Archives for category: Decisions

I thought you might like to take a little tour of an ensuite bathroom I designed recently. It was rather a pleasure, as my client wanted something with a bit of sparkle, which of course is a fun premise from which to create.

The bathroom was being newly built as part of an extension, so we had no existing plumbing layout to conform to, however there turned out to be obvious places for all the different elements in the room, once we’d allocated the shower area.

Whenever you’re thinking about a bathroom design, try and go for the largest possible shower space. It’s no fun bumping your elbows on the screen at every turn, or having to undertake extreme manoeuvres simply to apply your shampoo. The position of the doorway to this room carved out a clear area behind it for the shower to run along a side wall. After looking at a few walk-in screen options, and considering the splash potential, we decided to section off the whole thing with a flat sliding screen door.

holly ensuite shower window

Expand your showering horizons — give yourself some room

Once we had sorted out a location, we decided to line the shower area with some rather glamorous bronze-toned tiles from Walls and Floors. I don’t think this warm shade is in stock at the moment, but they’re from the Metalico range by Envy (their silver tile also looks rather glitzy, and for the dramatic, there’s a glamorous black one).

holly ensuite shower kit tiles corner

Warm tones in the walk-in shower/ Metalico Copper Tile

There is a huge range of prices for shower kits on the market. You don’t need to pay a great deal for something that looks impressive however. Keep to some simple guidelines and you can get the wow factor for less. Firstly, hidden workings can look swish, but tend to cost you more. The kits which have the workings (usually a horizontal bar) which control the thermostat on display are the most cost effective. Hidden workings need to be hidden, so often necessitate the creation of a false wall to hide them behind. And if things do go wrong further down the line, there’s a whole lot more excavation to get at them. Whereas if you need to replace your bar controls…. just swap them in for a new model. I often recommend clients to go to some of the trade-priced online stores for best deals on these. Plumbworld have often proved to offer a good selection. The one I sourced here is from Victoria Plum.

holly ensuite shower kit and tiles

Singing in the rain shower: Aria round head riser shower kit from VictoriaPlum.com

One of the best way to dress your windows in a shower or bathroom is with a wood-effect blind. The material is a composite plastic created to look like a wood slat but with none of the inevitable warping or mould growth. These dark wood effect blinds from 247 blinds are inexpensive and can be rotated shut for total privacy, turned to allow the light to filter through, or even drawn up completely.

holly ensuite shower tiles

Ecowood Sumatra blinds from 247blinds.com

It’s always nice to fit in a little storage to a bathroom if you can. The space around a sink is obviously an ideal opportunity, and there are some lovely modular units out there in pretty much any colour or shade you could imagine to fit your look. We decided to go for a dark brown wood drawer unit, which looks neat against the white ceramic, and complements the copper-themed tiles. On the wall, a mirror can serve as the door to more shelf space, and this nifty cabinet also has a socket to plug in shaving equipment or toothbrushes. The lights running down each side are LED with a warm glow. Perfect for ambient lighting on those tough early mornings….

holly ensuite basin tiles and cupboard

Odessa Wenge floor standing sink unit from Victoria Plum, and a mirrored wall cabinet with LED lighting from Illuminated Mirrors

Of course, the simplest splashback for your basin would be a couple of extras from the shower, but we wanted to liven up the look of the room, and found these delightful mosaic groups at Walls and Floors. Featuring hints of copper, greys and some jaunty patterns, these characterful tiles come as a set of 30cm-square designs which are ridiculously easy to fit. Two here span the width of the 60cm-wide basin.

holly ensuite basin shower background

Moroccan Riad mosaic tiles in Copper by Envy

With the subtle glitz from the tiles, we kept the walls white and used a light grey-brown wood effect vinyl plank for the flooring. Whilst brown is the dominant colour here, the room seems cheerful and fresh. Just a little glitter can make all the difference.

Let me know — what colour schemes would you consider for a bathroom? Do you prefer cool blues or natural tones of stone or wood? Some striking colour like green or red, or maybe a haven of grey? Do you like to add a touch of glamour in your fittings, or keep things muted?

Finding a suitable work surface for your kitchen can be an incredibly confusing task, with many pros and cons — including style-versus-practicality factors — to consider.

