The Living Room Makeover. I Got It All Wrong.

When last we met to discuss my living room I had pounded my fist on the table declaring I was going to have an English Roll Arm Sofa and ONE chair!  End of story. Everyone out of my way while I have at it!

This is a purposely awful picture of my living room.  Literally a snapshot, not a “blog” shot.

Heh.  I mightta been wrong about that whole English Roll Arm sofa and only one chair thing. But I’m not sure.  This is why I haven’t started making over my living room yet.  This is also why I’ve had  the same haircut since I was 16.

My living room is “the room”.  The room in my house that feels wrong no matter what I do. Even when I change things around and think I love it, the love is fleeting and within months or even weeks I’m scowling at it again wondering when it’ll stop texting me.

Why is my living room such a struggle?  Because it’s weird.  I normally like weird, but weird isn’t helping my living room in this case.  It’s not symmetrical, the windows are off centre and it doesn’t have a single full wall.

Plus it’s sort of narrow and long.  Sort of.  The living room measures around 15′ x 11′ with the fireplace taking up a big portion of one wall. The problem with this is there isn’t a lot of space on either side of the fireplace for chairs.

So after declaring this the living room with ONE chair, I’m rethinking that decision.  I feel like this room has SO much going on architecturally with 2 windows, a fireplace, 2 bookcases and a big, framed entry that I need something to really anchor and focus everything.  Something solid and bold.  Like a Snuffleupagus.

Orrrrr two matching chairs. Not even just two chairs.  Two MATCHING chairs.  I’d like them to be in front of the fireplace, facing each other.  The Eames chair in the corner is comfortable, but when winter hits and I’m sitting beside the fireplace, I can’t even really see or feel the fire because I’m smushed in the corner. Which is the only place the chair and ottoman will fit at the moment.

I’d also like two chairs in front of the fireplace with the option of being able to see the television from them.  Which means that television over the fireplace might get moved.  Obviously having your television on your mantel isn’t a design lovers dream but honestly, it’s where most people put the television because a lot of times there’s no other option.  Yes. Sometimes even designers put their televisions there because it makes the most sense in terms of having a room be functional.

I may have a bit of a mission on my hands finding two chairs that meet all of my requirements.  Seriously. Like, I might not find these chairs until after I’ve already turned this living room into a bedroom because I can’t handle stairs anymore.

My made up, totally unrealistic chair checklist is this:

  • VERY small footprint, but feel big and comfortable.
  • Down wrapped foam cushions
  • Swivel!
  • Maybe even recline!
  • But not look like a recliner.
  • Have a high enough back that your head is supported.
  • NO preference for whether they’re traditional/timeless or mid century modern.  (phew)

NOW what this means is I can’t pick out a couch until I find these two magic chairs. IF I happen to find two magical mid century modern chairs that means I’ll want a more classic couch.  If I find more traditional chairs, I’ll be leaning towards more mid century lines for my couch.

Ready for the hitch???  I’ve been looking around and what I’d really like is an antique couch.

Sometimes I wonder why you people even follow me. I clearly have NO idea what I’m doing ever.

I’m actually thinking of sending my room floor plan to some of my most favourite designers and hoping they send back a completed plan.  I’m talking to you Suzanne Dimma (former editor of House & Home magazine), Carol Reed (designer of my kitchen) and Amy Beth Cupp.

I love my foyer …

I love my dining room …

I love my kitchen …


But I cannot, CANNOT get my living room right.

The worst part of all of this is the fact that this 2 chairs by the fireplace thing means there’s nowhere for my beloved Eames Chair.

These are a few of the layouts I did up quickly based on the furniture size I would be likely to get and none of them look great.  Partly because it’s a mockup layout with nothing else in the room.

(made with the West Elm room planner)

(I’d have a long wood or marble table in front of the sofa but it was easiest to use a long upholstered bench to simulate the right size in the planner)

You know looking at these I’d probably be smart to just keep a stupid sectional in the room.  ACK!!!!!

I might just turn this into a bedroom right now.

Have a good weekend!


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  1. Noëlle says:

    Can’t you add a swivel base to the chairs facing the fireplace? Find a chair you love etc?
    I’ll tag the boys in your post and see if they’ll join in the fun.

