1980′s Kitchen Takes Center Stage In 2014

August 15, 2014

I love a great “Before and After” of a kitchen – especially when it allows us to see how far it has come. Today’s guest blog comes to us from Winston-Salem kitchen and bath design firm, Cabinet Studio. Creating a gracious and inviting space from this dated 1980’s space posed many challenges but Michael Dugas shares with North Carolina Design how he and the team at Cabinet Studio proved that they were up for the task.

Bringing this kitchen into the 21st century meant creating a space that not only looked beautiful but also functioned well. What may have been considered a layout that was acceptable in decades past did not work well with the clients’ current needs. It also showed how important an overall design plan is in terms of realizing the most enjoyment and use from the space.

The original layout presented several issues and challenges. A peninsula that cut the kitchen off from the rest of the room and the pantry was inconveniently located at the end of the room. While the laundry room had no storage, the ½ bath was a large waste of space. The kitchen also had two side by side door openings – one that entered into the dining room and the other which opened to the hallway – too many entry points. The final challenge was a cramped eat-in area, with an exterior door that did not function well for the room, and a bay window that didn’t allow a lot of light into the room.

The new layout called for not only removing the pantry but also the doorway leading into the dining room. Enhancing space and aesthetics, the new laundry room area was designed with a pocket entry from the kitchen. A large pantry was added to the laundry room, with ample storage provided by wall and base cabinets. By decreasing the size of the half bath, a serving area/wine bar was added outside of the dining room.

Moving all of the walls allowed for a large island to be added where the client and family could enjoy each other while cooking/baking with the grandchildren. We gained a lot of storage by extending the upper wall cabinets to the ceiling.

We squared the bay window area and added new doors and windows to allow for more light to enter the room. The addition of a display case for pottery and artwork created greater added another element and created greater interest in the space.

Images Courtesy of Cabinet Studio ©

The end result is a kitchen that not only functions well, it encourages all who enter to spend time there.

Beauty Punctuated By Green Practices In Charlotte Landscape

July 25, 2014

When Jenny Pippin of Pippin Home Designs took on the task of completely redesigning her own home, the results were bold, unique and truly beautiful. However, the remodel left her with a landscape in desperate need of repair and renovation. She knew just who to call – longtime friend and Charlotte area landscape designer Jan Enright of Jan Enright Creations. The two had worked together on many projects, and Jenny knew that Jan was certainly up for the challenge. North Carolina Design talked to Jan to get her take on the project and some of the finer points of this successful design.

Images Courtesy of Jan Enright Creations and Artist Eye Photography ©

Two big challenges awaited Jan when she began. The first was the fact that the site had been completely upended by the home renovation. “Jenny warned me that it was going to be bad. But when I got there, I was shocked. I thought, ‘This just looks horrendous. How am I going to do this?’”

The second and most significant challenge was designing a landscape that would fit into the steeply sloped site. “I had to figure out a way to work with the land’s steep grading, and figure out what to do with the existing retaining walls. I was able to break the slope into sections of plantings and create layers in the terrain to establish a cohesive look.”

As a designer, Jenny had some very specific ideas for her landscape. “She wanted an Asian flair,” Jan recalls. “I used some feng shui principles and incorporated some Asian-inspired plantings. And when you look at aerial photos of the landscape, the major bed in the front is actually in a yin-yang shape.”

Jenny is passionate about using green building practices – a fact which Jan took to heart. “Jenny specifically wanted the landscape to feature as many green concepts as possible,” Jan affirms. “We went with easy-to-maintain plants, and took care to plant them in the right places so that they would grow without stress and wouldn’t need high amounts of fertilizer, water and care.

“We set up a system so that rainwater from the roof is collected into cisterns and used for irrigation,” she continues. “We also managed the amount of turf on the property, as turf takes lots of fertilizer and water. Jenny did need a lawn for her dogs, but we used indigenous Bermuda grass, which requires very little water.”

Jan was careful to add little touches that truly reflected Jenny’s personality. “I wanted the landscape bring her a lot of joy, and things to look forward to,” she explains. “Jenny loves purple. We added a purple butterfly bush for some summer color, and capillaris grass for a smoky purple haze in fall. We also designed a pond with waterfalls, big boulders and lots of fish and frogs. It gets frequent visits from dragonflies, which are one of her favorite symbols.”