You're so vein. Marble features large in this kitchen, but there's still space for a slab of wood. Australian Interior Design Awards

You’re so vein. Marble features large in this kitchen, but there’s still space for a slab of wood. Australian Interior Design Awards

If you’re planning on getting a new kitchen, here’s an introduction with some of the facts you will need to know.

Precut or bespoke

You can buy either solid wood or laminate worktops ‘off-the-shelf’ from DIY stores and online.

Duropal offers some classy options in laminates

Duropal offers some classy options in laminates

The dimensions differ slightly, so you just need to check your measurements, make sure you’re equipped to fit it (or have commissioned someone who can), and buy. There will probably be a degree of cutting and joining to be done, so plan your layout before you shop. In addition, check that the width of the worktop will cover your kitchen units – some only come in 60cm widths which don’t stretch to a wider cabinet carcass (such as the Metod-frame kitchens from Ikea).

Buy it, cut it, install it. B&Q offer an easy solution with their pre-cut worktops

Buy it, cut it, install it. B&Q offer an easy solution with their pre-cut worktops

The great advantages to using a precut work surface are firstly the cost, and secondly that you don’t have to wait to have them measured, made and installed.

Solid hunk of wood for minimal cost. Ikea's Karlby

Solid hunk of wood for minimal cost. Ikea’s Karlby

Bespoke worktops come in pretty much any material you can imagine: wood of course;

Wood as icing/ stunning worktop effect featured on Dwell

Wood as icing/ stunning worktop effect featured on Dwell

lots of different types of stone, such as granite,

What's black and white and well-bred all over? This kitchen from County Stone Granite

What’s black and white and well-bred all over? This kitchen from County Stone Granite

marble

Simply marbellous/ by Darlinghurst pty featured on Behance

Simply marbellous/ by Darlinghurst pty featured on Behance

and limestone;

Tones of stone/ photo credited to Daniella Witte's blog

Tones of stone/ photo credited to Daniella Witte’s blog

man-made plastic and stone composites such as Corian, Hi Mac

A casual drape/ LG HiMac USA

A casual drape/ LG HiMac USA

and Staron (sometimes called ‘solid surfaces’);

The answer is staron you in the face.../ Puzzle Table by composite manufacturer Staron

The answer is staron you in the face…/ Puzzle Table by composite manufacturer Staron

stainless steel;

The photographer forgot that he'd left his coffee mug in the shot/ Stainless steel worktop in Annaleenas Hem (blog)

The photographer forgot that he’d left his coffee mug in the shot/ Stainless steel worktop in Annaleenas Hem (blog)

A shining example from Stainless Steel Direct UK

A shining example from Stainless Steel Direct UK

glass

Recycled glass worktop found on Indulgy

Recycled glass worktop found on Indulgy

Translucent. 21st Century Village Glass worktop

Translucent. 21st Century Village Glass worktop

Operate transparently/ ThinkGlass Residential project

Operate transparently/ ThinkGlass Residential project

or polished concrete.

The builders were in such a hurry after pouring the concrete they left their bucket behind/ image from vtwonen, credit Jitske Hagens, Cleo Scheulderman

The builders were in such a hurry after pouring the concrete they left their bucket behind/ image from vtwonen, credit Jitske Hagens, Cleo Scheulderman

Concrete example of decor in greyscale/ Jane Cameron Architects on Desire to Inspire

Concrete example of decor in greyscale/ Jane Cameron Architects on Desire to Inspire

You are likely to have to pay considerably more than you would for the precut offerings, but of course you can design them to a precise specification and fit them exactly (and seamlessly) to your kitchen. Fitting a bespoke worktop normally entails waiting until the kitchen cabinets and appliances are built and in position, after which you get an on-site measure, and then up to a six-week wait for the product to be cut, finished and delivered. You can have sinks set into the counter,

hiding the sink below makes for a sleeker finish/ image by www.marble-city.co.uk

Stashing the sink below makes for a sleeker finish/ image by http://www.marble-city.co.uk

or even moulded out of the same material if you’re going for a plastic-based composite.

Since the military plants had arrived, washing up liquid had taken to spending most of his day hiding in the sink/ moulded sinks in Corian from Jones Britain

Since the military plants had arrived, washing up liquid had taken to spending most of his day hiding in the sink/ Moulded sinks in Corian from Jones Britain

Wraparound surfaces look spectacular,

Curves? No problem. Slo Gen desk made of Hi-Macs from Archiproducts

Curves? No problem. Slo Gen desk made of Hi-Macs from Archiproducts

and sharp corners can be softened or rounded.