  2. Heather Grauman says:

    I’d kill for that Eames! Give it the attention and place of honor it deserves, like a little grouping the window for reading, or looking out the window. ( if you have to move it from where it is). Such a beautiful home!

  3. Cynthia says:

    Dearest Karen: This is totally one of my favorite posts. What I enjoy most about the post is your fabulous sense of humor. And how you got it so right for us “ normal” people who even study design on our own but somehow can’t get one or more rooms “right”. Thank you for making me laugh out loud once again. And count me among those who would love your Eames chair. So perfectly imperfect anywhere in your home or mine!!!

  4. Lynda says:

    A personal pet peeve is a TV over the fireplace. I think it really detracts from a room.

    In our place, we have 2 Berger’s-style chairs – one at each end of the sofa, but when we put the fire on, we pull them close to the fireplace. It doesn’t look right having them there all the time.

  5. Katie says:

    Have you thought about using four chairs with a beautiful coffee table in the middle? I love that look.

  6. Tess Gleason says:

    Agree with some who like #3. You could leave you Eames chair by the fireplace. It opens up the room when you walk in the door and seems inviting instead of “staged”. #1 + #2 look like you read to stage a debate or interrogation. And I could never understand the reason behind the two chairs facing each other with a sofa off to the side. It always looks like a debating event with the judges sitting on the sofa like a tennis match. Go with #3 and open up the room a bit more.

  7. Aleesha Kim Mayer says:

    Feng Shui it ;-) Marie Diamond-like….. It worked miracles for my hopeless mini-office :-) Big sisterly I-Know-How-It-Feels-HUG <3

  8. Cathleen Partridge says:

    I have nothing profound to say except the layout and architecture of the room fights against symmetry (which you know) and your current furniture also adds to the jumble. Your mockups look much more symmetrical. The single couch helps as do the matching chairs. A mantle without a television gives you endless possibilities for design. I would think about adding more balance to the room through furniture size and placement and free up the mantle for endless possibilities.

  9. Anne Hazzard says:

    Here is another possibility. Go with 2 sofas and keep your Eames chair. First try on the West Elm site so things aren’t in the exact spot they should be.

  10. Stephanie says:

    I feel you. My LR is 11×19 with a double slider door and window in completely opposite places of where they should be. The door is in the main part of the room and the window where you come up the stairs. I’ve moved it around 5 times now and still not happy. I too was going to ask if you can swap the LR and DR – you’d lose the fireplace, but gain your library. If not, is it terrible to suggest you shorten down that huge almost 7′ entry into the room. That way, you can gain more wall space to put the TV on that wall – or better – the couch with TV opposite on the window wall, and your two wanted chairs facing the FP at the head of the room – maybe adding to the 3′ foot little wall if the shortening the entry suggestion is feasible for you.

    • Karen says:

      I have thought about changing the entryway to the room and making it smaller! But I’m not sure that’s the best solution. :/ ~ karen!

      • M says:

        If you made your entryway smaller (ie normal doorway size) but at the current Eames chair end instead (the 5’4″ end, so it became 8’4″), you could do layout 1 – but instead of chairs they would be sofas (you could just fit two 6′ sofas and still have access to your bookshelves) and then you could move the Eames chair & ottoman to the corner where the church pillar (?) is. You could then pop a little end table between the Eames and that far sofa.
        You’d lose the grand entry to the room, but through the doorway you’d see a bright little reading nook set up with the Eames and ottoman and table and lamp, and maybe catch a glimpse of sofa and coffee table, then when you walk into to the room, you’d be in a cozy setup with the two sofas facing each other near the fire. Keep the Eames and get your two sofas: win win?
        Oh, just saw I might be repeating what Anne Hazzard has already said!, but with changing the entryway added.

  11. Diane Amick says:

    #3 with smaller round coffee table and Eames chair left in corner where it is in photo of you sitting in it. Problem is coffee table is too big.

  12. Maggie says:

    I came to also wonder if Eames could go in the bedroom. It’s sooo sexy!

  13. Bonnie Harris says:

    I’m not usually a fan of ‘centered designs, but I like #1, it’s the best statement option IMHO. Have a look at Structube, you might like their Polo or Palmer style chairs? We bought chairs there 15 years ago, recliners that don’t look like your typical recliner, and they’re still going strong and used every day.

