The Den: The Big Reveal!

Exactly four years ago today, I became a homeowner. That decision could be characterized in a lot of ways: crazy, stupid, optimistic, deluded, exciting, terrifying, and maybe a bit ambitious. I loved this house from the second I saw it, and if I was going to buy a house (something I was not particularly equipped or intending to do), it was going to be this house. There were no other contenders.

That part—the period of falling for a property and feeling committed to its acquisition—felt easy (the actual purchase part was not, but that’s another story). The stuff that came after it wasn’t quite as easy. I’m not sure I have much in the way of original thoughts on this topic: yes, it really does take twice as long. Yes, it really does cost twice as much. Yes, at times it’s satisfying, frustrating, overwhelming, thrilling, and challenging. It’s a process that can variably bring out both the best and the worst, exposing your weaknesses and fears as much as it reveals the heights of your capacity for joy and contentment. It’s a long, strange, intensely humbling trip.

None of this is immediately pertinent to this post, I guess, but it felt weird to not acknowledge the milestone of four years! Some days it feels like the house has come such a long way, and other days it feels like the amount of remaining work is insurmountable. So with regards to the den, this is a space that—until very recently—contributed to that whole insurmountable feeling. This room has never really been anything. For a while it had a bed in it for guests (who got to wake up looking at a half-demoed water-damaged acoustic tile ceiling…how charming!), but mainly it’s just been a place for stuff to spill into as other spaces got worked on. Which feels…weird! There’s this whole space in my house that, functionally, might as well have been some off-site storage facility (which certainly would have felt cleaner and more manageable!), and now it’s an actual room that I’m actually sitting in and actually writing this blog post and actually not seeing anything crumbling around me or making me feel crappy because “oh-my-god-I’ve-lived-here-for-this-long-and-this-room-is-still-a-total-dump.” Particularly on a DIY pace and budget, stuff just takes a long time, and it’s not always easy (or, necessarily, especially productive) to pinpoint exactly why. It just does.

SO! Shall we take a looksie around the new room? Let’s do it.

Ba-boom! If it looks like a different room, that’s almost because it is. That bay window situation in the “before” shot was not original to the house and I removed it last summer as part of a larger exterior renovation, and I believe this is actually much as the room would have looked when it was built! Time saw the addition of electricity, hardwood flooring laid over the original subfloor, and hot water radiator heating, but ya know—that stuff’s not going anywhere. The rest of it is just cosmetic—one of the ways I try to approach renovating vs. decorating is by renovating with more of a restoration mindset, and decorating however the hell I want. Somebody could move in here and swap out light fixtures and repaint (or wallpaper), furnish, and have themselves much more of a time capsule vibe, but I guess I’d rather just have a…me vibe? This room feels very me, to me. ME ME ME.

Here’s where we were at the beginning of March!

And today! Much improved, yes?

Sorry, I’m a sucker for a before-and-after comparison. Did we get it out of our systems? I really wish I had taken more pictures of the room before it started getting torn apart! It’s like I had learned nothing four years ago when I had the opportunity to take true “before” photos. I’m going to blame it on the fact that I saw much more of the house as a straightforward renovation/redecorating project than what it’s become.

So, maybe this room looks crazy and maybe it is crazy and maybe I have no ability to form an objective opinion on it, but I DO know that it’s filled with so many things I love and is so comfortable and cozy that I literally do not care at all if it could also be considered stylish. I think it’s pretty. I don’t know.

I’ve mentioned lots of these things before, so forgive me if I’m repeating myself, but…

This sofa!! I bought it from Susan and Will Brinson (of the obscenely inspiring blog, House of Brinson). 400 bucks! For a secondhand, high-quality, all leather sofa that is the most comfortable thing in the world, I think that’s a great deal. Even though this room isn’t really a guest room (it was supposed to be when I started working on it!), the cushion section of the sofa is roughly the size of a twin sized bed, and I can tell you from firsthand experience (of Netflix and chilling so hard that I fall asleep) that it’s SO comfortable. I wouldn’t feel bad asking a guest to sleep here because it really does sleep like a bed, not a couch. I love the wear on the leather, and I love that I don’t have to be insane about it because it’s already been lovingly broken in by two large dogs before my own dogs, so they just add to the patina.

Womb chair, womb chair! I love this chair but Mekko REALLY loves this chair. When I was a kid, my mom looked for a lounge chair for her bedroom for literally a decade, and as a teenager I recommended this one…which she purchased…and then hated…which I was secretly kind of excited about because it meant that if she didn’t get around to reselling it as she said she would, I could ask for it when I eventually had the space to accommodate. MY SCHEME WORKED and now it is mine and it’s the most expensive dog bed in the world.

The original (well, original to the house being heated by radiators—before that it was wood stoves!) radiator got a few coats of glossy black spray paint, and I love the pairing of the black-black with the blue-black walls! I don’t know why! Particularly with more ornate radiators like this one, I think black paint is a great way to really highlight the fancy Victorian scrollwork on each fin.

Above the radiator is a collection of frameless antique mirrors, which I hoard just because. When the foil backing starts to disintegrate on an old mirror, I think the effect is so beautiful and interesting and I just buy them whenever I see them, assuming the price is good and they meet my rigorous quality standards of being in one piece.

I always thought it would be cool to display them in some kind of grouping, and this steel ledge isn’t quite what I had in mind, but I bought the ledge almost four years ago (it was supposed to go in my first kitchen renovation, but I changed my mind!), so it was nice to finally put it to use since I didn’t get my act together and send it back to CB2 at the time.

The tea light candlesticks are originally from Dwell Studio, but I picked them up a few years ago secondhand. I love them so much! The wooden tray that they’re sitting on I bought in the fall when I was in Austria. So simple and pretty.

On the wall to the right of the window, the top little piece of art was made by my mommy as a kid! I stole it out of a box of old stuff in our basement years ago, and I’ve had it hanging somewhere since. I love it—someday I’ll upgrade the frame, but an IKEA RIBBA never hurt anyone. The muscleman below it came out of my grandparents’ house after they had both passed away, and nobody knows where it came from or who the artist is.

The light is from my internet pal and long-time design crush, Logan at One Forty Three. I’m so proud of that dude! Watching his business expand and grow, and all the things he’s created since I first became aware of his work, has been so exciting. I’ve had the lamp for…probably 5 years at this point, and it still looks and works like the day it was packaged up and sent to my then-home in Brooklyn. I’m so happy to have it hanging up again.