Bar levitates in Hi-Macs design shocker. Afflante Evolution by Sebastian Barlica

Bar levitates in Hi-Macs design shocker. Afflante Evolution by Sebastian Barlica

Thick or thin

You can get a really chunky piece of wood or stone as your worktop, or maybe a slimline streak of glass or steel.

Getting technical/ Granite Care Ltd develop an 80mm deep quartz

Getting technical/ Granite Care Ltd develop an 80mm deep quartz

Slimline covering/ Ivory stone quartz from www.worktops.uk.com

Svelte covering/ Ivory stone quartz from http://www.worktops.uk.com

The precut worktops in laminate or wood are usually sold in thicknesses of around 4cm, although a few are made slimmer at 3cm. There are also differences to consider in your worktop edges: an abrupt square or rounded bevels.

Choices, choices.... exetermarble.co.uk sets out your options

Choices, choices…. exetermarble.co.uk sets out your options

Colour variations

It should go without saying that lighter colours are more likely to show stains. A lot of stone counters are porous and a stain will eventually sink down if you leave it too long.

Eek! When blueberries attack/ from Young House Love

Eek! When blueberries attack/ from Young House Love

If your kitchen is busy and you can’t guarantee every spill will be noticed or wiped up immediately, it’s worth considering a darker shade.

Can you show it a knife? Can you show it a pan? Can you show it a drop of water?

A joiner once asked me these questions after musing on the gleaming Corian work surface which had just been installed in our kitchen. I had to answer ‘No,’ ‘No,’ and ‘Yes.’

No work surface is perfect. I don’t think any worktop manufacturer would recommend chopping directly onto the surface: you should always use a board to cut and prepare food. Likewise, some surfaces are more hardy than others when it comes to direct heat – granite is obviously a bit tougher to damage than a sleek plastic or natural wood – but most suppliers would suggest using a trivet or board for your hob-fresh pans, rather than searing a charred circle into your countertop. Some materials are completely impervious to water; others swell or blacken if you don’t mop up puddles.

Don't fear your water and hot pan marks, Capital Polishers Ltd probably do have the answer....

Don’t fear your water and hot pan marks, Capital Polishers Ltd probably do have the answer….

Maybe you already have a clear idea of the look you want for your kitchen, but if not, it’s worth asking yourself some of the questions covered above to find out what you’d value in a worktop, and what you’d consider to be just too much hassle.

Next time I’ll explore some of the different materials you can use — and give you some clever cheap alternatives too.

Slab happy/ worktop in TriBeCa, credit Ryan Korban

Slab happy/ worktop in TriBeCa, credit Ryan Korban

Rather a long time ago, when Tim and I renovated our first home in West London, we heard about a new little company which had a very different attitude to vinyl flooring. If anyone had mentioned the word vinyl, in fact, I think we would have run for the hills, since our experience of the material thus far had been (generally sticky) ginger-coloured false tiles in desperately cluttered and dark kitchens, or perhaps some peeling mould-ridden offering abutting the shower in student lodgings. Instead, this company, which turned out to be Harvey Maria, marketed themselves as ‘No More Boring Flooring’ (complete with url) and used new exciting techniques to print photographic images onto floor tiles.

We were rather smitten, and opted for a bold water image for our tiny bathroom:

Vintage Harvey Maria tiles - they don't make them (exactly) like that any more

Vintage Harvey Maria tiles – they don’t make them (exactly) like that any more

You can still get a version of this tile from them now, called Pacific. I think they work best when set against a bright white, with not too much else going on — remember you’re after a dreamy Maldives holiday vibe, not Brentford Leisure Pool.

Water is not the only evocative image: you can go for grass, or even some good old Brit beach pebbles:

Clench those toes: Harvey Maria 'Stones" vinyl tile

Clench those toes: Harvey Maria ‘Stones” vinyl tile

Although I have to admit the soles of my feet ache just looking at all those knobbly cobbles. I think I’d have to wear flip flops.

