. In my experience most people want to Do Less Harm but have no idea where to begin or no time in their busy lives to trawl the internet seeking out decent companies from whom they should buy to achieve this end. I’ll be sharing your Post with family in London and adding to this list from Ireland!!

  3. Hi Kate
    I have been a silent but appreciative member of your audience for some time. I’m not one to blow trumpets but here goes.. my husband and I run a Reclamation yard in the Cotswolds ( ) and preventing building material waste has always been one of our guiding principles, along with protecting and promoting regional (dying) construction materials and skills by providing the materials and information to use them. We would love to be included in your directory. How does one get included?
    Also if you are ever in the North Cotswolds and you have a free few hours we would love to show you around the yard and explain all the things we get up to. I make a cracking builders tea!
    kindest regards
    Liza Hanks

  4. Great post. The statement from Reynolds Furniture explains a lot! The big companies need to take a lead and the consumer needs to ask the questions.
    Hope this directory will make a difference.

  5. Seeing the mention of Parker Knoll above, I bought two Parker Knoll chairs, a sofa and a footstool over 30 years ago. The last time I had them recovered and refurbished, I used a lovely Colefax and Fowler check fabric bringing them right up to date. The upholsterer said he would always look out for their furniture to refurbish because it was of such good quality. He recounted the story of one of their armchairs falling out of his van, bouncing on the road and being none the worse for the encounter. The refurb wasn’t cheap and as my husband pointed out we could have bought new furniture to replace them for less, but that wasn’t the point.

  6. Thank you so much Kate for producing this ever growing list. Very much needed and I will certainly have it at my fingertips whenever buying anything for the home. A much needed directory. Thank you again, brilliant idea!!

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