  14. Anne Hazzard says:

    Would you consider getting a 2 sofas, have them facing each other on the fireplace side of the room and put your Eames chair and foot stool near the end wall opposite the fireplace but on an angle?

    • Karen says:

      I love that look. :) But the room isn’t big enough for it. Not even for two small sofas, or even loveseats. I’ve tired. :/ ~ karen!

  15. SUSAN JACOBS says:

    You might look at furniture with softer lines and you could use some height differences. Cozy is what you may be looking for. Look as some fung shui for that room. The room just does not wrap its arms around you and invite you in yet. I can’t wait to see what you come up with.

  16. Deborah says:

    It is as if you are in my head….I am facing the same challenges…..except with a 1950 ish bungalow. I am leaning toward 4 chairs and ditching my L shaped sectional….not sure what my thought process was with that………love your site!!

  17. Christie says:

    #1 layout for sure! But I also like the idea of switching your LR & DR. BTW, an English roll arm sofa goes with everything – I’ve had one for 15 years and just keep reupholstering it. For the swivels, I would have them custom made (as I did when we downsized). I based them on something in a store with the exact proportions that I wanted – they are the BEST! Not as expensive as you’d think (I have a guy!). Good luck!

  18. whitequeen96 says:

    What about a nice, cushy ottoman in the corner, instead of a chair?

    And I liked when you tried your bench in front of the couch as a coffee table – maybe something with similar proportions?

  19. Did you see that face in your fireplace???? Creeeeeeepy!!!!!

  20. Lyne Dellandrea says:

    I have LOTS of experience with old houses (currently, an 1860 Canadian square pine log home), a large family and the need for lots of seating.
    In my experience, you never get 3 people sitting side by side on a couch…..people like their space, so unless you like to lie down full tilt to watch tv……get a shorter couch or skip the couch in favour of 4 chic and comfortable chairs around a largish coffee table….square or round for symmetry ( I cut the legs down on an antique square dining table)
    The traditional wing chair has a much smaller foot print than most chairs. It is appropriate to the age of your home and depending on upholstery choices, can be highly functional and leave your Eames chair to shine in it’s solitary spotlight. As the Eames comes with ottoman do not waste the space on another .
    You can put the Eames in the farthest corner with a lamp and table to give yourself a separate special place to watch tv or read.

    In one narrow space in front of our old fireplace, I have 2 wing chairs angled toward the fireplace with a small antique cupboard between the chairs(for lamps to read by and doors to hide the games and stuff) and an antique mennonite bench(no finish) as the coffee table in front. It gives room to put your feet up,(no hassles with cleaning upholstery) have a pile of books or put a tray of nibbles on and still leaves a walkway between it and the fireplace.

    • Kiplena says:

      I like Linda Dellandrea’s suggestions.
      You could always take down the wall, if not load bearing, between living and dining rooms and go for open floor plan.

  21. Sabina says:

    Or a matching/not matching Eames?

  22. Sabina says:

    Just scrolling through the pics for a local estate sale that starts this morning and saw this, how about a couple of these? Looks cozy and swivels :)

  23. Ella says:

    I like layout 1 but with just one huge square coffee table and angle the two chairs on a 45 to the table (backs to the corners). I am glad there is no room for the Eames chair. It doesn’t go with your house and it’s too damn big for the room. Another option is to pull the sectional forward off the wall and situate it around the fireplace with the large square coffee table idea and just one chair. Recover it to a MCM fabric and reshape the arms and back to a more MCM feel.

    • Jan in Waterdown says:

      Apparently, you have not been paying attention lol! Karen loves that chair and went to a lot of effort to finally get it. I think it does suit her house, it’s a timeless classic design. Just my opinion, of course, but I am right. 😉

  24. Jane King says:

    I would just turn you sweet chair to face the fireplace at an angle instead of away from it and leave the sectional just like it is. I love your undecided style 💕

    • Karen says:

      I’ve tried it like that, but in order to see the television the chair has to be basically in the middle of the room. Which of course is weird, but in a bad way. ~ karen!