The dark walls do swallow up a lot of natural daylight (perfect for a chill zone room like this, I think!), but that can make houseplants difficult. I’ve never had a problem keeping one of these ZZ plants alive though—perfect for low light and thrive on neglect. The pot is vintage, found somewhere around Kingston. The candlestick is also vintage and used to be half of a set of two, but I MAY have not realized that absent a metal liner in the part where the candle goes, a candle will burn down and then light the candlestick on fire, and then that will burn until somebody notices.

I’m a hazard.

I bought the dog on a trip to China in 2005. I bought the side table a few years ago from JC Penney, when Terence Conran did a really nice collection for them, and then it all went on clearance, and then I panic-bought some of my favorite pieces from the collection just BECAUSE I HAD TO and I don’t regret it because I think it was like $30 for this cast iron and white oak side table that is just so cute and very well-made.

Also you can kind of get a sense of how the Diamante wallpaper from Hygge & West in the adjoining little office looks with this room. I feel like the two play well together!

You might recognize the two pieces above the sofa from my Brooklyn bedroom and then again from my current bedroom that I showed you just a few weeks ago, but naturally I’ve already moved them and I think THIS is where they belong! These hung in my grandparents’ bedroom at least throughout my lifetime, and it’s an honor to have them here.

Also, ORANGE NAKED LADY!!! Evidently, I wrote a blog post about her back in 2013 after I bought her at an auction, but she’s never really had a permanent home until now. I’m still exactly as tickled by her as I was when I spent $60 real-life dollars on her and got made fun of by other auction attendees for it.

SPEAKING of auctions…now is the part where if you didn’t hate me already, I give you license to hate me now.

I went to an auction shortly after I started working on this room.

I saw this rug.

I wanted this rug. Immediately. Intensely.

I prepared myself to spend $400-$500 for this rug, which is a chunk of change but actually a good deal for a rug of this age and size (and, I’d argue, uniqueness), and I’d been looking for one for this room, and here it was.

The bidding started.

Nobody bid.

I bid. $45. And won.

FORTY. FIVE. DOLLARS. That’s, like, a fancy tea towel. That’s, like, five burritos.

The guy next to me literally turned to me and asked what possessed me to buy that rug. ARE YOU BLIND, SIR?

OK I’m done gloating. I love that rug so hard. The colors are so weird and good. The wear is everything I want.

I haven’t painted the door yet (since it swings into the hallway, I can convince myself it’s part of the hallway restoration, which I’ve been great at putting off indefinitely), but you get the idea.

This space is pretty narrow, and that couch is ENORMOUS, and the space between the righthand corner and the door trim is about a foot, so I needed something very slim for under the TV.

I searched and searched and racked my brain for something I could just buy and be done with. I didn’t want to build a thing. It felt like…I just built a ROOM, do I really need to make myself crazy over building something big FOR the room?

Then I built a thing and I’m so glad I did because I actually really like the thing I built! It’s essentially just a plywood box that’s covered in lath from my very own walls and ceilings. I think I started it on a Sunday morning and had it hanging on the wall by Monday afternoon, and it holds a bunch and looks cute and cost me all of about $10 for the piano hinge. Also, it was really fun! Since buying the house, it’s actually very rare that I just kind of make something that isn’t part of a much larger renovation project, and I forget how fun it is to just play around with some tools and some wood and see what happens.

By the way, on top of the cabinet thing on the far left sits a Sonos speaker, and my Apple TV is turned sideways between the speaker and the stack of books. That’s all the technology! I’ve tried to make it a tradition to buy a Sonos speaker upon the completion of each room to spread the cost out—it’s kind of spendy for me, but I do really like the system and I love that the speakers come in white or black so it’s usually possible to keep it very inconspicuous.  The speakers all tie back to the Sonos app on my phone, and can be controlled independently or in unison to play music, adjust the volume, play/pause, etc. I recommend it!

I didn’t do anything particularly nice about finishing the inside (I made it! for me! and I don’t care!), but it holds a ton! I decided to put all of my weird pottery and figurines and candlesticks and stuff in there, along with extra tea lights and candles for the room. It’s so nice to have all this kind of stuff in one place! I find that I love too many things and can’t display them all at once without my house looking like a thrift store that somebody lives in, but if I rotate stuff in and out of display it keeps things looking more sane and ALSO makes me appreciate stuff more when I don’t see it all the time. Kind of like shopping in my own house when I get the itch to move stuff around, which is an extremely frequent event because I love to futz.

LEST you had not hit your limit with me over RugGate 2017 (scroll up a few photos; it literally just happened), a few weeks ago I was tromping through some funny antique mall kind of place in New Jersey and spotted this little fella for a dollar. So tiny! Those delicate little brass feet! Immediately I was charmed. I picked him up and then couldn’t put him back down, so I shelled out my George Washington to take him home.

Fast forward a couple of weeks into our new blissful life together, during which I had unofficially named him Herman, and I posted an Instagram of him, and was immediately informed from multiple sources that little Herman is…kind of valuable. Oddly enough, Herman was designed by Jacob Hermann (how weird is that!) in Denmark in the 1950s, and is highly collectable, and seems to sell for a few hundred dollars up to several thousand for a grouping.

Lesson: never pass up a good tchotchke. Just build a cabinet to store all the tchotchkes.

Finally, the light! THE PINK LIGHT! PINKKKKK LIGHTTTTTT!

Here’s what had happened. I went to Germany in the fall. Essentially I landed from my red-eye flight, dropped my bag at the hotel in Berlin, and immediately went to a flea market. I was so tired and so not thinking clearly and before I knew it, I had blown my entire souvenir budget on three vintage rugs and this 1950s chandelier. This is what it means to travel with me, and I am considering the first clause of this sentence as fair warning to anybody who might someday travel with me.

I carried the light through Germany and into Austria, where I disassembled it and shipped it home via DHL, which was FREAKISHLY fast. It arrived before I even got home! Between the purchase and the shipping I ended up spending about $250 on this thing, which is typically more than I’d spend on…most things, but I REALLY WANTED IT for no reason in particular. A month ago I worked up the nerve to unpack the box—knowing that one broken shade would pretty much render the entire thing worthless—but luckily it had arrived intact so then it was just a matter of rewiring the whole thing, remembering how everything fit together, and hanging it up.

I love you, pink light. Never leave me.