While the project was daunting, Jan thoroughly enjoyed it. “Understanding Jenny’s needs was really easy, because I know her so well and we’ve collaborated on so many projects together. However, the design itself was a real challenge. In the end, that’s what I actually loved about the project — there was so much to overcome and so many different criteria needed to be met in this one space. But I did it, and I did it with love – and it was a success.”

Using A Variety of Patterns And Colors, Asheville Artist Creates Order, Adding Beauty And Interest To A Space

July 21, 2014

Art does far more than dress up a wall; it adds beauty, complexity and dimension to a home’s design. Art is also far more than a simple arrangement of forms and colors – it’s a window into the artist’s inner world, and an attempt to capture, define and share a feeling or moment in time with the viewer.

One Is Another Mixed Media On Canvas 48 x 48
Images Courtesy of Kotara Studio ©

The works of Asheville artist Kenn Kotara, owner of Kotara Studio, exemplify the drama, beauty and energy an expertly crafted work can convey. Playing with the dualities of chaos and peace, white space and color, and simplicity and complexity, he creates intriguing and beautiful pieces that increasingly grace the homes and offices of many discerning North Carolina art lovers. North Carolina Design talked to Kenn to learn more about his work, and what drives his unique creative vision.

Sinopia Mixed Media On Canvas 36 x 60

Kenn begins each canvas and paper work with a grid, which he layers with meandering, curvilinear lines in a variety of patterns and colors. While his pieces are decidedly modern and abstract, the underlying grid gives them a sense of order and a soothing, meditative quality that adds beauty and interest to a space.

Kisatchie Mixed Media On Canvas 60 x 36

“My work is really my attempt to understand this modern world, which is bombarded by an overload of information and driven by abstractions and chaos,” Kenn explains. “For me, it’s about making sense of the chaos and attempting to simplify it. I use the repetition of curved lines and simple shapes like circles to provide an element that’s relatable and soothing to the eye.”

Acadiana Mixed Media On Canvas 72 x 96

Kenn creates everything from sculptures, to canvas paintings, to installations, and he is always open to any media. “When you break it down, whether it’s paint or oils or pastels, every medium is basically a form of rock and water,” he muses. “It’s just a matter of picking and choosing, and attempting to exploit each medium to its best advantage. Everything is fair game. I’ve even used coffee and food items — anything that can color a substrate is intriguing to me.”

Winter Here Again Is Not My Choice Charcoal & Pastel On Paper 42 x 42

Kenn’s open attitude toward his work extends to his color choices. “As Dale Chihuly said, ‘I never met a color I didn’t like,’” he quips. “I find that each work drives itself, and the colors will depend on what’s happening within the framework of each art piece, whether it needs a high-value contrast or something very subdued. I also go through phases where I might use subdued colors for days or weeks or months, then suddenly find it’s time to use something that jumps off the canvas.”

Treasure Hunt Pastel On Paper 42 x 42

Kenn is intensely creative, and he finds inspiration in many places. “I might come across a newspaper clipping, or see an intriguing shape that triggers an idea,” he reflects. “I am always mentally storing and cataloging new information, and every once in a while a piece just pops out from the gray matter in my brain. I also maintain sketchbooks cataloging my thoughts. As I look through them, I might catch something that didn’t surface two years earlier that I can now expand and extrapolate from.”

A Love That Lasts: Tips For Designing And Building A Home That Fits Your Current And Future Needs

July 18, 2014

It’s easy to get swept off your feet by a charming and beautiful home, and to fall in love at first sight. But if you plan to live in the home for years to come, it’s important that your love is more than a fleeting fancy. Designing a home that will stay functional, beautiful and relevant is a tall order, but Houck Residential Designers, an award-winning Winston-Salem residential design firm is up to the challenge. As a firm that has designed  its share of exceptional custom homes, vice president and residential designer Barry Wilson explained to North Carolina Design how they ensure that homeowners don’t suffer from “builder’s remorse.”

Images Courtesy of Houck Residential Designers ©

Barry notes that homeowners must set priorities in order to ensure that their home truly meets their needs. “If you don’t know what your priorities are, we know how to ask the right questions. What rooms do you need? Do you want formal spaces? Do you need a big pantry? Do you want a getaway space all for yourself? Do you want all the rooms to be on the same level?”