  25. JackieVB says:

    I have a similarly sized and shaped den but the fireplace is on one of the long walls. I’m not sure from your layouts what traffic flow you need to have but, one of the solutions for my room was to lose the coffee table (I have two end tables) and get one oversized chair with large ottoman. The ottoman can be moved around wherever you need it for extra seating when company is over and it gives a coziness to the room because it is over-stuffed. The thinking was more about how the room was to be used which is mainly TV watching or just plain visiting so that I can look at my guests while talking to them and we can all watch the TV without craning our necks.
    The symmetry is achieved through things like matching lamps on the end tables, picture placement and how the rugs are used to anchor certain pieces. Sorry, but I can’t think of how the Eames chair can fit into this scenario but it may be a comfortable addition to your bedroom or you may have a space elsewhere where you can create a cozy reading nook.
    Good luck in your decision making I know the finished product is going to look fabulous!

    • JackieVB says:

      I forgot to mention that your design aesthetic seems to match closely with designs found on CocoKelley, perhaps you can find something that sparks a solution.
      Forgive me if you already know about the above mentioned site – it could be one of those that the world already knows about but I have only recently discovered :-)

  26. Cher says:

    Layout #1, minus the ottoman so there is clear passsage to and view of the fireplace. (Or very small/low ottoman). You can add a small round mini side table next to a chair for books, coffee, etc.

    For chairs I’m envisioning emerald green, compact with rounded backs, not square, as they allow for better maneuvering around.

    Area rugs to define the areas. A taller plant in the back corner behind sofa. I love indoor plants!

  27. Thera says:

    I don’t know how to arrange your room but I know a few things I have learned over the years; you need a couch, not just chairs and not a love seat but a couch you can nap on and stretch out on and cuddle up into. You need things that you really love, like your Eames chair, I agree with the poster above that said put your chair where you want/need it and build your room around it. As for the tv, best thing I ever did was put it on a wheelie cart that has a shelf for my converter (think grade school when the teacher would roll the TV in for a special show or movie) I can move and adjust the tv as I like for angles, sun, number of people watching etc.

  28. Helen Voris says:

    Google images for “Amish swivel rocking gliders.” There are lots of styles. We have two which are very comfortable and they do not have big footprints. Put one on each side of the fireplace at angles, as you have shown in one of your diagrams. They go well with our other Scandinavian furniture as it was called when we bought lots of it about 40 years ago.

  29. leisa says:

    I like layout one, with small scale swivel chairs so you can face the fireplace or the couch. An english roll arm is so
    classic and works with every style.

    If you replace your couch first, you might find that you want to just leave the chair and instead invest in one of those tv’s that looks like a painting (samsung?).

  30. Huguette says:

    Fireplace is lovely; tv above is all wrong. I like weird too…

  31. Susan says:

    Karen, who lives in your house? You do! You love the Eames chair. You want to watch TV and enjoy the fireplace from that chair. You read in that chair. You actually sit down for more than 5 minutes at a time in that chair. So place the Eames exactly where it needs to be and build your room around it. I suspect you will find that your living room does not need a sofa…

    • Karen says:

      No, no, it really does need a sofa, lol. :) ~ karen!

      • Susan says:

        Oh I get it, you couch napper you! I still want to know what was the name of the Canadian company with the perfect English rolled arm sofa. Can you tell us even if you do not go ahead with it? I’ve wanted one for ever, but our Barrymore couch refuses to die.

  32. Lavada says:

    Have you considered a wingback recliner? Some of them don’t actually look like a recliner at all OR a standard wingback at all:

    Some swivel; some rock and recline; with legs and look like anything but a recliner — example:

    Or for a smaller footprint:

    Lots to choose from in this line and meet quite a few of your “unrealistic chair” checklist ticks – swivel/recline without look too much like a recliner, definitely head support, don’t know about that wrapped foam cushion. . .but you’ll need a project to do anyway. LOL

    Good luck in your endeavor

    • Karen says:

      They do meet my checklists! However, I don’t like the styles for my house, lol. This is a losing battle. ~ karen!

      • Bijou says:

        No losing battles allowed. How about another Eames chair, sans foot stool opposite the original, sharing foot stool. Don’t cram chairs into corner but put in front of fireplace facing each other. Put TV on wall where blank canvass (?) is, or where two pictures are at end of sofa. That way you can lie down and watch TV, or see it from Ms. Eames just by swiveling her bottom a bit. I like the long bench in front of sofa, upholstered, for extra company seating and conversation with sofa people, or for treat trays. This is a combo of picture No. 1, and the little bit of what I can see in your casual shot at the beginning of your blog. Maybe you can use some of the info.

