Kelly Christakos Stivers

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diy: safe, nontoxic, eco friendly way to strip furniture

I get a lot of emails about refinishing furniture and pieces that I have worked on it the past and the best advice I can give anyone is to pay the most attention to the prep work!  Prepping a piece (aka stripping the finish, or sanding and scuffing it to make it paint-ready) is the most important step in the refinishing process.  When it comes to stripping furniture, I've always avoided chemical strippers, instead choosing elbow grease and lots and lots of sand paper.  I'm sure the chemical strippers are worth their weight in gold in terms of how quickly and efficiently they work, however, I never trusted myself with the mess it would make, not to mention the toxicity...I just don't need or want either. 

HOWEVER, after recently burning through what seemed like a million sheets of 80-grit sand paper with my orbital sander on a set of four dining chairs, I thought I'd give in and try Smart Strip, a biodegradable, non toxic stripper I found at Sherwin Williams:

 Everthing I needed, I already had on hand, including a cheap foam brush and a paint scraper:

Even though this stuff is biodegradable, I wore plastic gloves and laid a plastic tarp me, you will need both once you start scraping paint off!  To start, I put a heaping amount of the stripper on the brush:

Wipe the Smart Strip right onto your piece and don't be stingy with it!  The more you put on, the easier it will be to remove layers of paint and finish.  Once you've applied the stripper, just wait....the container says to wait anywhere from three to 24 hours, but, it started bubbling and cracking just 30 minutes after applying.  This is what it looked like:

After about an hour, I scraped away at the stripper and, believe it or not, it brought the paint and finish away with it pretty easily, right down to the original stain:

The stripper only removed down to the original stain of the wood, which was fine because I finished off the rest with my orbital sander to get down to bare wood:

Overall, I was very impressed with Smart was relatively fast and easy and cleanup was a breeze.  This stuff is great for pieces with flat surfaces - I wouldn't recommend this for pieces that have a lot of detailing.  This stuff is so gooey, that using a steel brush to get in to the grooves of a piece would be a mess. 

Stay tuned to see this set of four Queen Anne-style chairs' dramatic makeover!


inspired: bamboo blinds

Bamboo blinds are, hands down, my favorite type of window coverings BY FAR!  They are so versatile - they work in such a wide variety of rooms and decor styles, they add texture and warmth to any space and are relatively inexpensive, making them my go-to for most of my client projects. They look great on their own, but I especially love them paired with soft, linen curtains. It may have taken me almost six months after we moved in to put a nail in my walls, but I didn't waste any time getting bamboo blinds up in every window!  I hung these from Home Depot and love them because, even without a blackout liner, they do a fabulous job of keeping the rooms pretty dark and no one can see anything going on from the outside when they are closed.  Here are a few other rooms that wouldn't be half as cozy without the addition of fabulous woven blinds!

Steven Gambrel

Markham Roberts in Domino

Ashley Putman via Lonny

Cote de Texas

Jennifer Dyer

Ashley Putman via Lonny

Coastal Living

Phoebe Howard

Giannetti Home

Seleta Hayes Howard

House and Home


loving lately...

I've been running around like a chicken with my head cut off lately, so last night it was nice to sit and catch up on some of my favorite blogs and flip through a stack of magazines that have been gathering dust in my living room.  In the spirit of the warmer weather we've been having lately, I thought I'd post a few lovelies that are currently on my radar.

Affordable art has never been so accessible, thanks to Etsy, and I'm loving artist Lisa Golightly's acrylic paintings!  I love the colors and calm, almost haunting, feel to all of her paintings and most are less than $50.  Here are a couple of my favorites:



I can't get enough of this rug - even though it's wool, that blue and cream cross pattern would make a beautiful statement for summer:

Look how fun and fresh it looks when paired with red and gold accents:

And speaking of gold accents, how about these amazing bamboo pulls?  I'm refinishing an end table for a client in a crisp, glossy white and these pulls would be a fabulous touch!

This round gilt mirror is so stunning in its simplicity and size.  It's not easy finding oversize round mirrors that won't break the bank and not only is this one a whopping 38 inches, but it's also on sale! 

Navy and camel are such a classic color combination and this Clare Vivier striped clutch is killing it for me!

Changing up your throw pillows is a quick and inexpensive way to shake up your decor for Spring and etsy seller Elegant Touch has some gorgeous designer fabric pillows for unbeatable prices!  Here are a few of my faves:



I need another watch like I need a hole in the head, but I'm thinking this watch just might be the perfect accessory for summer, don't you agree? 

What are you loving this Spring?


dramatic outdoor lighting

I'm on the hunt for some dramatically oversize lantern lights for my front porch-my current ones are beautiful, but they just aren't cutting it for me, size-wise, and when it comes to making a fabulous first impression, bigger is almost always better!  While I go back and forth over front door colors (still don't know if I can commit to light blue, but it's definitely in my top three!), at least I'll have some dramatic lighting until I can make up my mind!  Charleston has been a huge source of inspiration for me - so many of the homes in the downtown Historic District sport the most amazing gas lanterns that are lit 24/7.  Looking back on some of our trip photos has me even more motivated to get a move on and make a decision:

Here are a few other examples of how oversize lantern lighting can really make an entry so much more warm and inviting:




It's been tough finding generously-sized lights that won't break the bank, but here are a few that I'm loving lately:

I'm loving this copper beauty that I saw in Lowe's of all places!  It's size (24 inches!) and patina are so incredibly striking, the online image doesn't do it justice: 

The Bishop collection from Quorum offers a 28 inch wall mount light and I'm loving its lines and color, as well:

This picture is crap, but this one is actually a beautiful matte black and the glass is a lot prettier in person, again from Lowes! 

Decisions, decisions!  Which one is your favorite?


scott currie's chic southampton retreat

Being married to a Marine, I can appreciate incorporating nautical elements into your decor...heck, I've got quite a bit in my own home that just happens to also have personal meaning (hello, nautical charts!)  I think there's a fine line between tasteful and kitschy when it comes to piling on beach-themed accessories, though, and fashion exec Scott Currie nails it with subtle nautical flavor in his chic Southampton weekend home!

Talk about a great first impression!  Cedar shakes, a board and batten pool house, a pretty impressive privacy hedge (I notice them all the time now that I need one!) and that amazing pool...funny how I tend to unknowingly gravitate to and fall in love with homes that have the same pool design as me!

A round table, slipcovered in linen, grounds the entryway, but I can't take my eyes off the light blue walls and darker gray trim:

Love the blue walls and that fabulous sea captain's chest.  And those lemon yellow Chippendale chairs are a breath of fresh air in the living room:

Another great example of how classic, all-white kitchens will always be timeless:

Nautical wedgewood china, an antique lantern and decorative glass bottles add charm to the butler's pantry:

High gloss, white planked walls are a fresh backdrop to more contemporary seating and ocean-themed details like a driftwood lamp, fishing buoy and rope handrail in this light, bright sitting area:

LOVE the wall of French doors and slate floors in the pool house!  Those seagrass chairs aren't too shabby, either:

A crisp white pergola and hanging lanterns make for a cozy outdoor eating area....makes me so excited for summer!