For a house to accommodate a homeowner’s changing needs, priorities need to be set not just for now, but for the duration. “It’s important to stay flexible and think long term about the spaces in your home,” Barry stresses. “For example, a lot of people design around their kids, and that’s fine. But kids aren’t going to be five or ten years old for the rest of their lives. You won’t need a playroom forever. You have to think about what you will do with that room in the future.”

Thinking long term also affects the type of investment homeowners should make in their home. “Maybe you’re a 48-year-old with a job that makes you move around a lot, and you only plan to live in the house for 10 years. Or maybe you will be there until you retire, then you’ll move to the beach. Or maybe you’re going to live there for the rest of your life. You have to build to your appropriate time period.”

“If you plan to sell your home in the near future, you’re going to want to invest in something someone in your position now is going to want to buy. If you plan to stay long term, you have to invest more in your own priorities, and think of how to build in flexibility so that it will satisfy you now and later on as you age – keeping in mind that you shouldn’t make choices that are too taste-specific or inappropriate for the neighborhood, in case you do need to sell it.”

An enduring aesthetic is also important to a home’s design, but Barry concedes that it’s a bit more challenging to plan for than practical needs. “It’s hard to design for a projected preference later on. Who knows what people are going to want to see in a home in the future? As a designer, you have to go with what appeals to the homeowners now, while corralling them toward something you know will last.”

“Lasting design is proportionally correct and aesthetically pleasing,” Barry notes. “If it looks good now it will look good later; good design is good design. There are always ways to update the home’s look in the future.”

Charlotte Architect Explains How Collaboration On All Fronts Results In a Home That Offers Lasting Beauty

July 14, 2014

Building a home is a process with a thousand moving parts, and a successful project requires both a rock-solid plan and great teamwork. Don Duffy, owner of Don Duffy Architecture in Charlotte, knows a great deal about both. While Don is one of Charlotte’s most highly skilled and respected architects, he is also nothing if not humble – readily crediting teamwork for his many successes. He recently sat down with North Carolina Design to talk about the importance of collaboration, explaining how and why it brings so much satisfaction in his work.

Images Courtesy of Don Duffy Architecture ©

To Don, meaningful collaboration with clients is one of the most important aspects of designing a home. “In my view, we are servants, and we come to the job with that in mind,” he explains. “I do not think that I know what is best for our clients. In fact, we do our best work when our clients act as coaches.

“Some clients are good coaches, who are organized and know what they want, and can guide the process smoothly along. Some of them just need a sounding board so they can exercise their own creative side. And some of them need us to help them draw out and articulate their vision. There is nothing more enjoyable then developing a client’s idea for how they want to live.”

A lot of work goes into thoroughly deciphering a client’s unique perspectives. “Understanding our clients’ needs doesn’t happen in a single meeting,” Don notes. “It happens over many, many meetings – after spending a lot of time chit-chatting about the project. When clients say that they want something ‘traditional,’ ‘modern,’ ‘not too big,’ or ‘not too fancy,’ we always ask them to use adjectives to explain what they mean. Those concepts mean different things to different people, and we have to redefine them in the client’s terms.”

Don also highly values the collaboration of the team of craftsmen and builders that bring his designs to life. “The building process is very much communal, and involves many people who have solid ideas,” he affirms. “It’s the artistry of the entire team that will make the home even better than the original drawings. There is so much joy in the pride the trade partners bring to the project. You know you have hit a home run when the construction team brings their families to the job site to show them what they have created.”

While he loves the collaborative process, Don also gets a great deal of personal satisfaction from each project. “I love the sensory experience of it all, and seeing the project come together,” he explains. “When you’re working in a rural area, for example, you’re surrounded by the smell of the woods and the sounds of the forest, and you have the sense that you are building something amazing from nothing. It’s impressive to go from a piece of dirt or forested piece of land to a finished home.”

In the end, Don’s real crowning achievement comes from making his clients’ visions a reality. “The biggest joy in a project is in the client’s enjoyment of the home,” he concedes. “There is nothing better than hearing a client say that they knew the result would be good, but they had no idea that it could be this good.”