Annnnnnnnnd, here is my attempt to keep up with the bloggers and make this post “shoppable”: A THING IN THIS ROOM THAT I THINK YOU CAN ACTUALLY BUY! I love this little candleholder from the Modern by Dwell Magazine collection for Target. Mine was on a clearance rack at a store in Virginia that I visited to buy clean underwear after the Baltimore kitchen renovation, but it’s still for sale online. So cute!

Is that it? I think that might be it. Opium den—check!


172 Comments

  1. Daniel –
    You are GENIUS!
    Your space looks fab – thanks for sharing.
    cheers
    Michelle

  2. ok..I stand corrected on the ceiling and the medalion …it looks fantastic with the pink light , totally makes sense.
    great job…love the unit under the tv…need me one of those.
    On my way to Rhinebeck this weekend for the show at the fairgrounds….always good to be in that hood.

    • Ah! I’m glad you like the medallion now!!

      Have fun this weekend! Are you doing the Country Living Fair? I’ll be waving from across the river! :)

      • yup….Country Living Fair…..I’ll be waving back…haha

  3. It’s just beautiful. I have a rug somewhat like that (I paid a bit more, hello), and I think I’m going to hang onto it & build a dark little den around it someday.

    (I bought a couch for the dog. Because she likes to look out the window while she’s lounging.)

    • Haha, I get it! All the furniture has to play double-duty as dog beds in this house! Makes me wonder exactly WHY I was so eager to abandon my parents’ no dogs on the furniture policy…but I also wouldn’t trade it!

      • I feel like my dog is a family member and OF COURSE I let family members use the furniture. That being said, my couch certainly *shows* that it is serving as a basset hound bed 95% of the time. But Mekko? How could you deny that face and such obvious love for that chair?!?

      • I clearly cannot!! That’s what the Bissell cleaner is for, haha. I feel like it would be ruining her LIFE if I tried to make that chair off-limits. She already gives me the saddest look in the whole world on the occasion that I ask her to move so I can actually sit there!

  4. I sat here saying light fixture…where’s the light fixture…wtf I have to know about the fiiiiiiiiixture…way to make us all wait. And I’m very happy to see that the community demands for More Mekko are being honored. She’s the happiest looking dog I’ve ever seen.

  5. You are a GOD

  6. Oh! One more thing… does that leather sofa have a brand? Or do you know how old it is? It’s perfect.

  7. This room is EVERYTHING. I love it!! And why in the world would anyone not love naked orange lady or that rug?! That gorgeous rug! And the PINK light! I die. Your “me” decorating is seriously making me swoon.

    • These are questions I cannot answer! Naked orange lady came up toward the very end of the auction and so I waited and waited for her, and everyone from the auctioneer to the audience literally laughed when I bought her! I’ve never been prouder to buy anything in my life, hahaha.

  8. Bravo! Absolutely amazing room!

  9. AMAZING. I may have actually squealed in delight when I saw the orange naked lady. I remembered her from all those posts ago! I love buying old, weird art as well, and am always happy to see others that do the same thing. I have a silk-screened lady (purchased at a thrift store) that glares imperiously down at me from the wall, and I love her. My kids, not so much. Anyway, the room looks, as I said, amazing, I love the way you organize your tchotchkes. Just enough, not too much. And that couch looks soooo comfy. And the light fixture! Gorgeous. It’s all gorgeous.

  10. Such a wonderful job. I know you are proud of yourself and you should be. My bedroom is painted a very similar black blue, I dithered for at least a year, but I adore it. It pops wood tones amazingly well.

    Cheers!

  11. I love it! There is nothing weird about that rug, it is GORGEOUS! I think the sofa looks amazing, too. I knew you were going to say you built that credenza—of course you did!

    The dark paint and white trim work play so nicely off each other. The contrast is perfect! Lovely work!

  12. This is soooo good. Maybe my favorite room in your house.

  13. love that bird. and the room, too. love it all.

  14. I hate you for that rug.

  15. Agh, it’s just SO BEAUTIFUL! I love every tiny decision you made in this room. And I’m so glad you bought that light and schlepped it around Europe. I’m heading to Italy in September and may die of excitement over flea markets before I even get there.

    Also, I don’t comment much but as a fellow old-house owner/restorer/aficionado, thanks so much for your detailed posts. I’m working on getting my 1931 brick bungalow back to its former glory (after some very 80s/90s “improvements,” ugh) and your posts about plaster, moldings, etc. are so helpful! Pretty sure my dude is getting sick of me constantly saying “Oh, Daniel did a post about this, hang on…”

  16. I love it. Every little detail, like your mother’s fantastic artwork the way the dark wall camouflages the TV. And every big one, too, like the new window and the pink light (OMG).
    Re the rug (chapeau!): if you haven’t already, take it outside on a hot day and drape it over some plastic lawn chairs (I doubt you have those, but maybe your neighbors?) and hose it down. If you do it in the morning, it should be dry by late afternoon. I do it to all our rugs every summer. And to every new old rug we’ve bought.
    I thought about you this week. I went TWICE to a real opium den! Yes! Well, an opium room–it was a one-man operation. It’s in a museum dedicated to a local poet/writer who was paralyzed in WWI and who smoked opium to deal with the pain. Dark blue walls. Photos on my blog tomorrow.

    • Hahaha! My opium den is just like that!! Minus the opium, minus the chronic pain, minus the French-ness…maybe it’s not like that. But I’m honored to be associated with opium dens now—I’m sure my mother is very proud!

  17. The light fixture is amazing, that rug, herman, the side table,the chair, the couch, all so good by themselves, so perfect for an opium den together! Dude are you serious when you say : ”I think it’s pretty I don’t know…” ? I love the relation between the den and the office, too bad it’s going to be the laundry room, I guess you will mostly keep the door close then. You are a god, let’s start a cult!

    • Thank you Mariane! Love a good cult—feel free to start recruiting! #goals

      And yes I’m serious! I always felt the same way in college with writing papers…it’s like you work on something for enough time that it becomes too hard to judge if something is good or not good or making any sense or not, so you just do what feels right and put it out there and hope for the best!

  18. When you first showed that pink light I thought it was weird. In position it is gorgeous! But the best thing is your lathe cabinet.

  19. So. Beautiful.

  20. The first thing that caught my eye was the rug, and I fell in love.
    So… yeah. Screw you, buddy! How do I never find deals like that?!
    But OMG, this place is amaaaazzzing! Everything goes together so perfectly. Great job!