    • Cheryl says:

      Wayfair has several similar to your favorite chair, that recline and that each have small ottomans, which altho not matchy, would be very similar in style and then a couch of your choice, facing the fire place, with what ever works as a coffee table/ottoman for the couch. Small tables for lamp/books/drink? If I knew how to put the links up I would, just not that techy! I say play on your love of the favorite, and go that direction.

  33. Kathline says:

    How about the sofa in front of the fireplace and the two chairs with the small table between them behind the fireplace facing the other direction, or slightly turned in toward each other? Hard to tell where the entrances are if that would mess up the flow of the room. It looks like that would put the chairs facing a window. That would give you a chat spot facing a nice view and a snuggle spot facing the fireplace.

  34. Dana Woolliams says:

    We have a pair of mission style leather chairs with wood sides/arms that are gorgeous – and they are recliners! they are La-z-boy, of all things, but you would never know it. Or even suspect that they recline. They are also perfect for napping by the fire.

    • Nicole says:

      Yeah, I was going to jump in with a recommendation to check out La-z-boy – they don’t only make that one shapeless but comfy chair style anymore, and many of their designs don’t look like recliners at all. I have a wingback chair by them, and I’ve actually had people sitting in it not believe me when I say it reclines.

  35. Vicki says:

    No to layout 1 for sure! The 2 chairs opposite each other look like it might be cramped and also doesn’t have that “anchoring” feel you’re looking for.

    Why not layout 2 but have the 2 chairs together to balance out the couch opposite? You just need to ensure that you have 12-18” space between chair/couch and coffee table for flllloooow ;)

  36. Kathryn turner says:

    Good luck with finding what works for you. I had the same issue. In the end I ditched the chairs and went for two sofas, because you don’t really want to sit by the fire, you want to lie down facing it. More room for dogs and guests and blankets. Mine make a triangle with the fireplace as the hypotenuse so I can watch tv on an adjacent wall and feel the warmth of the fire in repose. But that’s just me😀

  37. Vickie says:

    The perfect swivel chair has vexed me for the last year! Can’t wait to see what you find!

  38. Tina says:

    First off, I claimed the Eames chair on Facebook when you first posted this. I get first dibs!

    But honestly, I’d dump the sofa idea. I’d keep the Eames chair and get a couple of other nice, cushy, swivel chairs and ottoman…ottoman to be converted to coffee table/extra seating, as needed.

    • Karen says:

      No sofa in the room at all? Just a frenzy of chairs? No, I don’t think I can get on board with that no matter how nice the chairs I’m afraid. ~ karen!

    • Robin says:

      Exactly what I was going to suggest.

      Maybe a love seat, but a sofa is just too large for that small space. Chairs can be rearranged so easily, but I’m not sure Karen wants to move things around in her house.

  39. Mindy says:

    Yep. This is my life. Every day I stare at my living room and rearrange. Then I buy new imaginary furniture. And I hate it. So I buy new imaginary furniture. The struggle is real. I do like the idea suggested above of swapping your living and dining room. I mean, it’s free to try it out, right?

  40. AlabamaAmy says:

    Look up Bobby Evers in Nashville/Lawrenceburg TN. He can look at a room and see what it needs…really.

  41. Jackie Dooley says:

    Picture number one = definitely, but changes… Turn the chairs to face the fireplace, use the long footstool in between both chairs to elongate that area. Bring the couch closer to the chairs, but not to close, just close enough for conversation. Put a couch table behind the couch closely with two lamps at each end. Place two baskets, if you will, besides each chair for magazines and throws. Maybe a couple of tall floor lamps on each side of the fireplace, to increase reading light. Extra pieces of the sectional could be place to the back of the room in each corner, for extra seating, or to just display more cozy favorite throws or quilts.

    • Mary W says:

      My sentiments exactly and the foot stool could be used when sitting at the couch. But I would put a long table behind the couch with lamps. Everything close and cozy by the fire but the chairs should swivel for multipurpose use. I saw this layout in a very small bedroom where the bed played the space of the couch and it was the most inviting room I’ve ever seen – remember it even though I saw it years ago. They had wall filling book shelves on the fireplace wall but the recliner would have to go and that leaves the back wall. Where in the world would the recliner go? Maybe Karen needs to DIY a bump out wall in her home so her recliner could go in front of a curved outward wall window. Cat would love that. Eames has it’s very own space and the world can begin turning again.