Courtesy Photo Credits Provided By Don Duffy:
Photos 1,7 and 8 – Bruce Clodfelter Landscape Architect
Photo 4 – Sheryl Vandermolen Interiors
Photo 9 – Stephen Young, Think Still Photography
Photo 9 – Circa Interiors
Photo 10 – Photography by Charlotte Virtual Home Tours, Cal Mitchner

Vibrant Colors, Universal Design And Green Building Practices Transform Charlotte Home

July 11, 2014

When Charlotte residential designer Jenny Pippin, of Pippin Home Designs, and her husband, photographer Wes Stearns, set out to renovate their Lake Norman home, they first had modest ideas in mind. Their vision quickly expanded, and after a year-long process, the couple created a beautiful, vibrant, one-of-a-kind dream home that addressed their existing home’s issues and incorporated their top priorities. North Carolina Design chatted with Jenny about what makes her home unique, and the journey it took to design a home for an exacting client – her own self.

Images Courtesy of Pippin Home Designs and Artist Eye Photography ©

The home has actually undergone two separate renovations. In the first renovation, the footprint was expanded from 875 to 1200 square feet, and the existing carport was enclosed to create a garage. The second renovation was major, but it came about for a simple enough reason. “We needed a new roof,” Jenny explains. “We also needed a third bedroom and a second bathroom, so while we were contemplating the new roof, we thought, why not add on to the top of the house? And then things just evolved after that.”

Evolved indeed – into a whole new living space and workspace. “I used to have to commute 17 miles to my office, which took an hour each way,” Jenny recounts. “We decided to move my entire office into the home, and also create a photography studio for Wes.” The couple made the new second level of the home its main level. The 1200-foot existing home became a lower guest level, complete with guest bedrooms and a rec room.

Because of the steep slope of the build site, the garage, once enclosed, had continually flooded from rainwater runoff. Jenny and Wes moved the garage up the hill, which solved the flooding problem, and installed a bridge connecting the garage to the new front door.

The home does much more than meet the couple’s functional needs. From its 14 different paint colors to its metal spiral staircase, the design is decidedly bold, funky, and fun, and is carefully thought out to reflect the personalities of its owners. “We wanted to inspire people to be less neutral,” Jenny notes. “And we wanted to create someplace fun. Everyone who comes in smiles and feels really happy in our house.”

Jenny is known for her passionate endorsement of green building practices. For her own home, she incorporated passive and active solar power, as well as a rainwater harvesting system. She used low-VOC paints and water-based finishes, and incorporated sustainable materials like bamboo, cork and recycled corrugated metal. The home is silver-level certified from the North Carolina Healthy Built Homes Program, and Jenny and Wes host fundraisers, events and tours in the home to promote green building practices.

Creating a home that would welcome anyone of any physical ability was also of key importance to Jenny. “Years ago I broke my back,” she explains. “The home I lived in could not accommodate a person with a physical handicap, and I had to lay in a hospital bed in the front of the house for months. In this home, everything from the bridge, to the bathrooms, to the kitchen, and even the yard itself is accessible to anyone — from children to people in wheelchairs.”

Jenny did find it a challenge to design her own home. “I have done so many different projects for so many different people – it was really hard to narrow down what to do in my own house,” she admits. “In the end, I used an integrated approach to create a space that organically suits our needs, the landscape, and the environment – just as I do for all my clients. And I would say it was a complete success.”

Charlotte Landscape Architect Creates Beauty And Joy

July 8, 2014

This time of year, landscapes and outdoor living spaces not only entice us visually, they are a joy to spend time in on weekends and at the end of a long work day. In the hands of talented professionals, some of these spaces rise to a level of true artistry. Charlotte landscape architect J’Nell Bryson is one of these individuals. J’Nell loves the outdoors, is passionate about gardens, and uses her wonderful artistic talent, keen intuition and experience to create landscapes that are bold, innovative and truly beautiful. J’Nell shared with North Carolina Design her motivation, how she conceptualizes a space, and her favorite aspects of landscape architecture.

Images Courtesy of J’Nell Bryson Landscape Architect ©

J’Nell’s passion for landscape design goes back to her childhood. “I grew up on three acres of land out in the country,” she recounts. “We had a little pond, and it was very picturesque. I just loved being there. Creating landscapes helps me keep that connection to the land, and allows me to spend time in beautiful outdoor spaces.”

