Stage Your Home with Books. Here's How.

Thursday, June 30, 2011

In my eBook, I give a step-by-step formula for staging bookcase and bookshelves. It's something most people staging their own homes struggle with.

How many books? Just books? What kind of books? Will it look crowded? Skimpy? Will house hunters read the titles?

What Books Reveal

Books are indicators of the Good Life. They represent education, money, intelligence, good company, entertainment, success, and taste

When someone makes an offer on your home, he wants to step into your shoes. You've sold him on your lifestyle.

Buyers know in their heads they're not buying your possessions, but in their hearts they hope your success, good taste and other enviable qualities will transfer with the deed. I know it's crazy, but that doesn't make it less true.

Therefore, having some well-chosen and arranged books in every room is not a stretch.

A home office is a natural place for showcasing books. 
The cubby design of these shelves is a style that anyone could 
imitate on a shoestring in a vacant or spare room or bonus room 
to create the illusion of an accommodating workspace. BHG. 

Although built-in bookcases add value to a home, 
free-standing units can imitate their appeal. And you can 
take them with you to your next home. Notice how sparsely staged 
these shelves are. Notice also that they don't steal 
the show from the fireplace, the focal point. Style at Home. 

One way to arrange books is by color. I like that this 
collection of cookbooks is actually part of the kitchen staging, 
and that it looks more like a serious and useful library than 
just a few shelves gussied up with cute stuff. DecorPad.

Sometimes it makes more sense to stage bookshelves as 
something other than shelves for books. This arrangement of 
plants and barware on Ikea shelves is an inviting scene. 
It's simple, and it gives a function to a small space. DecorPad.
Floating shelves can convert a slice of unused space or 
the corner of a room into a home office. The staggered 
arrangement minimizes the ho-hum factor. The desk isn't really a 
desk, but a shelf supported by custom brackets, by Sarah Richardson.

A traditional room in a traditional house 
begs for a more formal arrangement 
of bookcase items. It's okay to place seating in front of 
bookshelves as long as the books are accessible.

Get the look, get the book

Download my $4.99 eBook, DIY Home Staging Tips to Sell Your Home Fast and For Top Dollar to learn all the ins and outs of staging a bookcase and bookshelves, as well as other tips that tug at the heartstrings of home buyers.

Top photo: Ashley Goforth.

Why I love an Etagere, and You Should Too

Monday, June 27, 2011
Quick. What's tall and thin, stands alone against a wall or in a corner, and displays valuables?

Not a fashion model who lacks conversation skills.

The correct answer is "an etagere." It's an open shelving unit typically used to display art objects, plants, books or curios. It's also a friend to anyone staging a home for sale.

Here are the reasons I say this piece of furniture should be part of any home stager's furniture collection:
  • The shelves are open, which gives any room a more open feeling.
  • There's an etagere to mix or match with any design style.
  • The price range is wide and accommodating.
  • They are often lightweight and easy to move. Some disassemble for packing.
  • Placed in a corner, one will round out a sparsely furnished room.
  • Used in pairs, they add formality and function to a room that's lacking these aspects. 
You can call an etagere a bookcase or a display case or a storage unit, but it's more than those things. It's a statement piece, the way a fashionable purse is. An etagere can supply that important finishing touch every room needs.

furniture crush

I've been in love with the etagere since I owned a set of plastic knockdown, Parsons-style units about 30 years ago. Talk about versatile! These units held books in some of my homes, displayed a collection of framed photos and tchotchkes at another time, contained all the audio equipment at other times, provided space to start seedlings one year, stood in for closet shelving near the end of their lives, and were finally relegated to the garage as a humble shelving unit until someone named Mr. Lucky melted one of the plastic legs with a heater.

A moment of silence, please, for a trusted and loyal friend.

The plastic etagere, not Mr. Lucky.