Since then further advances have been made in vinyl floor technology. The company Murafloor offers a bespoke photographic flooring service, not unlike the wall murals I was telling you about a few months ago. Browse their website for inspirational images, like this lunar aspect:

One small step for man... 'Full Moon' flooring from Murafloor

One small step for man… ‘Full Moon’ flooring from Murafloor

Submit your room size and shape, and they’ll create a sheet of flooring exactly to fit. If their broad range of ideas isn’t enough for you, there’s always Shutterstock for the full gamut of stock photos. Of course, this all comes at a price, and whilst it is certainly eye-catching and individual, it’s not the budget way to create a glamorous room.

And so we reach the third and final episode in my tour of vinyl flooring. Pattern. It’s not pretending to be wood or stone, and it’s as vibrant or as plain as you need. 

How about this Friesian print tile, which makes for a quirky alternative to a cowhide rug:

I herd you had a new floor... it's udderly brilliant... a mooving sight... /stowed may need to go and have a lie down after thinking up all those cow jokes

I herd you had a new floor… it’s udderly brilliant… a mooving sight… (stowed heads for a lie-down after dreaming up all those bovine gags)

To break up the pattern a little, a plain wood strip frames these cow tiles into groups of four. It contains the random splodges of black and helps to structure the floor space. 

This technique works for any busy design, so if you’re thinking of being daring with your flooring, but need to keep the craziness in check, that’s where having a vinyl floor can really help. You’re essentially achieving a mixed-materials look with just one material. This example below looks at first glance like a patch of ceramic tile surrounded by a dark wood: 

In the frame/ Harvey Maria Parquet tiles by Neisha Crosland

In the frame/ Harvey Maria Parquet tiles by Neisha Crosland

 

Once you have got to grips with the potential in this mixing and matching, a world of colour, texture and pattern is open to you. Take a look at this eye-catching suggestion from Amtico, using slashes of bright orange set against a fabric texture and a darker relief. The resulting pattern is full of energy and depth:

Cutting and sticking/ Amtico's Infinity Flare design uses strips of different floor tiles

Cutting and sticking/ Amtico’s Infinity Flare design uses strips of different floor tiles

There are of course some patterns which don’t leap out quite as dramatically. This spotty offering by Cath Kidston seems at close range to be a little eye-boggling:

Sometimes the simple ones are the best/ Harvey Maria Spot Stone

Sometimes the simple ones are the best/ Harvey Maria Spot Stone

But installed in a small space and viewed as a whole, has a pleasingly simple and regular format. 

Lesser spotted bathroom floor/ Harvey Maria Spot Stone

Lesser spotted bathroom floor/ Harvey Maria Spot Stone

Why not add some texture with this rubber flooring featuring retro spots:

Rubber-ly floor/ Harvey Maria Peppermint

Rubber-ly floor/ Harvey Maria Peppermint

It might look a little like living on Lego bricks (though obviously not as painful if you tread on it in the dark).

On the subject of textured floor you can also consider the treadplate pattern — we have a very low-budget version from Carpetright which has been incredibly good natured and hard-wearing in the boys’ bathroom:

Locker room chic/ sheet vinyl (now discontinued) from Carpetright

Locker room chic/ sheet vinyl (now discontinued) from Carpetright

You can’t buy it from there any more, but a quick internet trawl has brought up Flooring Supplies Direct who supply something similar, and the firm LSI who make a version too (the aluminium shade is called Armour).

Another texture to get the vinyl treatment recently is leather. 

Clubby class/ Harvey Maria Olive Leather

Clubby class/ Harvey Maria Olive Leather

Strong and dark furnishings show this one off the best: it wouldn’t do so well with chintz. 

Just as encaustic and highly decorated ceramic tiles are blossoming on the walls and floors of many a fashion interior, so vinyl is following. Check out this magical two-tone tile from Murafloor, which looks stunning set against a bare concrete wall:

Morocco from murafloor

Dark arts/ Morocco by Murafloor

Or this from Zazous, channelling retro charm:

I think we can hold back on the wallpaper here/ Rosemary by Zazous

I think we can hold back on the wallpaper here/ Rosemary by Zazous

Do you dare? It’s not for the faint-hearted.

Finally, for the room which just needs a splash of colour, why not put down your paint brushes, give the walls a rest, and treat your floor to a bold and bright shade instead? 