For J’Nell, each project brings an opportunity to build something original and truly special. “When I create a design, I first and foremost follow the client’s lead, based on their tastes and what they want,” she explains. “That said, the site itself is the most important factor in any design. You can have two people who want the same things, but depending on the way the property faces the sun, the architecture of the home, and whether the land itself is flat or rolling, you will get a completely different result.”

J’Nell’s focus is not only on designing a beautiful landscape, but on creating outdoor rooms with the right feel. “Designing an outdoor space is very much like designing an interior space, but on an entirely different scale,” she explains. “The plants create structure; they become the doorways and the hallways, and can be used almost like walls to create the intimacy of an outdoor room. I have a palette of plant materials that I use to create textures and shapes and set a mood. I like to do a mix of textures and plant leaf colors to keep things interesting year round.”

One challenge in designing an outdoor space is that, unlike walls and doors, plants are living things that grow and change. “When they’re first installed, plants need to be placed pretty far apart to leave room for them to grow, so they aren’t going to have the lush look and visual impact they will five or ten years from now,” she concedes. “Using fewer plants in larger sizes can help create a hint of what that space will feel like when those plants grow.”

While J’Nell loves traveling to visit historic and classical gardens, her personal preference is a more contemporary look and feel. “I like nice clean lines,” she affirms. “There is almost a minimalist slant to my work. I like gardens that are open and streamlined, and use fewer species of plants in larger sweeps.”

J’Nell’s favorite part of any job is the creative process. “There are so many details to collect at the onset,” she notes. “I have to meet with the homeowner, meet with the surveyor, and come out to look at the site so I can gather as much information as possible. Eventually, the day comes when I’m done collecting information, and I get to compile it and come up with creative ideas about how to put the whole project together. I love those days. They are so much fun.”

One of my favorite lines of poetry comes from the 19th century Irish poet John Keats. He wrote, “A thing of beauty is a joy forever; its loveliness increases.” This is definitely the case with a well designed landscape. What pleasure it brings as it continues to grow.

The Essential Tips Of A Thriving Lawn And Landscape During The Summer Months

July 4, 2014

Summer is the time for outdoor living. But keeping our outdoor spaces beautiful for the summer and beyond requires a good measure of behind-the-scenes maintenance. To find what we should be doing during the summer months to help our landscapes thrive, North Carolina Design looked to Carole Joyner, of Joyner-Benfield Distinctive Land and Waterscapes in Charlotte. Carole has more than 30 years of experience designing, building and installing some of Charlotte’s finest and most beautiful landscapes, and she knows everything there is to know about summer plant care and maintenance in the Carolinas.

Images Courtesy of Joyner Benfield Distinctive Land & Waterscapes ©

According to Carole, summer is the time to fish out the pruning shears. “This is an excellent time of year to prune almost all small trees and shrubs” she advises. “All plants should be selectively pruned – no head shears. Summer-blooming plants can be pruned by selectively cutting some of the blooms and foliage back, in the same way you would if you were creating a flower arrangement.”

When it comes to trees, shrubs and flowers, fertilizing is an essential summer task. “Once you have pruned, you need to fertilize,” Carole affirms. “For evergreens and spring-blooming plants, use any good fertilizer that’s high in nitrogen to promote green growth. Summer-blooming perennials, annuals and herbs should be fertilized every two to three weeks during the summer with a fertilizer high in phosphorous, which promotes blooms.”

Carole offers important tips to avoid over or under-watering your plants during summer. “When the temperature is in the 90′s, plants should be watered twice a week during any week in which it does not rain,” she notes. “It’s very important to manually operate your irrigation system. There is no constant rule to follow – everybody has to individually figure out an irrigation plan based on the types of plants they have, the available shade, and the different planting zones in their landscape.”

The North Carolina summer heat makes many homeowners hesitant to plant new additions, but Carole tells us that those fears are unfounded. “You can definitely plant in the summer, as long as you will be home and able to properly control irrigation,” she says. “In fact, this is an excellent time to plant, because you’re going to get a lot of good growth from now until the plants go dormant in the fall.”

If you’re tempted to use extra fertilizer to help your lawn stay green, you may want to reconsider. “You don’t want to add a lot of fertilizer to your lawn during the summer because it’s too stressful on your grass,” Carole explains. “You want to do a light layer of fertilizer in June. Then you can come back at the end of July and add an application of Ironite. That will help green it up for a little while.”

