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When I first saw my attic, I pictured a large loom, spinning wheel(s), and yards of surfaces for crafts and sewing needs. I also pictured rainy days spent with my children in harmony and intuitive, heart-felt respect for one another’s talents, ideas, and ambitions. I envisioned snacks taken seated at a round table; a small wood stove for comfort and perhaps for heating foods (less running up and down stairs while working on projects); and toys, books, games, crafts, and anything else that was part of our lives at the moment, ranged around to show what we’d been doing.

Well, at present, my attic is still a jumble of homeless items, cabinets that need final touches of installation and organization, bags and boxes of craft supplies and fabrics, and dreams. The floor is half-finished, covered in part by corrugated metal roof sheets (color: galvanized) scavenged from some defunct building. However, my craft cabinets, small round table, sewing desk and machine, and dreams are all still there. And the flooring is really a brilliant idea on my husband’s part, since it was simply lying around waiting to be used, and I wanted a floor more badly than I wanted a certain kind of floor. Admittedly, in my dreams, it had been hardwood of unknown sourcing, painted a bright country blue (similar to the color of my front door [link coming eventually]). Maybe someday it will be. I haven’t decided if it’s worth it. That may depend on just which dreams for this space I decide to pursue.

I don’t know why – and until today I never asked myself why – but every time I have envisioned the attic “finished”, I see, not just a crafts and guest-bed space, but a well-furnished apartment, capable of serving a single person or perhaps a couple very well. I don’t yet know why I feel compelled to make sure our home could do double-duty this way. Perhaps it is my long-standing desire to make sure that anyone who needs a home has it. Perhaps it is some plan I don’t have a name for yet.

The guest-quarters idea keeps growing. At the beginning, the room included space for two guest-beds, and a chair or two. Then, I conceived the idea of breakfast nook. Then, a dedicated study or project area, complete with dream board and files. Then, a balcony and container garden…more like an outdoor living room. I’m not sure where my plans will stop, or how many of them will prove to be practical. I’ll just keep taking it one step at a time, waiting for the space to tell me what it needs.

Meanwhile, here are a few of my favorite ideas:

I told you I first envisioned a spinning wheel or wheels, and I must admit, the loneliness of this picture was inspiring as well:

Spinning Wheel in Attic

But first, the entrance. I have played with a number of ideas for the stairwell, including murals…

Mural in 2 Story Loft Area

…rabbits, toile-style…

Wallpaper Rabbit Toile

 

…and keys –

Wallpaper Border, Skeleton Keys

But nothing seemed just right, and definitely went with the rest of the room. So I kept waiting for the answer. Finally, it came, from someone else’s Facebook feed that I just happened to see:

Attic Stairwell Idea - Wallpaper Remnants

Yes, I thought, this will do. And I can use any papers or prints I want, so long as I varnish over them. Of course, pre-pasted wallpaper scraps would be easiest. But any fabrics, papers, or wallpaper remnants would be just fine.

The next thing that came to mind in a well-formed way was artwork. Here are some selections I like, though I’m not sure of their placement yet:

And of course, all kinds of organizing ideas for crafts and materials:

Yarn Storage idea Shoe Organizer with Pockets Furniture came next, including guest bed ideas:

Bed, Single, Curvy

Attic Guest Bed Idea

I don’t know what to do with the curvy single-bed idea, as it really doesn’t fit the rest of the picture, but I like it anyhow.

And shelves – lots of shelves, wherever they fit. A local house provided inspiration for shelves along the stairwell, and low spaces:

And of course, a comfortable place to dream and read:

Wicker Chair White, with Red and Blue Pillows

Attic Alcove Wallpaper All Over It’s actually not important to me that the chair is white or wicker…only that it’s comfortable, rocks, and is fade-resistant – since it will be placed in a large west window. Or, I can move my swing rocker from the living room upstairs, and just cover it when not in use. (I will probably want to anyway, as it tends to be dusty in the attic, especially in summer.)

I also felt fascinated by this chair, for its storage capacity (though I don’t think the shape is charming at all):

Bookcase Chair ComboThis stand-up desk is also appealing, though I can’t say why, as standing for long periods of time is usually a horrible idea for me (back and hips).