I'm here to sing the praises of all etagere today. And let's not confuse an etagere with a bakers rack, or enclosed bookcases, or media storage cabinets. The traditional etagere is backless and has corner posts. It can have a square, rectangular or triangular footprint. It can be curvy or angular, and made of chrome, wood, glass, mirrors, wicker, stainless steel, sheet metal, bamboo, particle board, or plastic. Here are some examples of what this classic and useful piece of furniture can look like.
This Mission style etagere would be at home in a bath, office, or family room.
Called a ladder etagere, this design by 
Kathy Ireland has a tiny footprint.
What could be more sleek than glass and chrome? 
Newberry Grand via Apartment Therapy.
And this is another treatment of etagere as
 bookcase. Photo: House Beautiful
I love the punch that cross braces add to this one. 
Photo: Habitually Chic 
See how the etagere adds just the right amount of weight to 
this room? Photo: Greg Scheidmann
A pair of etagere used as end tables. 
Photo: Graciela Rutkowski Interiors
Nate Berkus let this one dominate the room, 
where its lines repeat the rug motif.
An etagere can include a concealed storage area in its design 
and it's still an etagere. Photo: Mayfair

Since home staging is about making your home look clean and spacious, most etagere designs fill that bill, and they do it with panache. Whether you're staging your bathroom, home office, kitchen, bedroom, living room or even a garage or closet, there's usually a place for one of these functional shelving sets.

Looking for ideas to help you stage your property? Then, buy my $4.99 eBook, DIY Home Staging Tips to Sell Your Home and For Top Dollar. You'll be inspired and informed, I guarantee it. Get advice from an expert so you can stage your home like an expert.

Ceiling Fans-- Good or Bad for Bedroom Staging?

Thursday, June 23, 2011

Do ceiling fans stir up interest in your home, or are they just dated ugliness on a stick, with whirling blades?

And where do we go for an answer to that question?

Years ago, my daughter's home was featured on Trading Spaces, the HGTV show.

The designer Doug Wilson made over her master bedroom.

One of the first things Doug said HAD to go was the ceiling fan.

Well, not so fast, Doug!
Ceiling fans? 
What would Doug Wilson say?

I've lived in houses with ceiling fans and without ceiling fans. I like that they move the air in a room. I like that they cool in summer, and circulate warm, rising air in winter. I like that they create the sensation of life in a room, almost the way a fire in the fireplace does. And I like that they can reduce heating and cooling bills.

If we ask Feng Shui consultant Ann Bingley Gallops, she'll say that ceiling fans properly placed in the bedroom will move energy around, and that's always beneficial. I happen to believe that good Feng Shui is good home staging.

But designers like Doug seem to hate the things. If the fan features cutting-edge technology, costs a month's salary, and looks like it was designed by an Italian architect, that's a different story. Then, maybe even Doug will install it.

So, what's a homeowner to do when it's time to sell? Do you keep the fan or replace it? What do buyers want? And if the fan comes down, what do you replace it with?

The answers have to do with things like the style of your home, the likely buyers, the size of your room, your locale, your choice of fan, and even your ability to keep it clean.

Ask yourself

If you are presently living in your home, and you actually use your fans and find them quiet and efficient, I would say, leave them there. Chances are good that your buyer will appreciate them as well.

If the look and feel of your home doesn't support the use of ceiling fans, if the builder installed them because he thought they looked trendy, if they are noisy, oversized or undersized for the rooms, perhaps it's time to replace them with stylish, new lighting fixtures that will look better and be more practical.

If the heating and cooling systems in your home are doing their job well, ceiling fans may be redundant and pointless.

However, when your home is a city loft with high ceilings, an industrial vibe, stainless appliances, and minimal furnishings, then a sleek, new brushed aluminum ceiling fan may put the finishing touch on your style statement.

Or if your home is a classic Craftsman style, you'll woo more buyers if your decor is more authentic, including what's overhead. Period details are important to people who value historic homes.

This Mission style overhead fan from Emerson 
costs $368 from Hanson Wholesale.
Ceiling fans with a tropical look are popular, especially in homes located in warmer climates or decorated in that style. These fans convey a certain global flair, hinting at exotic destinations and romantic retreats. Is this the look your home has, and that your buyers will respond to?

You can spend as little as $40 for a fan or as much as a couple of thousand. Before you spend anything, check customer reviews online to learn about how difficult it will be to assemble or install, how quiet the motor is, and what the long term customer satisfaction is.

A ceiling fan is a natural in a summer cottage. Photo: BHG
Or in a kitchen where it helps keep the room cooler during serious cooking times. Top photo: Cortney Vanelli
I was recently in a home on the market, and when I walked into the bedroom with the owner, I stopped short at the sight of her ceiling fan. The owner admitted that the fan was so low over the bed it was scary.  I doubt the sellers turned it on at all. I suggested that she replace the fan with a light fixture suitable for the bedroom.