  21. Love the pink light and the story behind it…you rewired it yourself? Maybe there’s hope for my bought-at-a-Munich-flea-market silly chandelier that’s been living in a box for oh, maybe 20 years???

    • There is hope! Simple rewiring projects really are easy (sometimes a bit tedious, but honestly kind of hard to mess up!), and there are lots of tutorials online! Many lighting shops also offer rewiring services for pretty reasonable rates if you don’t want to go the DIY route. :)

  22. Daniel, I especially love you today because of this fab Reveal–since shoulder surgery on 5/16, yours’ is the first blog post I’ve been motivated to read start to finish without a nap. Guess I went from one Opium Den to another. I, as predicted, also hate you for the rug, the PINK light and smart tchotchke storage. I have a similar rug and love it for same reasons you love yours. If I’d been at that auction, one of us would have left sad.

  23. Yesssssss!!!! I have adored & coveted that pink light since you first showed it on IG! So jealous! And I love how you found a rug that picks up the pink. Those rug colors are my jam. I would have fought you for that rug, so it’s a good thing I’m in Texas. ;)

    P.S. I love that your posts aren’t “shoppable.” We’re working with similar budgets and constraints, and your approach is super relatable & helpful for me to see! (Though just to be clear, I don’t hold sponsored content against you or anything, because I’d do the same damn thing. But you do an awesome job keeping shit real for those of us who are on a shoestring.)

    • ^^^ Agreed! Love that Daniel keeps it real with budgets, how-tos, and unique finds.

      • Thanks guys! It’s a complicated thing and it’s been interesting to kinda see how different bloggers deal with the newish reality of affiliate links and commission-based sales on items in their own homes. I’ve met bloggers who literally won’t buy something because the company that sells it doesn’t participate in an affiliate program, and that’s just never going to be me. Sometimes I wish it was because I’d make a lot more money, but I think my house would also be super boring! I like vintage and antiques and weird stuff and keepsakes too much…if I can monetize a link, great (I mean, I’d be linking to whatever it is anyway, why not try to make a buck?), but that’s never going to be, like, my main motivation to buy, post about, or live with something. I’m glad to hear that’s OK/preferable in some ways! Sometimes I feel bad/weird about being like “HEY! Here are my things that I love and if you’d like one too, then that’s too damn bad!” but that’s just the nature of so much of what I own! I guess that was OK before bloggers became salespeople, so maybe it’s still OK now. :)

  24. Okay, sir. I was reading, reading, reading waiting to hear about that lovely, gorgeous rug. $400 would have been a steal, but $45? I rarely get out of the grocery store spending under that. What a find! I love it!

    • I know, it’s honestly not fair! I’m still shocked that this happened! You can’t buy ANY rug of that size for $45, let alone one like this! Crazy fluke. Not gonna question it!

  25. Perfect!

  26. Love the pink light! And little Herman is so cute. And the storage unit built from lath is amazing. Way to honor the old house with that. Well done!

  27. After seeing the reveal image, all I cared about was “where did he get that AMAZING floating under TV unit”?!? It’s SOOOOO good! I love the cross detailing. Almost makes me think of a giant version of those old school wall mounted medicine cabinets. I can’t believe you made that!! I would buy the crap out of that for my entry.
    The whole room looks fabulous! I love how you just went for it. So dark and moody and I want to cuddle up in there and marathon so much garbage.

    • Haha! Thank you! Maybe I should make more of them! It was fun…I could see making a few and selling them…hmmmmmmmmmm.

  28. I LOVE the cabinet you built. Completely wonderful. Always enjoy seeing the incredible rooms you create – such inspiration. YAY!

  29. that pink light. ugh, love. so glad it didn’t break. and little herman! adorbs.

  30. So, so good. The rug, the pink light, the storage unit/tv stand the adorable Herman. I just love it all.

  31. That pink light is the most beautiful light ever; I’m pretty sure of it. I read your posts for the design as well as your clever wit and you never disappoint in either category. Bravo!

  32. Dude! Everything about this is brilliant! I literally loved everything and squealed out loud four times (while at work so my boss definitely isn’t buying my whole “doing very important work things on the computer” face).

  33. That light, oh, oh, ooooo: that light. Hating/not hating you for that and the Hermann! Well done.

  34. THAT PINK LIGHT THO. What an amazing find.

  35. This is absolutely beautiful, and I echo Lori’s comment above about things not being shoppable. Please don’t be shoppable! I love seeing how you create such beauty out of unexpected, old, or made-from-scratch things. That’s what we’re all trying to do in so many areas of our lives anyway.

    Also, I have questions about this plywood box. I’m not asking for a long extended post about how to build a box. But building a box intimidates me! Did you use a kreg jig? How did you make sure the corners were square? I guess what I want to know is, how might one learn to build boxes? I can bake bread, lay floors, install under-floor heating, and hang drywall, but building a box feels beyond me for some mysterious reason. Help me, Obi-Wan Kenobi, you’re my only hope.

    • Thank you. :)

      Haha! So I read…somewhere…once…that when building cabinets you can do nice joinery like a fancy person who knows their stuff, or you can use wood glue and drywall screws and functionally there will be no difference…so I took that and ran with it because I like an easy way out. So basically….cut four sides, glue the edges together, and use drywall screws to secure all the corners! Because I have one, I like using a pneumatic nailer first to get everything aligned, and then add the drywall screws (pre-drilling just in case) once the box is glued up and assembled. In this case it didn’t matter that the screws were exposed because they got covered in lath anyway. Maybe someday I’ll dedicate myself to some more advanced carpentry, but as long as it’s solid and it works, who’s gonna care!

      • That makes sense! I just might spend a weekend getting down with my table saw and plywood and see what I can put together. Thanks for the easy way out :)

  36. I’m also a resale shopping addict and I have so much respect for the finds you posted here – especially Herman, who is a charmer. BUT THAT LAMP! It’s gorgeous. What a great room. Glad you are enjoying it!

  37. Flat-out gorgeous in a non-catalog. I’ve always disliked pink… but that ceiling light! So right in the room. Looks as if you hit the trifecta of personality, style, and comfort. Love the stories behind the objects and the space.

    Though you like your sofa’s worn-ness, you know that it’s easy to recondition good leather, yes? After reconditioning, it stays soft and cozily broken in without showing so much of its previous life. And you can touch it up whenever. Like applying Howard Restor A Finish but to leather instead of wood.

