I don't want a museum or regrets!

yhzinpdxApril 1, 2010


We would really appreciate your suggestions!

This house is new to us (so new I haven't seen it but have a few photos). We're planning an addition to scrap/add to the kitchen/master bathroom which were done in the seventies. The original woodwork in the living sections has been largely untouched but we'd like to refresh things. Sifting through other posts, we've decided for our own personal safety not to paint it all white;) But we don't like the oranginess of much of the wood and feel the abundance darkens the house significantly. We bought an old marble mantle/fireplace (pictured below) from a friend to switch with the tall wood one, which while beautiful was felt to be too imposing/dark for the dining room. (but we may use it elsewhere/hang onto it). It seems likely that the wood has been shellacked (house about 100y old) and the GC has said something about tamarack but I'm not sure what he was referring to.

We're planning on refinishing the floors, tearing up carpet, tearing out recent built ins and repainting what's painted. We'll remove the existing wallpaper and may wallpaper the fireplace room with a white-on-white paper. The stained glass window in the stairwell should probably be replaced and to be honest we're not huge fans of it's current pattern...We also were considering removing the wood strip that runs part way up the wall along the stairs.

I assume if we want to reshellac the wood a darker or lighter color, we'll follow recent advice posted here, but we're really tempted to paint at least some of it white (on the staircase).

Any suggestions, ideas or thoughts would be greatly appreciated! We move in this summer:)

Thank you!


(this is the replacement fireplace)

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Geez, I am trying to say only nice things, but I just don't understand why people buy old houses with beautiful original details and then plan on eliminating them. I hope that you will spend some time researching your house,and getting to know it, before you make irreversible changes that may destroy the integrity of the house. If you really take things out, like the stained glass window, please save it so that future owners of the house can put it back.

    Bookmark   April 1, 2010 at 12:43PM
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Congratulations on your new home, Alex! It is lovely, and you are so fortunate that the woodwork is original. Glad you intend to keep it unpainted, for the most part.

My first bit of advice would be to live with your house for a while and let the atmosphere sink in. Get used to it and over time the house will give you clues as to what to do. People get in a hurry to improve things right away. Sometimes that's when we make unfortunate mistakes.

Personally, I would not to paint any of the woodwork - I'd wait and live with it for a year first. See if it doesn't grow on you. I realize it is "orangey", which seems to be rather out of fashion right now, but orange in and of itself is not a bad color! Poor, much maligned orange! :-P

But seriously, your woodwork is more orange than mine (a 1913 bungalow), however, wall paint/wall paper colors and furnishings can make a huge difference in the overall look of the room. (And can be easily changed.) Take for instance the concept you mention of "darkness". I am a big fan of beautiful lamps. I love how they accent and add ambience. My woodwork is indeed dark and there is a lot of it. My DH insisted on white walls in the front part of the house and I grudgingly acquiesed (the back rooms do have colors...). I will admit that the white gives a clean, light, reflective look and has a bit of the "bombay" feel to it. The 9ft ceilings seem even higher and the rooms seem larger. I like the light walls with the dark woodwork. I see one room in an aqua colored wall in your photos and the blue complements, and tones down, your "orangey" woodwork. I would go get some BM paint samples and try out different colors that might work with the orangeness. I think the yellows and golds you have only play it up.

Visit the GW kitchen forum for advice on your kitchen. It certainly doesn't need to be a museum! What we tried to do was create a new kitchen with a respectful nod to the vintage of our home. Hardware and glass doors and light fixtures and finishes that fit the period. Woods that complemented others in the house (but more like the heart pine floors than the dark trims). A granite counter that was the kind of granite they might have quarried near our home (so, if they would have had granite countertops in 1913 that's the color they would have used). Kept the wood trim the same profiles and sizes. But... modern appliances, work flows, storage, etc. Your home might tell you a "white" kitchen is needed to lighten things up and still be "period". What an exciting project you'll have. Keep us posted. I love to read what people are doing!