Desk to Stand at

Next comes an interesting piece of furniture, which at first I could not identify. It is a dentist’s cabinet:

Dentist's Cabinet

It looks like a fabulous specimen cabinet for all manner of collections made up primarily of small objects. Since my children and I are avid collectors of rocks, insects, plants (pressed), and other natural things, I wouldn’t mind having one.

This next piece…

Table Decouped with Map

…has no clearly defined place. I just like it. I had visions in my early days of motherhood of my children being as avid about learning as my siblings and I were. Combined, we must have had 4,006 interests that we were pursuing simultaneously. So I suppose this table represents this hope. As it turned out, my children are interested in many things, but my son, particularly, lacks curiosity for the sake of curiosity. He’d rather learn something only if he believes he can impress someone with it. (Naturally, the rest of us don’t feel impressed by this attitude.) Still, I have hopes. I have always been fascinated by geography, and have loved maps since I can remember. I think it runs in the family. Even my brother – who at first glance loved only planes, trains, and automobiles – learnt the words of our “Sing Around the World” Geography curriculum well enough to change the words to suit his light-hearted, mischievous spirit. (Regarding Greenland: “A land of icy snow, of fishy Eskimos…!”) Obviously, we were not alone in our fascination, since Tolkien and C.S. Lewis both made remarks about maps –

Edmund to Lucy – “That’s the trouble with girls. They never keep maps in their heads.” Lucy to Edmund – “That’s because we have something in them.”
And Merri to Pippin – “You should have spent more time studying maps and less time playing at Rivendell.” [Both quotes paraphrased from memory.]

Moving on to the breakfast nook idea. I’ve been through a lot of versions of this one, but one picture that caught my eye was this one:

Breakfast Nook, Black-and-Red

Also this one:

[Pic coming soon – Pic from House Dream Files – Trellis-and-Yellow arrangement]

Maybe I’ll combine the two: black seats (Black Satin Lacquer), and a trellis framework to set it off, yet still allow light to diffuse from the south window to the rest of the room. I’ll work on it.

Then too, here’s another idea that appeals, though it needs to be worked out for adult use:

Sun Room, Rabbits-Base Table

I love rabbits, and I love light. But the whole idea needs to simmer more. I don’t really want an all-white space, such as this – it is diffucult to maintain, and difficult to appreciate in the winter, which we have up to eight months out of the year. The floor in this picture is fun; I like  the indication of pattern without the stuffiness of actually having one. I like the trellis-work on the ceiling (more about this in a moment). I love the plants, and the daybed. The glass-topped table is wonderful (except for cleaning).

The ceiling in the attic has been a problem. I would have liked, originally, to leave the trusses exposed, and all the natural wood still natural, except perhaps for a clear finish. (It’s been unfinished since 1928, but the room also has not really been used. I think some protection of the wood would be wise – especially if I install a woodstove. Which, by the way, would probably mean that I took the little stove out of my bedroom, and re-installed it up here. Since we installed an efficient, large stove in the dining room, we haven’t really needed it in the bedroom.)

Back to the ceiling. After studying the problem, I decided that, yes, I would probably go to the extra trouble and expense to install insulation over the roof itself, so that the trusses could stay exposed. But this presented weight problems, as well as the trial of stripping the roof of layers of asphalt shingles and some metal sheets. (Having married a sheet metal worker and having spent our first seven years together on jobsites, I am familiar with this problem.) Finally, I found a solution. I intend to insulate between trusses and put on sheet-rock, as usual. Then I plan to install trellis-work panels over everything. This means I can paint any color I like underneath, and have the trellis-work more natural colored. It will be beautiful, garden-ey, springlike, and not claustrophobic feeling. Since the trusses are rough and I have to vacuum or brush them to clean them, nothing will have changed about the maintenance required.

Here was my original inspiration:

Trellis-Work on Walls, Kitchen #2

Trellis-Work on Walls, Kitchen #1

Below are two further inspirations for the feel I keep coming back to, for the sunroom or balcony area (haven’t made up my mind).