    What’s next — turning office into upstairs laundry room? Kitchen reno? Body-in-bathtub loo? Bluestone Cottage? Other?

    • Ooops: Flat-out gorgeous in a non-catalog, very you way. :)

    • What do you use to recondition leather? – I have a great old leather couch that could use a little love – thank you!

      • I used something from a local cobbler who makes custom shoes by hand: Kali Leather Life. Look for other products and reviews online. This tutorial might be helpful: http://homeguides.sfgate.com/recondition-leather-furniture-99019.html

        Decent-quality leather is worth maintaining. When you treat it well, it rewards you with a rich patina and durability. Good luck!

      • btw, I kinda feel obliged to state that I’ve never had bespoke shoes made, or even wanted to. I went to that shop specifically to ask about leather reconditioning products.

      • Haha! Oh my goodness, the first couple of times I read your comment I thought you were suggesting using restor-a-finish on the leather, and I was like “WOAH, that’s either genius or insane??” Glad we cleared that up, haha! Anyway—yes! I’ll look into that product. I did clean it with a leather cleaner (Mr. Leather or some such…nothing special) that definitely helped hydrate and sorta even out some of the worn spots, and I have a couple of conditioners/serums that I’ll try next! I definitely like the patina but also want it to last forever without developing splits and cracks!

  38. Wow. PERFECTION. Congratulations, Daniel.

  39. I have to say, your grandparents had such an eye for good stuff! You are so lucky to have some of their things :) I am so in love with the pink light, I just cannot say how much! The dark walls and white trim show it off perfectly. It’s kind of a miracle that it arrived all in one piece. Also, I’m not a bit surprised about the little bird. It is so charming, and you have inherited your grandparents eye for good/unique things :)

    • Aw, thanks! I am very lucky—they were extremely cool people with the best/craziest taste, and I’m glad to be able to live with bits and pieces of that, especially now that they’re gone and their incredible home has been demolished…which is still unbelievable to me.

  40. I feel like you perfectly summed up the joy and sorrow of renovating! I feel the same, complicated way. This room is beautiful! I am so happy for you that you are one step closer.

  41. If anyone deserves to get a kick-ass rug for $45, it’s you. It is fabulous! Love the entire room; well done!

  42. It’s so pretty!!!!!
    Do you have other house blogs you follow aside from House of Brinson?
    You’re my favorite blogger ☺️, so I’m wondering who my favorite blogger reads for inspiration?

    • Aw, thank you Teresa! That’s very kind! OK so admittedly I barely read blogs!! Most of my favorites stopped posting years and years ago, but I really like the hardcore renovation stuff more than the decorating and products and whatever.

      I’m currently keeping up with…
      Kim and Scott at Yellow Brick Home
      Allison at Deuce Cities Henhouse
      Anna at Door Sixteen
      Andy and Candis at Old Home Love
      Alex and Wendy at Old Town Home
      Malcolm at DesignSixtyNine is brand new to me and I’m enjoying!

      I might be forgetting some…do you have any suggestions for me?? I’m bad at this but would like some new reads!

      • Wow!! I just accidentally clicked on a ‘thing’ on my blog and saw your site as a ‘referrer’ (I didn’t know that this was a thing). Thank you so much! I have been a MN fan for years…. so the fact that you’re enjoying my blog is amazing!! (sorry for fan-girling, cool isn’t my thing!)
        Thank you so much for the mention!!!

  43. Hahaha, the “Are you blind, sir?” response to the rug question, that was my exact thought too! I am super jealous of people who can somehow find these rugs for cheap (despite the jealousy, I could never hate though). Once I finally have time for more regular thrifting, several of these babies are at the top of my search list. I do have friends in Chicago that own an authentic Persian rug store, and as much as I would love to support them and buy from them, a rug plus shipping to Oregon would cost all the dollars.
    Also, I love the pink light! It is such a cute shape and color! Great find if you ask me.

    • If your time allows, try estate sales. I’ve seen some fabulous hand-knotted rugs for decent prices here in Oregon — sometimes giveaway prices if you’re willing to clean the rug yourself as @Taste of France describes in comments, or don’t mind a few knots showing or missing bits of fringe. I love rugs, need none (downsized), and have had to call up serious willpower at local estate sales of world travelers.

      • Yes! Estate sales are good! eBay, too…not really for STEALS anymore, but a lot of great stuff that can go for a couple hundred bucks. I’ve brought some truly filthy rugs (like, out from under a bunch of crap at a junk shop that’s probably not been vacuumed…ever)…the hose is definitely your friend! I also have a Bissell carpet cleaner thing that’s really great and satisfying/horrifying to see all the nastiness it pulls out!

  44. So good. SO GOOD. Please never stop sharing your work and your hilarious perspective.

  45. wow. so great. i’m so happy that you have such a cosy space full of your treasures and things you love to hang out in at night!
    moving right along… now we need an update on bluestone… and the kitchen… and that other house… and the outside of the house…

  46. I love … every single detail! Love it!

  47. Hi Daniel,
    Your place is fantastic and happy 4th anniversary. You and the house have come a long way. Love the dark walls and ceiling.
    Am in a quandary about that exact topic and would appreciate your opinion. I painted the walls and ceiling in my tiny East Village bathroom Farrow and Ball Hague Blue and love it. (I am a sucker for F&B. Even though it is super expensive I use one can of it to two cans of any other paint. A deal after all.) It makes the narrow and small space with its uneven walls seem so much bigger and nicer. (Trust me, my place is afar from a luxury condo or rental as you can get.) Was thinking of painting my tiny north facing bedroom walls and ceiling a color similar to yours. But someone gifted me an almost full F&B dark blue/black. Any thoughts using that in my tiny, north facing bedroom with just one big window? Will I be repainting it with primer in a month and ruing the day I did not go with a rich, dark brown? Won’t a brown act as neutral as opposed to the blue/black.

    • Hmmmmmmmm. Welllll, without seeing the room and stuff, I don’t really know, but it sounds nice to me! I like cave-like bedrooms—I think a deep blue/black works super well in very small spaces…dare I say MOST of the time?! I’m not really sure what you mean about the brown, except to say that I’m not usually a fan of brown paint on almost anything (I think because it’s hard to pair with wood furniture and not have everything just be WAY too much brown…but wood plays really well with deep blue-blacks and greens to me).