  42. Susan F says:

    Oh my, someone else remembers snuffleupagus. I had the whole series of invented animal books earlier in my life. I loved the snuffleupagus best (as I remember, a sort of friendly dinosaur). Who can resist that name!

    Layout 3, but ditch the coffee table. Put your Eames chair toward the fireplace for when you are solo, so you can enjoy your fire. Pull it toward the seating area for an extra chair for company (leaving its ottoman out of the way). Use small occasional tables for supporting drinks (purpose made or funky re-purposed things). Could you use a tray placed on your Eames ottoman when you want to bring in snacks?

    There! I wish I could be a fraction of that decisive for my own decorating issues, most of which are still pending.

  43. Patricia O says:

    That is my living room. Except I have four entrances! Don’t take this as a challenge but I don’t think that room can handle two chairs.

  44. Wendi says:

    You know how in the movies you always see two chairs, with a small table in between them, facing a fireplace? I mean, granted, those are usually in huge ass elegant rooms. But what if you could find a set of swivel chairs? Then, when you want to have a nice read next to the fire you could have the chairs facing the fire, and if you have guests over you can swivel them to face the room.

    • Heather says:

      I was thinking the same thing! And the big sectional sofa has gotta go! I’ve got one in my family room, and there’s nothing can be done with it. It dominates the room and sends everything off kilter. All we want from our family room is lots of seating for our big family, so it works. But it’ll be the first piece of furniture to go once we downsize.

  45. Robin says:

    Well, clearly buying the Eames chair was a total mistake; I will be happy to relocate it to Nashville! Just say the word👍😉

  46. Sarah says:

    layout #1: YES! (even better with swivels)
    layouts #2 and #3: OMG, NO!
    layout #4: no.

    (no carpets/rugs to define spaces, anchor the room, enhance coziness?)

    • Cheverly says:

      Hahaha, “OMG, NO!” Totally agree with you there, but a carpet/rug to anchor the space? Thereby covering those beautiful floors? HAVE YOU GONE MAD, WOMAN?? 😉

  47. Kiplena says:

    Amy Beth Cupp has a great Instagram account with photos of her gorgeous home and her fabulously handsome standard poodle Tauren. One of our very favorites.
    I like Alrac’s room switch idea! Would the Eames ensemble fit in your bedroom?

  48. MrsChrisSA says:

    Ok, you almost lost me in reading the rest of the story with the same haircut since 16. You are kidding right? I think I had 16 different hairstyles just last year!!!

    And then, what the frikkie frikadel (South Africanism which basically means what the heck) is a Snuffleupagus from a furniture perspective? A wooly mammoth type chair?

    Finally, my 2c worth….. I like layouts 1 and 4 but 1 is my favourite !

    • Elizabeth Brakebill says:

      Can I get a pronunciation guide for “frikkie frikadel”? That could become such a part of my vocabulary! And I am with you on the “same hairstyle since 16”!

      And Karen, I follow you because you tell, no, show me, that it is ok to change ones mind upon completion of a project (says the woman that lived with bare plaster, 50 year old walls, for 10 years because the choices of paint were too overwhelming). And I thank you!

      • MrsChrisSa says:

        Hi Elizabeth

        The best way to give you a pronunciation guide is:

        Frik – the “i” is like a when one would say Brit and the “kie” is an eeee sound (like donkey)
        Frikkadel the Frik is the same as above and the adel is said the same way as the singer Adele.

    • Jacquie Gariano says:

      I noticed a picture of me on om Mom’s wall that is my graduation picture from high school and it is the same one I have now. LOL

  49. Alrac says:

    Can you switch your living and dining room? Your dining room looks big enough for seating.
    And a dining room with a cozy fireplace could be nice, and maybe still fit the Eames chair? I can’t tell if this would make any sense by looking at your photos. However, if you need someone to look after that Eames chair if you don’t have room, I would be happy to :)

    • Karen says:

      The dining room is actually smaller. Ack! I would like to have my living room in the back of the house but it wouldn’t work. Also I’d miss my nightly fires! ~ karen

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