Sun Room, Built-in Bookshelves

Sun Room, Elegant with Ferns

I’m not sure why I always come back to white for private-type spaces. Maybe it’s my innate desire for cleanliness and order, which is hard to achieve in this land of dust and drout (sp.) At any rate, I doubt the final results will be white, as I also like loud bursts of color. Most of my house explodes with it like a woods in springtime.

Here are inspirations for the deck/sunroom idea:

They, too, need to simmer. Of course, since it will go on over the top of the back porch (which needs to be removed and re-built), the results may depend on what I decide the most crucial needs are there.

I am forever working out storage problems. One that appeals but that I do not see as being practical in this application is here:

Storage Spaces in Raised Floor

I also would like to build fabric (and maybe more) storage between the studs along the east eaves. I haven’t measured yet, but am thinking file cabinets may just fit between them, in which I can file fabrics in a mouse-proof way. Mouse-proofing is always the biggest challenge. Herbs, traps, poisons and deterrents only go so far. The mice lived here unmolested for 20 years, and just aren’t ready to surrender. If file cabinets do not fit, I plan on building custom drawers of a similar nature, and covering the faces (whether file cabinets or drawers) with cupboard doors. Here were my inspirations for this:

Attic Under-Eaves Storage Cabinets

Under-Eaves Storage Sliding Doors

And lastly, back to the maps again:

Wallpaper Border, Ships Wallpaper Border, Ship and Compass

These are wallpaper borders that I might put atop the shelves running along the stairwell. It looks fun. Whatever I do, I want to keep the whole attic space a balance of culture…

Wallpaper Border, Paris Street

…and wildness, like my life.

Branch Shelf, White

Update – February 2016 –
Shortly after I wrote this post, I had a lovely dream, in which I dreamed that my attic had a ventilated ridge, not louvred, but set with decorative glass which opened in panels (windows), similar to what has been done in these images:

Cut-GlassPlates Window, Long Horizontal

Cut-Glass Plates Window, Cascading Pattern Vertical

Scrap Glass Window, Blue Gold Crystal

Recycled Plates Window, Sphere Flower Design

Mosaic Glass Plates Window Design, Blue-ish

I don’t know what to make of the dream, beside that it showed me a potential way to integrate my obsession with dishes into something beautiful and useful. I need to  think about whether adding a ventilated ridge would be a good idea, or just a pain, and talk to myself hard about how much effort I am willing to invest in this sort of craft. I have a little experience with glass projects (stained glass), but perhaps the dream was just a fancy. I’ll let the idea ferment, and get back with you.

Update June 2, 2016 –

I’ve made another change, this time to the under-eaves storage cabinets. I’ve decided that I’d be better off with a different sort of fabric storage system (not entirely determined yet), and that the under-eaves space would be put to better advantage by installing glass-fronted, lighted cabinets for pretty things – dishes, quilts, old toys, and the like.

Also, I’ve decided that for the most part, I want pendant-style lighting (I’ll add pics if I think of them), and also, something a little more playful, along these lines:

Dragon Oil Lamp #2

I’ve also developed a list of Purposes for the Attic space, as well as some ideals for the emotional tone of the room.

Key Words: Creativity, Relaxation
Key Emotion: Bliss, Calm
Key Color(s): Wood Tones (red honey), black (black lacquer cabinets with detail painting)

Purposes –
Guest quarters
Reading and relaxing
Formal school sometimes
Crafts and sewing
Bird watching
Thinking and dreaming, planning
?Pets – birds, fish
?Snacking
Wool processing (except dying)
Dyes (in jars, on shelves on north wall – yet to be built)
Spinning Wheel (yet to attain)
Sewing machine
Sewing supplies
Extra fabric
Table for crafts
(?)Art materials (papers – construction, finger painting, drawing, newsprint, butchers, etc.), pencils, pens, magic markers, crayons, pastels, finger paints, water color paints – adult and child, acrylic paints, oil paints)

I don’t recall how long ago I found these dishes – probably at least six. They’ve stayed tucked away in my private picture folders, awaiting their chance to be really loved. And I do love them.

Ah…what it would be like to sit down of an afternoon and enjoy tea in the company of this striking pattern. I can only think it would make mundane tasks more enjoyable, and, perhaps, make writing even more fun. Someday…

The morning’s coffee would not be amiss in these mugs:

The strawberries on a black ground have given me several useful ideas about how to integrate various decorating ideas I have for my kitchen, which I haven’t been able to pull together. More on that, later.