      I can’t promise my own lamp rewiring post (I’m scared to discuss electrical because blogging experience has taught me that people FREAK out, and I’d rather just leave it alone, haha!) but maybe someday! Until then, This Old House has a nice little instructable…it’s really very easy! And fun, I think! https://www.thisoldhouse.com/how-to/how-to-rewire-lamp

  48. PS Excuse the typos of previous post. Just got excited. By the way, if you ever wanted to talk about rewiring lamps it would be appreciated. I am a oddly nervous about doing that. Need the courage to rewire because I have a serious old lamp habit and they need some tlc.

  49. I think Herman Hermann must have a little puke pool underneath his beak cuz this room is sick!
    Love, Love, Love, La La Love!

  50. The room is great–made even more special by all of the meaningful things it contains. I loved the little piece of art next to the window before I read about it, but how cool that it was done by your mother as a child! You have taken a little room and made it so useful. I also love that you can see a little peek of that great wallpaper in the next room. It is all terrific!

  51. Have you ever hung and used that light in a room with white walls where you’d be better able to see the color it cast around? I imagine a pale pink glow in a room would actually be really dreamy and pleasant and possibly really flattering to everyone in the room?

    • I haven’t! Although when the light is turned on, you can’t really tell that the shades are pink—the yellow tone of the light bulb kinda just takes over so it gives off a warm, but not pink light. :)

  52. Can’t count the number of times I made little squeaky sounds of joy reading this post. I would never decorate a room this way but I love everything in it (everything, oh, my heart. HERMAN. Rug. LATHE CABINET WHAT.) and I’m so so happy that you made this beautiful space for yourself and the dogs and your loved ones.
    Daniel.
    It’s so gorgeous.
    And that isn’t even the pink light fixture I had in mind when you said you were hanging a pink light fixture and I still went “eep!” when I saw it because: eep.

    • Thank you! Hope your school year is wrapping up (or has wrapped up!) well! :)

      • One more day! My last day of placement is Monday, and my convocation is on the fifteenth, and then I will be a real Early Childhood teacher! Thanks for remembering.

      • Yayyyyy! Congratulations! Thank you for doing the most important job! :)

  53. It’s amazing! What a wonderful space you’ve made.

  54. It’s so warm and cozy and homey! Especially with dog friends :)

    I bought an antique oriental at an auction once — I hadn’t spotted it during the preview, and when it came up I bid something like $45 and no one else bid. I was so happy! Then I put it in my car and it smelled like pee and wet cigars. I left it outside for a week (in rain and sun) and the smell dissipated a bit. I put it inside and my (late, great, and full of mysterious ailments) dog peed all over it. I covered it with baking soda, vacuumed it up, and kept using it. And she kept peeing on it. After the dog died, I offered it for free on Craigslist — as-was — I made a full disclosure about dog pee (and it also had holes and was worn and tatty). I had three takers in about five minutes. There’s something about old rugs!

    • Haha! I think people that love old rugs like a challenge! I’ve bought some questionable ones in my life for sure…

  55. Swoon.
    This room makes me remember that time I entered the room makeover contest that you had for a reader and you partnered with Lowes. I had so many daydreams about you coming to my house and making it beautiful just like this. Alas. I did not win the room makeover. But this post makes me daydream some more about what you might have done if you had come to my house and fixed my awkward space for me.

    • Awww! Maybe Lowe’s (or someone!) will want to do something like that again next year!! I wish I could have done them all!!

  56. I love the ever living shit out of that light fixture. Well worth the schlep and a souvenir you’ll actually keep/use/like for more than 10 seconds.

    • Yes! I was lucky to be exposed to a lot of travel from a young age, and I think I figured out fairly early on that I’m not really a snow globe/figurine of the statue of liberty/souvenir shot glass kind of guy. I like to make my souvenir purchases as difficult and inconvenient as possible! But then it’s a story, and a thing that I end up keeping and loving and using for years and years. I think i’d still be thinking about this light fixture if I had any sense of practicality and left it with the vendor in Germany!

  57. Like everyone else I LOVE this room and can’t wait to see it in person. Perhaps Mekko will even share her chair with me. As for that crazy art work of mine, I was NOT, unfortunately, a child when I made it. I think it was about junior high art class and we were supposed to be drawing barren trees with India ink. BORING! After about my third tree that looked nearly identical to the first two, I got creative and started blowing the ink around the paper. my teacher was appalled and I was much happier with my abstract barren winter trees. I’ll sign it if you’d like.

    • Thanks for explaining how you made that, mom. I also really, really like it. (But surely junior high age is still a child…)

      • Haha, I was gonna say! So you were…12, 13, 14? That’s a kid! At least that was my impression when I was that age!! :)

  58. Daniel,

    So love this room in the daylight as now we can see the details of said room and I love it even more.

    Even in daylight it has a cozy vibe to it and I can see myself being in that cozy space when it’s snowing like crazy outside during a snow storm.

    That pink light now that I have had a chance to see it in great detail, it looks Art Deco-ish in style and it so works this space and a great job on choosing it for this room, it works so well here.

    But the big thing is I love how you gave yourself permission to just do what you love even if it’s not exactly authentic to the house, even if you redo the rooms to spec, so to speak, but the furnishings and lighting you chose is what works in the space, rather than be a slave to the house’s style and it works very well.

    Keep it up and love the dogs, Mecco being asleep in the Womb chair and Linus just enjoying the couch, love them both.

    You just keep being you and rock on my friend!

  59. Hi Daniel, so glad we are getting to the fun part of decorating. You now have some lovely rooms. Can”t wait to see a bathroom. Also who is the extra extra dog with Marrimekko? Do you now have 3?

    Mauree

    • I have two and the boy has two! Dogs for days!

      (trust me, I also can’t wait to see a bathroom! If only I valued hygiene as much as television…oh dear.)

  60. That pink light. Oh. My. Goodness. From the first time I clapped eyes on it I was smitten. I can totally understand WHY you bought it – even if shipping did make it more expensive. Yum. Since you never want to be a part from it, maybe you could leave it to me in your will.
    The stuff on the back of your vintage mirrors is likely to be either silver, or aluminium. They get about 5 coatings of different substances, the last of which is paint, to protect the reflective layer.
    Mekko (as always,) is gorgeous. If I were visiting, she might have to learn to share the womb chair! (*In whispered tones* “Don’t worry Mekko. I live on the other side of the planet. Your superb dog bed is completely safe!).