Walking on sunshine/ bright Pistachio flooring from Harvey Maria

Walking on sunshine/ bright Pistachio flooring from Harvey Maria

So many options, so much flexibility. I hope you’ve enjoyed my flooring tour, and that it’s given you some new inspiration.

Remember: vinyl is no longer the ugly sister of the flooring world — maybe now it’s her turn to go to the ball….

[As you might well know, this is a concluding statement so wildly at odds with my daily life that it is akin to speaking a foreign language. Nevertheless, sometimes only a princess metaphor will do. Just sometimes.]

 

We interrupt this series of tasteful flooring posts to warn readers of a potentially hostile takeover bid by a phenomenon some call The Beautiful Game.

The more perceptive amongst you will have noticed that there is a global tournament afoot, the ups and downs of which have obsessed most members of our household for a good few weeks now. Wide-eyed in admiration at the skills and bad behaviour of those taking part, our boys have bought into the atmosphere (and a substantial chunk of the Panini sticker empire) with the dedication and stat-devouring fervour you’d expect of die-hard fans. Which they are.

Oh yes, we have three of these

Yes, we have three of these

The walls are alive with the high-definition motion of little running kicking men, and the sofa spectators agape with the drama of it all. Meanwhile I have been pondering how, even before the World Cup 2014, football is pretty much wallpaper in our lives (despite the fact of course that I would never ever sanction the application of football wallpaper in our home).

I will admit I started it: I installed a football handbasin in the boys’ bathroom.

Slippery slope: I installed this basin in the boys' bathroom -- Orrizonte Latino, Meridiana Ceramiche

Dear Future Me, This is just a slippery slope…/ Orrizonte Latino, Meridiana Ceramiche

Then we decided that in the interests of garden preservation we would not bother with a classic lawn. We have a pitch. Made of plastic. You don’t have to mow it, you can’t wear it out, and, come rain or shine, your players remain clean. It is the best investment we ever made.

Turf laws - fake grass is the best purchase ever

Turf laws: fake grass is the soundest purchase ever

Days are measured by the amount of football playing opportunities. Some interesting tweaks to the accepted rules of play sometimes make an appearance….

What happens when you mix football with breakfast time

Malachy discovers that his new cereal-inspired goalie kit has some design flaws….

So we knew what we were doing: we designed with the boys in mind. However the boys took this idea and ran with it. And that’s when the subtle nod to personality turned into an all-pervading house style.

Artwork? Sure! As long as it's red. With a football /pocket money bargain and ubiquitous team calendar in background

Artwork on my wall? Sure! As long as it’s red. With a football.

We kept the boys’ bedroom walls for the most part a fresh white, in keeping with the rest of the house. A few feature colours, like a brightly painted wall colour or striking curtains, were emphasized by the lack of pattern elsewhere.

Until blue-tack happened. And then Caspar found a ‘wonderful’ painting for £1.50 in a junk shop. And we realised that the passing of each year means the opportunity to hang a new team calendar with athletically posed gurning player photos.

Starter for ten: Which team does.... ah yes, well done

Starter for ten: Which team does…. ah yes, well done

When you’ve been successful in some area of junior level football, you get to keep a carefully moulded and easily breakable trophy to display for ever and ever in your room. Nothing must stand in its way.

Trophy fives

Trophy fives. Books take a back seat

And the clever folks in the football business know that whatever they make, we will buy. Duvets, lamps, clocks, watches, bath flannels, even Monopoly. And football cards. I can’t even begin to explain the joys of football cards and stickers.

Carpet design for the football enthusiast: cover it with as much tat as you can

Carpet design for the football enthusiast: spread your bets (that is City Monopoly for those who were wondering)

So as you prepare to bid adieu to the World Cup in Brazil — with the breathtaking, inspiring, bitey, frenetic, heartbreaking, staying-up-late, virtuoso fun of it all — remember us. Football is not going away any time soon. It’s here, and no amount of tasteful interior design influence can do anything about it.

The players fulfil stage one of their house domination campaign: Being Glued Back Onto Wobbly Platform

The players fulfil stage one of their house domination campaign: Being Glued Back Onto Wobbly Platform

One of the best things about swapping in vinyl for wood is that you can fool people with the texture and feel to create a floor that can be easily mistaken for the real thing. However with stone, this is not an option, because the cold hard truth about stone is that it’s cold and hard. And these are not vinyl’s selling points. The qualities you’re looking for in a stone-effect vinyl floor are therefore different, and probably most appropriate to a climate which doesn’t need cold and hard flooring.