When it comes to watering the lawn, Carole advises homeowners to do so two times a week when temperatures are in the 80s and three times a week when they are in the 90′s, providing that it doesn’t rain. “The best time to water is at 5:00 in the morning,” she notes. “Don’t water in the afternoon.”

Summer lawns do need some extra TLC. “Cut your grass in a different direction every week, and bag or blow off your clippings,” Carole advises. “Lawn clippings can build up and choke out the roots of your lawn. Also, it’s really important to put lime down in your lawn in July. The soil in North Carolina – especially in the Piedmont region – is highly acidic, which prevents the nitrogen in fertilizer from releasing. Lime neutralizes the soil, so that when you apply fertilizer in the fall you’ll get the best effects.”

Koi Ponds Adding Beauty And Grace To Carolina Landscapes

July 2, 2014

Water gardens are a wonderful way to add life and beauty to an outdoor space. Koi ponds add an especially intriguing element; the fish are colorful, graceful and soothing to watch, which is why many homeowners have made maintaining them a hobby. To find out a bit more about what goes into creating the perfect koi pond, North Carolina Design turned to an expert: Ben Case, owner of Down to Earth Designs in Raleigh.

Images Courtesy of Down To Earth Designs ©

Ben Case is a genuine expert in all things landscaping. He and his team can do everything from simple maintenance to designing and building an entire outdoor living space from the ground up, with impeccable taste and craftsmanship. That said, he has earned a reputation for his beautiful and exceptionally well-designed koi ponds.

“We build many other ponds that are not koi ponds, but koi ponds have become our niche,” Ben affirms. “Honestly, you can add koi to any pond, and many people do. But homeowners who are collectors or serious enthusiasts – and want a true koi pond – come to us because we know how to build them the right way. Not many other people do.”

There is much more to building a koi pond than one might think. “True koi ponds provide the best possible environment for the fish.” Ben notes. “They have vertical walls, they’re deeper than regular ponds, and they have much more advanced filtration systems. Many people don’t realize how complicated these ponds can be. They are actually more elaborate than a lot of swimming pools.

“Every pond is different. I design each one with the client’s wishes in mind, while factoring in the budget and the topography of the land. I consider the style of their home, and ask to see pictures of things that they like so that I can tailor the overall look to their preferences. Some people prefer ponds that look natural, with boulders, natural water edge treatments and irises that migrate down into the water. Others want a contemporary pond with clean lines and a more sculpted, deliberate look.”

Building the perfect pond can also come with some significant logistical challenges. “You never really know what you are going to find on the site until you start digging,” Ben says. “Sometimes we’re confronted with rocks, poor soil, or seeping groundwater, and we’re forced to change the design a bit. Access can be an issue — sometimes the site is in a far back corner of a yard, and we’re coming in with heavy equipment and literally dropping off 20 tons of rocks. That kind of disturbance creates repair work.”

In a warm summer climate like North Carolina’s, conserving water is certainly a priority. However, Ben affirms that homeowners needn’t worry much when it comes to their koi ponds. “Ponds really don’t require a lot of water,” he explains. “You are basically continuously recirculating the same water through the system. Unless you have a leak or a problem with splashout, there is very little water waste.”

Ben’s passion for landscaping and water gardens comes from a lifelong love of the outdoors. “I grew up on a farm, and in some ways landscape design and landscape horticulture allow me to stay in close connection with the land,” he notes. “Also, I have a lot of fun designing and developing new projects. It’s very satisfying work, and I truly love it.”

CALL FOR ENTRIES – “Carolina’s Finest” Design Competition

June 30, 2014

The Carolina’s Society of the American Institute of Building Design is calling for entries from North and South Carolina Residential Designers, Architects, Builders, Remodelers, Landscape Designers and Interior Designers for their second Annual “Carolina’s Finest” Design Competition.

Image Courtesy of Pippin Home Designs ©

Last year’s competition presented some incredible homes – gracious “getaways” on the lake, the coast and the mountains – as well as beautiful “everyday” homes moments from downtown skylines. For landscapes, renovations and newly constructed homes built since January 2011, this is a competition not to be missed!

Image Courtesy of Jan Enright And Associates Creations ©

Image Courtesy of Mountainworks ©

The deadline for entry is August 1st. For more information on applications and entries, email aibdncs@live.com Shown: winners from 2013 competition.

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