Note: I do not know what the name of this pattern is. If you do, won’t you please tell me?

Recently, while at a friend’s house, I couldn’t help but notice how welcoming her African violets looked in various tea pots with an array of purple flowers painted on them. Flowers and dishes just go together. And purple anything is splendid.

 

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French African Purple Violets Tea Cup and Saucer

I have decided this pattern is the one I want for my fine china for very special occasions. And thank you to the kind reader who helped me locate the pattern name.

Secondly, these are lovely:

 

Coffee, tea…even milk and beer taste better out of purple.

Thank you to my kind reader for locating the name of this next pattern. It is: Maxwell Williams Cream Pansy Bone China.

Here is a link (also by way of my Kind Reader), which shows this pattern and many others. (One could spend one’s life at this site, enjoying dishes.)

Then, too, we mustn’t forget the way other dishes-type items look about the home:

I’m not much for large vases, but this one has charm, and I could see it for forced-bloom arrangements.Lilac Painted Vase

In the mansion I built in my mind when I was a child, these were the dishes I used at my long dining table:

And for a snack or small meal, enough variety for everyone to choose which scene he liked best:

The whole house had a somewhat genteel, fox-hunty feel, designed to be at once comforting and stimulating, with here and there a satirical twist in a painting or child’s toy or the arrangement of some small corner. I am thinking of a painting I clipped from a magazine while in grade school, depicting an elegant dinner, peopled by foxes. On the wall behind a very proper-looking fox couple, absorbed in conversation, hung a mounted hound’s head. I laughed until I choked.

Then, when as a teen I met my husband, and it quickly became apparent that he was a hunting enthusiast, not limited to a particular species, this china pattern seemed like the only obvious choice. Now, of course, I have broadened my horizons a bit, but I still admire these dishes, and find they satisfy my sense of beauty. Acquiring a set is on my Someday-When-I’m-Prosperous list. Not sure where I’m going to put them, since the mansion isn’t built yet. A glass-fronted case for dust-free storage of said dishes is on that same list.

I often daydream about what it would be like to have a home clean and organized enough to have some appreciative friends over and do things like as presented here…or do them just because I want to, for myself and my family:

Doily Table Runner

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While I’m at it, I’d like to be just as cheerful and fun-loving as Snow White seems to be, making everything lovely for her “family”:

Snow White puzzle

Several years ago, my sister had a telepathic experience with a blanket that belonged to one of her five small boys. She noticed that Child #4 was constantly carrying his blanket with him, even when he was pretending at sword fighting or excavating holes in the yard. It would be over his shoulder, and on the ground nearby, or tied about his waist, and she was concerned because he had really not shown such clingy behavior with a blanket before, and certainly not for some while.

She began to pray about it, and one day was surprised to hear the blanket tell her, through words in her mind, that it stayed with him on account that it didn’t like being in the dark in the closet…where he had put it more than once when he decided he was done with it. So it had asked to stay with him, and the boy had given it permission to tag along.

I don’t know whether the blanket itself was in some way afraid to stay by itself in the dark closet, or whether perhaps these were the boy’s feeling projected onto it. I do know this incident started a change in our thinking…for the better. It confirmed what I had always felt – that even “inanimate” objects deserve respect and compassion.

I have designed several “perfect” dining rooms, since I started planning houses in my mind, when I was in perhaps the third grade. Some I struggled with for many months before I was satisfied with their dimensions, features, and colors, being aware that they were not going to efficiently do all the jobs required of them. (Some simply wouldn’t fit into the floor plans and still do what they needed to do, so had to be discarded.) Since then, I have learned a few things. One, is that there is no “perfect” room; a room is always undergoing evolution of some sort, and is not a static idea. Nonetheless, I keep reaching for finality.

When we moved into the farm house, and it kicked in that here was a house I could practically start fresh in, I was excited. I have a huge collection of pictures of decorating ideas of all kinds, and when I had sorted through these, and had picked out ones that spoke to me for this house, I had a fair idea of what I was after:

Red walls, or red-orange
Woodwork as is (probably is fir wood, cherry stained)
White or light ceiling
Sage green and fire-orange accents (unspecified)

These were a couple of my inspirations:

Orange Dining Room 2  Orange Dining Room 1

All that has changed several times since that decision in 2010.