    • Haha! She’s good at sharing, but she might give you the saddest eyes ever if you ask her to move! Then you might have to show her to one of her other beds…like my bed…or my grandparents’ eames lounge chair…it’s tough being Mekko!

  61. I could not love this room more! It is comfy, cozy, personal, and stylish—like you!

  62. 1st: I love this room. It’s beautiful! The womb chair is the perfect dog bed. :D
    2nd: I put the exact same plant in the same kind of vintage crock planter in our library for the One Room Challenge. I think that’s a funny coincidence.
    http://www.blakehillhouse.com/library-one-room-challenge-week-6/

    • oh my gosh, haha! Are we starting a…MOVEMENT?! (say no, because I need to buy all the crocks first!)

      • We’re taking this look all the way to fiddle leaf status. Just watch this time next year. Ha! (You and I will be fighting over the crocks. I love them.)

    • It’s a perfect cat chair too! Two of my cats love the chair, sometimes they even share… We had our chair upholstered in a different fabric though (a tighter weave) as the original fabric just seemed perfect for cat claws to me…

  63. It’s absolutely beautiful. And I love seeing Mekko and Linus … and a new dog!
    I’d mention my very favorite thing, but I’m afraid it will turn into a “thing” and I won’t be able to keep finding “it” at decent prices.

    • I think I know what the thing is and I also have that fear so therefore we will not discuss it any more! Luckily based on these comments I think the thing might be safe. :)

  64. That cabinet you built is awesome! Love the Swiss cross. Any chance we could coax you to do a post on how you built it?

    • Maybe?? I have to look back at my pictures and see what I documented…I was just kinda doing it and not thinking!

  65. You’ve made yourself a cozy room here. I’m guessing your need for it means you don’t find the living room downstairs great for hanging out in (though maybe you just needed a tv to chill out with), so I’m expecting we’ll see a redecorating of that downstairs room someday.

    I’m still not loving the dark ceiling but I must say, it does work very well in photos to better show off that lovely pink light fixture.

    You’ve done a LOT to this house in four years. I’m convinced if any DIY renovators knew just how long it takes to DIY an old house, and the long slog it is with the long downs that accompany the ups, that few would undertake the process. (It takes a very resolute individual to know what it takes and still take the plunge anyway.) That’s why it is good that you were able to undertake this young, before you knew clearly what you were getting into, and while you also have that boundless energy of youth to do the work.

    I didn’t have the funds to buy (due to massive student loans for decades) when I was young (and yet you manage to be able to travel, too – you are lucky!), and by the time I did buy, I knew what undertaking renovation takes, so I didn’t buy something that needed any, as I knew I wouldn’t have the time to do it – (it also really helps that you aren’t tied to a regular work gig that takes up 40-80 hours of your week.) While I find the renovation process really interesting, I fear I haven’t the energy to undertake it now, and I also think that just maybe this isn’t how I want to spend a good chunk of the years of my life remaining – but I love experiencing old house renovation vicariously through blogs like yours.

    • Yeah….with FULL appreciation of how insane and ridiculous it is that I have multiple lounge spaces in my living quarters, the living room downstairs is still a lovely place to hang, work, entertain, but there’s no TV in there and so isn’t where I kinda wind down at the end of the day, typically. Although I do owe an update, because I think it’s looked very different for quite a while since I posted about it last!

      I totally understand what you’re saying about renovating…AND the conditions that have made me perhaps uniquely able to do this. I’m very lucky—no disagreement or illusions about that here. Working a traditional office job, raising children, dealing with massive debt (I have plenty of debt, but primarily self-incurred by this passion project o’ mine, not student loans)…these things have not been a significant part of my life, and I have ALL the respect for people who can do this stuff with those added challenges and constraints…and people who know better and steer clear. I never want to come across as though this is a good idea or even a possibility for most people, because for the reasons you’re stating it’s just not true! I’m glad it’s still fun to follow, even if it doesn’t necessarily directly pertain to what you’re doing at the moment. :)

      • Ha – loved your ending “at the moment” – because part of me thinks that there may well be a largely DIY renovation in my future, despite my knowing that it takes so many times longer than the number of years you think it will take. Because I love old houses and apartments, and like them done the way I like them done, respecting and restoring a lot of old detail (which doesn’t seem to fit with the current trend of ripping out all the walls and doing everything modern), and there are a few moves yet in my future – so if I renovate, I can put all the knowledge I’ve gained reading blogs like yours to work to help me out. (Now – blogging about it, that I don’t know that I’ll ever do – putting so much of yourself out there online seems more difficult than renovating in many ways, to me.)
        .
        I say if you like to wind down with TV, then go ahead and put one in the downstairs living room as well. It is nice to feel like you use more of your rooms regularly at different times of day, and if you are like me, you won’t want to spend time in the smallest of yours rooms all the time, and need to take a break and spend time in rooms with bigger sightlines – though maybe you prefer smaller, cosier rooms more than I do – I like them, but I find I don’t gravitate toward spending a lot my time in them when there are larger rooms at hand – but then, I am a bit of a space queen, as in, I like having a lot of it around me, both in my apartment sizes, and in room sizes.

  66. That light fixture though. Wow. I am so impressed by your work.

  67. I raced to the end to find out where that light fixture was from only to realize that I can’t get it for myself!! That was an incredible find. I love love love your den. I painted my office a really deep dark color and I find myself in there more. What a beautiful space.

  68. That rug though!

  69. I love it! Especially the pink lamp. Congratulations, you’re awesome.

  70. Really gorgeous Daniel! Love your blog and look forward to every post.

  71. I love, love, LOVE how this room turned out. That wall color just looks stunning and makes the room have a super cozy vibe. I can totally imagine curling up with the doggies on the sofa, with a nice cup of tea and a good book.
    And that cabinet you built, OH MY. I saw it on the side of the one pic and thought, ‘Hmm, that looks really cool, I like it’. The fact that you made it, with stuff from your stash, is just icing on the cake.

  72. Wait!!! You can call all of the scratches left on leather couches and chairs by aniamals PATINA? I feel so much better.
    Fabulous job in the den.