This small vintage ceiling fan-and-light fixture is the perfect touch for a small laundry area. Photo: Benjamin Moore

Do you have fans that ought to be replaced by lights? Low-priced, small fans, the ones that sell for about $40, can handle one 60-watt bulb. That's not enough to illuminate most rooms.

When your Realtor walks to your bedroom door, and throws the wall switch to show the room to potential buyers, is it bright in there? A Realtor doesn't always have time to arrive ahead of clients and turn on lights. She's not going to walk across the room and turn on bedside lamps. She's busy pointing out other features.

It's also a good idea to replace, repair or remove fans that are missing parts, that wobble, are noisy, look out-of-date, or don't fit the room's decor. Typical ceiling fan styles are contemporary, retro, tropical, old world, Asian, Victorian, Mission, and novelty.

Maybe your son loved it, but it's time to 
pack it up for the move to your next home. 

If you have a fan that needs to look new again, paint it. I suggest you first remove the blades. Just two screws hold each one. Ask me how I know not to attempt painting attached fan blades while standing on a bed. I wish I had a video of my attempt!

Do you need some more helpful pointers and encouragement when it comes to sprucing up your home for the real estate market? Order my $4.99 ebook, DIY Home Staging Tips to Sell Your Home Fast and For Top Dollar. It comes with a money-back guarantee. Why go it alone, when you can learn from my experience? How you stage does make a difference, a difference in how much money your home is worth to a buyer.

Doug's Photo: Silver Feast

Stage A Home by Example. Copy the Luxury Hotels

Monday, June 20, 2011
If you are staging a home, I can give you an excuse to take a little vacation. I am sure you deserve it.

You can convince your significant other that it's time for some R & R, by explaining a vacation is an opportunity to study decor that works for home staging. You're on a research mission. Hotels and resorts have lots to teach.

Bedrooms matter

Wouldn't you love staged bedrooms to look something like a boutique hotel room? I know future buyers would!

Here's what's worth copying from high-end hotels:
  • No funky furniture. Pieces that match in style look more refined. 
  • Layered but simple bedding
  • Some abstract art that anyone could love
  • A harmonious color scheme
  • The lack of itty-bitty stuff scattered here and there (Of course! No one lives there until you arrive!)
  • Unquestionable cleanliness 

Some backstory

Hotels used to be the punching bag of interior decoration. And no wonder.

The color schemes were plucked from the worst Hollywood had to offer, as if to remind you that you were escaping reality by vacationing. The furniture was chosen to withstand abuse but it looked like it was designed for men's dormitories. Tacky reproductions of rainy Paris street scenes and puppies in a field of daisies were screwed to the flocked wallpapered wall through their gilded frames.

Very impressive. If you never left home before.

Then along came boutique hotels, and American hotel chains knew they had to follow suit. Probably the Internet helped to educate people about what hotels could look like if hotels wanted to put forth any effort.

There are still plenty of ugly hotel rooms in America, but if we concentrate on the elegant ones, the expensive ones, the luxury ones, the ones managed by people wise enough to hire a designer, then we can learn something about how to a stage a bedroom for the real estate market.

Ideas worth stealing

Who doesn't relish the feeling of waltzing into a big, beautiful, private bedroom, that's been freshly prepared just for your relaxation and enjoyment? That's the feeling you want to convey to people touring your home.

Creating the sense of a bedroom suite is always a good idea. Do you have the space for a writing desk, a lounge chair, or love seat? Women especially respond to a bedroom staged as a getaway, a place to unwind and be alone, or else spend private time as a couple.

A bench at the foot of the bed is also a good idea hotels know about. It doesn't take much space, visually substitutes for a footboard, and provides a surface for sitting.

Big windows are another mark of luxury and spaciousness. Are the windows in your bedrooms dressed to make them look large? Are the window treatments hung high and wide? Do they complement the mood of the room? They can't look skimpy!

Hotels that charge big bucks have to look trendy as well as spotless. Outdated technology will downgrade a bedroom. In the staged home, a large screen television is a plus (especially with men, even though the set doesn't convey with the property). Other electronics -- those that can't be stolen on a home tour -- should look contemporary as well.