At first, I tried to accommodate Will in the planning. I felt I had to take into account the fact that, since a series of min-strokes, he is practically blind in one eye, and that dark colored walls may not be acceptable. After much thought, however, I realized that he didn’t really care what the house looked like. If he did, he’d have tried harder to make sure our previous home was pleasantly maintained. As it was, in seven years he’d never made it possible even to finish painting the kitchen, and it had a well-worn look right up to the end…scarcely better than what I was starting with in this house. I decided to do exactly as I pleased, and if he didn’t like it, he didn’t have to look at it.

So I decided to try to find a retro area linoleum similar to the rose-colored poppies I currently have. I couldn’t love it more! But it is getting hopelessly worn, to the point that there is almost as much brown showing (the backing) as there are poppies.

Paint colors were still a problem, but I knew I wanted red-orange on the north wall. I found the perfect wall paper – a pattern with a brilliant red-orange background, sage-green foliage like twirling vines, and lively-looking birds that did not seem to have just flown in from the tropics. (I don’t want tropical-looking birds in the midst of my house on the plains.) Of course, by the time I scraped together the funds to purchase it, the pattern was discontinued. Plan B was another bird pattern, this one with a white background, the birds and foliage being black and silver. It will do nicely, and I feel I will remain happy with it for some years.

March9-May3 2014 541
I can do the red-orange theme in some kind of flooring, or perhaps paint the black heating stove some wild shade. Engine enamels and wood-stove paints come in an amazing array of colors. I’m thinking of this brand:

Nov.12-Jan15 2015 240
What else? I knew I wanted birds in other ways than wallpaper. Lots of birds, because nothing is quite so lively and inoffensive as a songbird, unless it be a butterfly. I was feeling inspired by ideas such as this:

March9-May3 2014 228  Nov10-Jan21 2014 231

I had regretfully discarded several other ideas, such as rabbits and coffee, deciding that they simply didn’t cover all the ground I needed covered emotionally for a dining room.

March9-May3 2014 338 March9-May3 2014 394

I had put together a list of words and phrases that described my hopes for the “feel” of each room in my home, and the words for the dining room were:

Growth, Cheer, Nurturing and Productive Curiosity, Organization

I had listed all the things my dining room regularly gets used for, including:

  • Food preparation, including meat processing in freezing weather, and processing garden produce in summer
  • Cooking (on heating stove) – 2/3 of year
  • Meal planning, recipe and cookbook storage
  • Eating family meals, and with occasional guests
  • Dishes storage and display
  • Some food storage
  • Formal study periods in our homeschool (Scripture study, history, science, music, art, home ec., crafts, etc.)
  • Household planning, also school books organization
  • Art display, both school and formal
  • Socializing
  • Watching videos and movies
  • Listening to music
  • Office work and writing (Will and I)
  • Laundry (during winter weather) – including drying clothes near stove
  • Sewing and similar
  • Rock cutting and polishing
  • Tool and chainsaw repair
  • Care of wounded and sick critters
  • Raising small batches of poultry in a box or large bucket

Clearly, organization and cleanability were paramount. Besides getting used for almost everything, it is the room that is on it’s way to practically everywhere else in the house. The floorplan of the house is fairly open, as well, requiring that areas be especially compatible in decorating feel. I had originally desired to make the dining room and adjoining living room quite different in colors, but realized this was going to feel odd, as well as cost more in paint and supplies, and in the end, decided to use different wallpapers, but the same paints on most walls and ceilings. I was going for a woodland feel…so discarded the traditional white ceiling idea. The walls of both rooms were broken up by many doorways and windows, and there wasn’t much clear space to enjoy wallpaper. Only the north walls are clear enough for this purpose.

Another thing to consider is our typical weather. For up to eight months out of each year, we have snow. Not nice, Christmas-card snow (though I’d tire even of that), but snow that is equal parts dirt, having arrived in blizzards, being driven into our yard along with topsoil from the neighboring fields. White, gray, and nondescript brown dominate. So all neutral colors were out of the question, as far as decorating was concerned. I craved something springy and vivid. Hence, the red-orange, like poppies and red-wing blackbirds, and the hearts of certain new buds.