  73. late to the party…. because on monday i decided to buy a house.
    yes , no . omg.
    and you and Yellow Brick House and a few other blogs have a lot to answer for…
    no really
    its a long story but circumstances will be changing where i am and after spending a week frustrated and desperately looking and finding a few places but all with issues, i just couldnt face fixing up another persons apt and yard (after 12 years here and i created a gorgeous garden)
    already found a place i am coveting and will be seeing it tomorrow
    SQUEEEEEEEEEEE
    so
    decision monday
    look at realtor.com and find my dream house tuesday
    meet with realtor thursday
    mortgage broker friday
    see house saturday
    omg
    i think i am in a parallel universe… pinch me. cause i dont know what the hell is going on….
    more to be revealed soon and i will DEFINITELY need advice – and have to say reading your blog for years has inspired me.
    if this one works its a bit of an old house but not in horrific shape (at least i dont know until i see it live)
    please send prayers
    omg

    • ps i LOVE this room. i have a DARK BLUE den in my current apartment. with black furniture ….

      • Fingers crossed for you! Daniel (and Scott and Kim) inspire all of us to do things we didn’t think we were going to do, which is how I’m spending part of my summer installing a kitchen at my friend’s house. 0_o I hope everything works out the best possible way for you.

    • You’re looking in PV, KS? My hometown. Couldn’t believe what the house my parents build in mid-’50s went for a couple of years ago. It’s on a quiet cul de sac with a large yard and a stream in back, but still. Good luck! (and “rock chalk jayhawk”)

    • Oh my my my! Well isn’t this exciting! Your current landlord is lucky to have such a wonderful tenant, but I of course understand that frustration. Eep! House!! The part between offer and closing is for sure the most stressful and crazy-feeling time, but once you’re through it…house!! So I gotta ask…how did it go on Saturday?? I’m so excited for you!

    • Good luck! But if this house didn’t turn out to be it, don’t get discouraged with the looking process – it can take time to find the right house (and it is impossible to tell from online listings – remember olivebridge cottage!) – so take enough time to do your due diligence before you fall in love completely (consider multiple inspections with inspectors with different expertise and skillsets – one with an actual engineering or building background can be of great help – if it is a fixer-upper, and even (maybe especially) if you don’t THINK it is much of a fixer upper.)

    • Thanks to all for the comments.

      as things go the first and second house were no go for various reasons. (i will write a blog post on my blog that has only photos but only after the deed is done )

      so found some place and am in the waiting for contract stage and then the dreaded mortgage stage (hearing horror stories)…
      promise to update when the deed is in my hot little hands!
      pray for me!

  74. Just love everything about what you do and continue to do and if I were 30 years younger I might be encouraged (pathetically) try my hand at renovating. But instead I’ll live vicariously through you and admire what someone who has quirky, classy, tastes plus incredible skills can do. (Not to mention your wonderful sense of humor which blasts through your posts.) You are a wonder and it looks like you bring so many people the simple joy of admiring your hard work.

  75. Can you please invite me over to smoke whatever you smoke in that den??!! Maybe then, my house will look this good.

  76. OMG, this room! I want my bedroom to look like this one day. So I lurk on this blog and have done since several NYC apartments before this house, and I love your style. But this, this is such a gorgeous room. And the DIY cabinet is amazing, and the sofa looks perfect for napping on. I’m in awe and envy!

  77. Daniel! Congratulations! This has become such a fabulous room! Your work is magic and I love the cabinet you built. Thanks for being an inspiration and the most enjoyable thing to read online. Yep, it’s true. Your blog is internet sunshine!

    Happy renovating, decorating, magic-making!

  78. That credenza is such a nice mix of polished and rustic. Any chance we could get a how to?

    • Thank you! I’ll try! I kind of went at it without the clearest plan and I don’t think I took many process pictures, but there might be enough to throw something together. Otherwise I might have to make another one, haha!

  79. I am crazy about this room. Crazy about the wall mounted box you built. Crazy about the ceiling fixture. Crazy about your affinity for vintage/used/old stuff to give a room presence…somehow those things ‘ground’ a room better than nearly anything else. Thanks for sharing.

  80. THAT LIGHT THO. Every time it was in a photo my heart started beating faster. It’s maybe the most beautiful thing I’ve ever seen.

  81. Yay! So excited for you! Everything looks SO good and the doggies look comfy too. :) XO

  82. First off – Herman is a DOLL BABY and how did anyone EVER give him up? But alas, he has found a wonderful home. Second of all, you are amazing – what a fantastic gift to put things together like you do. And I freaking LOVE that console deal under your TV. Seriously, when I saw the first photo of it I was like, I need to buy that. Where did he buy that? I need it STAT. And then TADA, you built the damn thing. So no buying for me. But it’s a standout piece and I love it. Your work is FAB-U-LOUS!

  83. whhhhhy are you so good?? this is gorgeous. every damn part.

  84. Looks so wonderful! I bet it will be extra cozy in the wintertime with some candles lit watching a movie under a cozy blanket. Enjoy your new space!

  85. NOM NOM NOM NOM FRIGGIN NOM! This room is perfection. That light is amazing and totally worth schlepping across continents. Bravo sir, another wonder to your credit :)

  86. It looks so good! That wall color is a-maz-ing.

  87. The before and after photography in the post is excellent. It is so simple to see the massive improvements when we have just seen the before pics. And, this color looks stately and elegant in the light. Love it.

  88. Hot damn that’s a sexy room makeover! That sofa for $400?! Agggh my sofa dreams…
    Every single one of the photos is Dwell-worthy, seriously. Amazing job!

  89. Looks really good! Love the tone of the walls.
    And the lamp! Such a wonderful find – lucky you!

  90. Such a beautiful space! And I can’t even deal with how many things I can relate to in this post. Especially ‘never pass up a good tchotchke’. Words to live by.

  91. YOU ARE SO INSPIRING. AMAZING SPACE!!

  92. It is really too bad you can’t put in affiliate links for the $45 rug and the light fixture! You’d be rich by now!

    The literal part of me keeps thinking it would be awesome if you put a first aid kit in your cabinet with the cross on it… a first aid kit in a gorgeous vintage first aid box of course!

    (I’m procrastinating from cleaning up my bedroom’s skim coating mess and priming the wall. Off to do it now! Thank you by the way, I read your blog post where you mentioned not putting down plastic sheeting, right when I was about to barge ahead without putting down plastic on the floor!)

  93. I stumbled upon your blog recently and read this post today- I love it! You sound like a real person (I realise how dumb that sounds, lol), who really decorates and not just for re-sale or what’s trendy at the moment. I’m definitely going to enjoy reading through your blog.
    All the best.

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