I have used a laptop as a staging prop, something my computer repair guy was glad to get rid of for free because it was not repairable. We removed the screen so it was obvious -- once opened -- that it was not worth stealing. Closed, it looked spiffy and new.

Of course, the more you can make the bath look like a spa, the better. Big fluffy white towels and an ultra clean vibe go a long way. Stash anything that stands out as personal or medicinal. 

If you want more tips on staging bedrooms to sell a home, download my $4.99 eBook, DIY Home Staging Tips to Sell Your Home Fast and For Top Dollar. You'll easily gain a wealth of information, advice that will let you stage a home on a dime.

Book Review and the Truth About What I Know.

Thursday, June 16, 2011
Although not about staging, this is one helpful book.
I have a confession. I'm not the little Miss Know-It-All that I pretend to be.

When I'm staging a home, I have to experiment. I have to try different furniture arrangements, different lamps, different plants, before I  get it right.

I have to go online and research new cleaning products, tutorials on repairing furniture, and best sources for drapery hardware.

I have to soak up every store display, model home, and televised makeover that crosses my path.

I haunt the bookstore. I go to the library every two weeks and bring home an armful of books about interior decoration, home repair, crafting, and landscaping. These constitute the bulk of my bedtime reading.

Last month I brought home a book so interesting that I decided rather than read it with the sense of urgency that comes with reading library books near their due date, I would actually purchase it. So I ordered a second hand one from Amazon.

What? You didn't think I'd buy NEW, did you?

Now I have my own copy of Stylish Solutions, by Elizabeth Gaynor and Kari Haavisto, published by Random House in 1998.

The date is important because although it is 13 years old, the photos look as fresh as any in the monthly shelter mags.

The decor is classic without being stuffy or fussy.

Most of the photos are shot in designers' own homes, and in the homes of architects, stylists, art directors and the like -- talented people, people with style. People who would start bidding wars if they listed their homes for sale.

But what really captivated me was the elegant writing. Here's a sample of what the authors have to say about fireplace mantels.

"A Fireplace gives presence to a room and prominence to a wall. If you have one, you can't ignore it, but that doesn't mean all adjacent furniture must be oriented in its direction. If you don't have one, you can bring in a mantel, old or new, just to give a room a bit of architecture. A chimneypiece can be highly ornamental and require very little embellishment, or be very plain. It provides a natural, although expected place to hang a large mirror or painting. A mantel is really a shelf of sorts, as welcoming to found objects of almost any height, artfully arranged, as to valuable antiques."

Now, really, that's almost everything you need to know about mantels, in a nutshell.

Besides an introductory paragraph that kicks off each section -- coffee tables, sideboards, sofas, bookcases, mantels and beds -- the bulk of the book is photos with "deep captions," informative, descriptive captions.

Here's another sample I photographed from my newest book. I don't have a scanner, so I apologize for not doing justice to the photos. But, notice the richness of textures and the variety of materials here -- glass, wood, metal, vegetation, fabrics, all with generous proportions. 

 What home buyer wouldn't fall in love with a spare bed tucked cozily into a corner, filled with fluffy pillows and topped off with a bookshelf for a headboard?

Here's another bedroom worth imitating for staging purposes. The lines are clean, and the color scheme is contemporary. There are plenty of places for the eye to rest, and the artwork isn't distracting. 
Whatever you read, and wherever you go, keeping an eye out for ideas is going to help you stage.

If you expose yourself to examples of timelessly stylish decor, your eye becomes accustomed to what works and what doesn't, so when you're tweaking your own staged rooms, you'll know when you've got it right.

There's more help available in my own $4.99 eBook, DIY Home Staging Tips to Sell Your Home Fast and For Top Dollar. It's written just for homeowners, realtors, home stagers, builders, decorators, and others preparing homes for sale. You can download it now, and start seriously staging right away, the right way.

How to Shop Garage Sales Like a Pro!

Monday, June 13, 2011

Anyone who thrives on buying second hand, and I'm part of that club, has her own bag of tricks. Here are my favorite ways to score bargains at garage sales.

The Chit Chat

I always try to immediately befriend the seller. Smile. Small talk about the weather and about how many people have come by. Compliment the merchandise. Never mutter criticisms to your companions. Very often how friendly the seller thinks you are is in direct proportion to how flexible prices will be.