    Bookmark   April 1, 2010 at 1:13PM
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Thanks powermuffin, I know how people on this forum tend to feel about changing preserved homes. Don't despair though, your sentiments and similar advice has already kept us from making more drastic changes. While it might make more sense to wait before changing things we have a a very young family and would like to have any and all renovations/additions done before moving in. The stained glass window is not insulated and due to the northern location needs to be updated but could be replaced afterwards or have a nicer one made. We did purchase the house for many of its period features but if we're going to live in it for 30+ years we want it to be the way we'd like even if that means making some changes.

    Bookmark   April 1, 2010 at 2:06PM
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Thanks kimkitchy,
I like the idea of working with the wall colors to make the wood seem less orange and the DW is a big fan of white too. I think if we use a lot of white we may not have to paint any of the wood. I think if the trim/doors has been treated with just shellac, we may look into reshellacking it a darker less orangey color, to contrast with lighter walls. The lighting advice is also appreciated. I wondered if we should rewire the ceiling to put in chandeliers or if table/floor lighting would be better.
I think our kitchen should be failry true to the period with herringbone h/w floors, white cabinets and carrera marble.
Perhaps we're being too hasty but we really want to minimize the work that we do with toddlers in the house.

    Bookmark   April 1, 2010 at 4:16PM
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When we bought our house, I had all kinds of plans. I hated the enclosed porch, and the stained woodwork in the family room, and the funky kitchen cabinets that wouldn't close. Now that I see how we live in it, how unique it is, and feel a responsibility toward it, I have totally changed my mind. I have stripped the paint off the woodwork and restained it to match the family room, fixed the cabinets, and my favorite place to read or veg out is that enclosed porch.

The absolute best advice that any one of us can give you is to WAIT. I am so glad that I listen to others about this. And yes, it was a mess trying to live in it while we worked on it, but in the end, it was the best plan.

BTW, still save the window. All it needs is a storm to make more energy efficient than a new one. Future owners will thank you.

I hope it all works out for you and for the house.

    Bookmark   April 1, 2010 at 4:37PM
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Alex, your plans for the kitchen sound great! As for light fixtures, we did rewire and I'm so glad. Check out Rejuvenation for period fixtures (chandeliers, sconces, pendants, and more). I love that company and can vouch that they have awesome customer service - even though they are pricey. Cheers. Kim

    Bookmark   April 1, 2010 at 6:50PM
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Put a storm window on the outside of the stained glass window and live with it for a while. The historic commission in my area approves of storm windows to protect the original even more than new recreations.

I think it is the paint colors that are doing the woodwork a disservice. some of those yellows, anyway.

I am not a huge chair rail person, but there is a good reason they were placed in stairwells: papering or painting a specific area that gets marked up is easier than repainting the whole thing.

I understand not wanting a museum, but particularly if this is something a lot different than what you've lived in before, I would get used to it before doing too much.

    Bookmark   April 1, 2010 at 7:15PM
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Thanks powermuffin, I'm glad you've not regretted leaving things alone. I guess our greatest fear with waiting is that we'll get too busy with other things and look back wishing we'd renovated when we'd had the chance...The storm window is a good idea, I'm not sure how it will compare with the argon windows. Rest assured if we do remove any of the original features we will keep them intact in the dry basement.

Kimkitchy we discovered Rejuventation Hardware by chance at our current locale and were in love. We missed out on their lighting sale last week but will definitely make use of them in the coming year:) I was a little disappointed that they're outsourcing to China more than in the past but that's hard to avoid these days...


    Bookmark   April 1, 2010 at 8:02PM
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Thanks palimpsest, I didn't realize they were called chair rails or that that's what they were for! It's hard to imagine a wall treatment incorporating the rail that doesn't seem dated, if you've found any, please let me know. With two votes for the storm window, we'll definitely have to explore that option. The color advice seems wise as well.