The answer was spring yellow, and deep robin’s egg blue:

Aug10-21, 2014 655   Copy of Aug10-21, 2014 763

These colors go with everything in a sweetly integrated way, and so far, everyone I’ve shown the results loves it…except one friend who happened to have a migraine headache, and felt overwhelmed by the yellow.

Relaxing in this room with my favorite mug of coffee certainly makes the gray snow more bearable. I can think of strawberries, iris blooms, lilacs, meadowlarks, and baby lambs, when I contemplate my main rooms now, even when it’s -30* F. (Living room, dining room, and kitchen all partially share the new-leaf yellow and robin’s egg blue, so I get to enjoy it nearly all the time.)

I still have a ways to go to make the room everything I want it to be, and the weather has still been too cold to risk trying to hang wallpaper. (It snowed again this week, twice…though hopefully this will be the last time this spring.) I would like to make the entertainment area more efficient, less cluttered, and easier to care for. I would like to modify my set of open display shelves, to accommodate some storage drawers, a platter rack, and also glass doors. I still haven’t found anything like the right flooring to replace my linoleum…which was laid in 1928, according to the condition of the floor under it…which has never been finished at all. The first owners simply finished the hardwood around the perimeter of the linoleum.

I might go with the red-orange, as specified before, or I might pick a black-and-white pattern, maybe something like this:

May4-June18 2014 333

 

It looks overwhelming on the page, and I’ll have to see how things are after I have my bird pattern wallpaper up, but I think it’s going to be lovely in action. We’ll see how things feel in a bit. I might save the black-and-white continuing theme for smaller areas, such as potted plants, thus:

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It would be fun to paint up some pots similar to these (above), don’t you think? And I love the sunflowers, too. I even have a copper kettle (too dilapidated to be more than decorative) which would lend itself to this lovely idea.

That brings me to what kinds of flowers I’ll need, to compliment my birds. The roses below are inspirational:

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But perhaps will not be the right item. I’m thinking, morning glories, or orange mallow flowers, or day lilies. Sunflowers are really very over done. There’s a lot to choose from there…but whatever I do, it also has to allow for Western meadowlarks, since they are my favorite songbird. There is nothing in the world quite like their liquid-sunrise music.

And of course, I’ll need some barn swallows painted on the walls of dining room and hallway (maybe living room too?) here and there, for accents and to drive home the outdoor feel of the place:

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I also have a lot of figuring to do, regarding the remodeling of the understairs closet area between the dining room and hallway. I’ve chosen to split about half the space right down the middle, and make highly accessible cupboards opening off either side. (The front section, opening into the hallway, will remain a coat closet, and I want rabbits, thus:

Attic2 (2)

…lining the cabinets.) This means careful re-thinking of all the uses for dining room and kitchen, too, as the kitchen needs some help, and I am planning quite a big remodeling project for it. It has great potential, but is neither easy to use nor easy to care for. So I have a stack of pictures, lists, and thoughts related to this subject, and need to let them incubate before I’ll know enough details. Finally, I want to make my school book section more refined. These products should do:

Desk File Organizer  Clear File Envelopes

I’d love to fit this shelf in somewhere, but don’t see how that’s possible just now:

Turntable Book Shelf

Meanwhile, I feel at last that I have a space in the dining room that I can begin to be proud of, and truly revel in.

Last, but not least, here is an inspiration for outside the windows:

wn01[1]

My house isn’t built of brick, but I can make a similar sweet look, after a nice painting job on the exterior of the house.

Note: All paints and wallpapers have been from Sherwin-Williams, and I am very pleased with the knowledge and friendliness of their staff. The desk and file organizers, as well as the rotating book shelf, come from Levenger.

Update, June 26, 2015 –

Well! I found some chairs I love.

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They are designed by a local woman, are reasonably priced, and are very complimentary to what else I have going on in my home. What do you think? (I’m not sure what the woman has available these days, as these photos were taken in August 2014, at a local fair where she was selling them.)

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