The Approach 

Scope out everything immediately upon arrival. Zero in on the good stuff and don't get distracted. Don't knock anyone over getting to a prize piece on the opposite side of a driveway, but don't dally over the blankets when what you really want is books.

The Grab 

Who among us hasn't hesitated, and then watched someone else walk off with a coveted treasure? Most garage sale items are one of a kind. This ain't retail, folks.

Asking the seller to set something aside doesn't work. It's still easy for someone else to not know it's "reserved." Often there is more than one seller, and I've seen arguments spring up about which buyer had dibbs on an item.

The Demographics 

Buy from little old ladies, and I can say this because I am a little old lady.  I'm not endorsing exploitation of the elderly. I'm saying that older people are often happy to downsize, and they usually have the kind of things that were made (in America!) before manufacturers realized how flimsy they could make things that people would still buy.

Don't confine your garage sale shopping to the better neighborhoods, on the theory that people with money have more taste or better stuff. Wrong. Not only is the merchandise sometimes crapola, but it's usually overpriced.

Originally beat-up and painted an institutional green, I stripped the paint from this $15 
dresser, and patched the places where wood veneers had de-laminated. 
Then I faux finished what needed it, imitating a birdseye maple 
on the drawer fronts, and marble on the top. It's a keeper!
Don't ignore middle class neighborhoods, and even parts of town where there are older homes and people who need money. My favorite table lamp, above, is an example. I paid $2 after I found it in the corner of a dirt floor garage that smelled like pee.

The Vehicle 

Don't drive an expensive car. Buddy up with someone who drives an old pickup. We owned a Jaguar a few years ago (before we realized how expensive repairs were). I told Mr. Lucky, "I can't drive that car to a yard sale. I lose all my negotiating power. Leave me the van."

Sellers will judge your ability to pay by what you drive. Look like one of the people, not a wealthy cheapskate.

When I wanted to buy just one of these frosted pink glasses (silly me!), the owner insisted I 
take the pair. So glad I did, because they are perfect not only for centerpieces and 
mantel decor, but for ice cream sundaes as well, which as we all know, one should 
never enjoy alone! My gardenias and roses scented the entire room.
Arriving in a car that's not fancy or new also means you can transport things worry-free. You don't want that wrought iron trellis poking a hole in your leather seats. You want a truck bed that will accommodate a dining table if that's what you're hunting.

The Outfit 

There is a way to dress for yard sale shopping. You want shoes that don't absorb the dew that is still on the grass early in the day. Forget cutesy shoes that don't give you the comfort required to last the morning.

Look poor. Get your old sneaks out. Dress for functionality. The latest styles will only hamper your bargaining power.

Wear pants or a jacket with pockets for money. Don't carry a purse because you need both hands free to rummage.

What I fell in love with is the size of this demitasse (that's a penny 
on the right), and the lovely handle, and, of course, 
the pink transferware pattern. I don't use it for anything, but I still like to
 keep it in sight, along with my other pink transferware. If I ever start 
drinking espresso, I'll be all set. It cost all of one dollar. 

The Schedule 

Get there early or get there late. Everyone knows this. Have a plan. If you are getting your addresses from Craigslist, map them so you can make a travel loop.

Don't be so early that you risk annoying the seller. Some professional pickers may differ with me on this point, arguing that arriving while it's still dark, and the harried sellers are just setting up tables, is okay because you are a serious buyer. Do what you're comfortable with, but I don't think sellers like the idea of selling to people who are making a profit. Don't act like a pro. Even if you are.

The Mindset 

Train your eye to isolate objects. In the row of junk vases there may be a genuine Roseville. Don't be influenced by surroundings. Instead, envision the lamp or chair the way you will use it. Maybe you'll be faux finishing that ugly flower pot, or changing the hardware on an old dresser.

Last month my friend Julie found a signed crystal bowl at a yard sale that she bought for $5. She sold it on ebay for $3,000. True story. She's also found diamond rings and sterling place settings for pennies on the dollar. She's educated herself about what's valuable.

The Money 

Have cash, and have it in small change and small bills. Sellers are wanting to see profits. Some even have set a monetary goal for the day. Make it easy for them, and yourself, by having exact amounts. Checks sometimes are acceptable (life in a small town, ahhhhhh), but usually cash is king.