So if you’re living in a nice warm country with too much heat, I think you’re best off keeping vinyl flooring out of your kitchen. Go for the lovely real stone! Or tiles. Revel in the cool beneath your toes. Sigh with relief as you step inside from the baking midday sun and place your simmering soles on the reassuringly refreshing slabs of chill respite.

French farmhouse gives masterclass in chic stone floors/ Elle Meyers blogspot

French farmhouse gives masterclass in chic stone floors/ Elle Meyers blogspot

Now back to Manchester. You’ll be looking for something cosy, then. But why not use those calm tones of colour and pattern in your flooring? This is where the vinyl comes in. Sleek or textured, in sheets or tiled, the floor will be reminiscent of the stone that inspired it, but with added warmth, ease of fitting and a forgivingly soft surface (yup, hold tight to your glassware, sunny weather people).

The softness of the matt finish on this Polyflor tile is really effective in this photo…

Calm greys with Polyflor's Colonia Balmoral Slate

Calm greys with Polyflor’s Colonia Balmoral Slate

While more of a sheen appears on this bathroom floor.

Karndean Opus creates a sleek bathroom floor

Karndean Opus creates a sleek effect

Not just for bathrooms or kitchens, a work space can be neatly finished with this functional flooring:

Carpetright/Tarkett offer a budget option with this sheet vinyl: Titan II Ibitha

Carpetright/Tarkett offer a budget option with this sheet vinyl: Titan II Ibitha

Sometimes it doesn’t need to look realistic — the stone features can provide a fantastic base for a pattern…

Sense of pattern: Karndean Navarra Chalk

Setting a theme: Karndean Navarra Chalk

Conversely a subtle wash of colour gives a more neutral base.

Channelling the limestone shades/ Karndean Looselay Indiana

Channelling the limestone shades/ Karndean Looselay Indiana

Amtico Riverstone Tundra

Amtico Riverstone Tundra

Amtico Jura Beige

Amtico Jura Beige

Amtico Dry Stone SIenna

Amtico Dry Stone Sienna

Don’t be restrained in the way you lay them — use a variety of small and large tiles, a strict brickwork design or maybe long planks.

Mix it up/ Karndean Hern Art Select

Mix it up/ Karndean Hern Art Select

Grid-work style/ Amtico Stria Volcanic

Grid-work style/ Amtico Stria Volcanic

Dark and brooding/ Amtico Cadence Delta

Dark and brooding/ Amtico Cadence Delta

Why not dabble with ultra-trendy concrete flooring, without the hassle of pouring and polishing?

Concrete evidence/ Harvey Maria's Ando Concrete

Concrete evidence/ Harvey Maria’s Ando Concrete

Take the opportunity to design something just that little bit different and personal! Remember, the product is just the starting point. It’s all about what you do with it.

Next time, we’re going out on a limb with photographic images and eye-boggling patterns, in the final stage of my vinyl tour.

 

 

 

 

 

I have executed a stealth interiors move.

It looks like this:

Well hi. I bet you weren't expecting me.

Well hi. I bet you weren’t expecting me.

This little chap is now resident on the light pull in our downstairs loo. He was given to me by my friend (for some reason they didn’t need it in their house, possibly because her husband is allergic to cats) and I’ve been plotting my move ever since.

This is because, whilst we haven’t talked about it, I am almost 100% sure that cute cat light pulls are not top of Tim’s design plans for our home. Sleek, modern, clean lines — yes. Cat figurines as decor — not so much.

Oh but it’s only a light pull! And in the cloakroom — that tiny room where you have full permission to exercise daring eclecticism. I snipped off the old grubby white cord and plastic cone and quickly binned them.

Rejected

Rejected

There’s no doubt the tatty plastic had to go. It feels cheap and lightweight.

Now there’s some substance at the end of the light pull, and the solid feline holds sway over the room.

The boys like him very much, and even Tim was mutedly positive.

Win win. The cat stays.

Win win. Kitsch cat stays.

So if you’re planning some stealth improvement work of your own, in the words of a certain sportswear brand, just do it. It’s unlikely anyone will have the energy or antipathy to take action against it. You never know, some may even be converted….

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