I recently bought this original painting at a yard sale. It's one of the first things I see every morning, and I never tire of studying its play of light. It cost me three dollars. It's signed on the front. On the back it's titled Approach To The Mountain, and dated 1984. The artist even pasted his printed address sticker on the back. Thank you, Mr. Sumner in Keene, New Hampshire. I'm waiting for Mr. Lucky to make a frame. 
Here is one trick I have seen work wonders. Know what you will pay for a piece. Have the cash in your hand. Make your offer, and extend your fistful of dollars. You can even put it on the table in front of the seller, or start counting it out. If the seller refuses your offer, put the money back in your pocket. Usually, she'll agree, or start negotiating, because she saw the money, started spending it in her head, then watched the money disappear. Try it. I once bought an expensive bike for my son this way, paying only a few bucks.

The Locale 

I know that many bargain hunters shop flea markets, thrift stores and consignment shops while on vacation, but have you looked for yard sales when you're away from home? Vacation shopping in souvenir shops, gift stores and outlet malls bores me, but show me a yard sale sign and I'm gonna follow that arrow. Besides prices being a plus, my chances of finding something with local color, something not common back home, are going to be pretty darn good. I still have the bamboo furniture I bought cheap while visiting the Florida Panhandle ten years ago.

These chair cushions have been re-covered numerous times, and I think it's time for me to sew a fresh set. I'm always attracted to the laid back, tropical feel of bamboo, wicker, and rattan furniture. I don't remember what I gave that woman in Panama City Beach for her chairs and tables, but I know they've easily paid for themselves many times over in comfort and versatility.

I know that each of you will have your own tips to scoring great deals at yard sales. If you liked my bargain-hunting ideas, download my $4.99 eBook, DIY Home Staging Tips to Sell Your Home Fast and For Top Dollar, where you'll find plenty of pointers for thrifty buying and decorating, whether you are presently selling a home or not.

99-CentTray Makeover

Thursday, June 09, 2011
When I spy something as functional as a serving tray -- with handles, yet! -- at Goodwill for less than a buck, I'm going to take it home with me.

Such was the case when I spotted a plain jane, yellow plastic tray last week.

I knew that tray was dreaming of a more adventurous life. She was marooned at the second hand store, waiting to be thrown a lifeline. I was happy to rescue her.

When you stage a home on the market, serving trays like this one can add simple structure and style to a side table, vanity, bedside table, mantel, hassock, foyer bench, or coffee table. I wrote about dressing up a tray here.

I'm always telling you, "Don't use small objects when you stage," but you can almost tweak my rule when you put the small stuff on a tray.

It didn't bother me that my tray looked jaundiced and gaudy. She just needed some fresh air. And paint. 

My first step when I got her home was to give her a bath. Once dry, I sanded her lightly, and sprayed on a coat of white primer, and then a coat of creamy white semi gloss. 

I wanted to gussy up the handles and add some personality, so I found some white nylon rope to wrap around them. I thought that would give her the "nauti-look" I was after. 

I hot glued the end of a length of rope to the underside of a handle, because I wanted to hide the end. 

   Then I started wrapping the handle with rope.

I ended the wrap on the underside of the handle, and glued the other end down.

Then, I cut the end off, nice and clean.

I tried tracing around the bottom of the tray, but in the end, I decided to be more accurate, 
and measure the actual area I wanted to  cover. 

I rough-cut the maritime chart I wanted to use. It's important to use paper with as much substance as scrapbook paper, not a regular, lightweight road map or wrapping paper. Or you can paint a stencil design on a tray, like this one that Kristi at Pink and Polkadot did.

I cut the chart out with a rotary cutter, but scissors or a mat knife would also work. The edges should be straight and clean. You should dry-fit the paper onto the tray before going further. I ironed the map to smooth the wrinkles and creases. What gal wants those to show?

I applied spray adhesive on the back of the map and then quickly set it in place.

Finally, I sprayed the whole tray with a clear sealer. My serving tray is
all decked out for her new life. 
I'm pleased with the look, and I know I'll find 
plenty of uses for this tray on our boat, or for staging a house.

If you love DIY projects and you are staging a home for sale, download my $4.99  eBook, DIY Home Staging Tips to Sell Your Home Fast and For Top Dollarfor top-notch, do-able ideas to help get your home ship shape!

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