    Bookmark   April 1, 2010 at 10:15PM
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Ever heard the saying, "A new broom sweeps clean, but an old broom knows the corners?" Well, some folks who've responded to your questions have learned the corners.

My thought is about your fireplace mantle. The existing mantle is a work of art which is light and airy like I am sure the room is. It sits in a place where it seems traffic will pass in front of it, judging from the door beyond it.

And I like its replacement waiting in the wings. A really fine mantle, BUT......

It is as different as a borzoi and a bulldog. One is light and the other is heavy. Can you perhaps hang on to the white stone looking fireplace? You might find a really fine place in your kitchen or a sun porch for this style, which looks super durable and able to withstand weather. I'm of the opinion it will stick out like a sore thumb, and sit in a sullen heap weighting down the slim corner now occupied by this trim svelte dancing creature of slim columns and wood which matches the rest of the house.

Like the others on this question, I beseech you to restrain yourself for about a year. Sit in every room, use every feature, and see how the house grows on you. I think your house is a belle of the ball, and extraordinarily beautiful.

    Bookmark   April 1, 2010 at 10:35PM
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Moccasinlanding, that was a wonderful paragraph to read! Your expressions and comparisons were greatly appreciated! Thank you for the complements concerning the current mantle and the house:) It's hard for me to be certain of anything having only seen these pictures. Part of posting in such a conservation oriented forum was to be dissuaded from making radical changes that we think might look better now but regret in the long run. At the same time the house does look a little dreary in the pictures and we have to do something to lighten it up/make it less orangey:)

Funnily, our impressions concerning the two fireplaces were quite dissimilar from your own. The current one seemed so tall, dark and imposing that we felt it really dominated the small space. We're still not sure a switch will be possible (dimension-wise) or practical and we may have to use the replacement elsewhere in the house, perhaps as you suggest in the kitchen addition.

Here are a couple more pics of the inside, the front living room and a bedroom fireplace, that I'd meant to post as well. The kitchen, bathrooms and attic were redone in the seventies and do not fit with the original house at all.

    Bookmark   April 2, 2010 at 3:54AM
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Hey Alex,
The living room bay is beautiful! This truly seems like a great house!

By the way, I think you might be mixing up Restoration Hardware (which is a very nice store) with Rejuvenation (a lighting specialty restorer and retailer out of Portland). Rejuvenation, I think, still makes all of their fixtures in Portland. Here's a link - just for fun.

It is interesting that you've not actually been to the house yet. Has your wife? The neighboring houses I can see through the living room window look like you are buying in a wonderful old neighbohood...

Here is a link that might be useful: Rejuvenation

    Bookmark   April 2, 2010 at 9:22AM
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How on earth do you think you are going to plan major changes based on a few pictures? At least spend a bit of time in the place before you start taking original items out.

Really though, I think many of your impressions about the house are being clouded by the decor and wall colors. Lots of dark furniture + dingy yellow walls + dust collecting knicknacks are going to make the space seem dated and dark.

If you are used to living in newer houses with white trim and earth tone walls, you are going to have to adjust your color palate for this dark wood. Muted color + dark wood makes the woodwork seem heavy. You might think that putting white or really light colors in these rooms will brighten them up, but I don't think you will be happy with the results. On the flip side, vibrant and saturated colors on the walls will visually push the woodwork back into a supporting role. If you want a blue wall, pick a BLUE. If you want green, pick a GREEN. If the color doesn't hold its own against the wood trim, then the trim/fireplace/doors etc can dominate the room.

    Bookmark   April 2, 2010 at 9:38AM
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Regarding the marble fireplace mantle/surround, it's a thing of beauty but is totally incongruent with your house style; it belongs in a large 1850's Greek Revival or an early Italianate & will never look appropriate in a house like yours. Sorry to be blunt but if you're considering ripping out or painting original, intact, & beautifully kept woodwork, I'm too much of a preservationist to let it pass. It's a big part of the architectural style & the changing or removing of it would greatly decrease the value of your home - historical & resale.

I agree with everyone else that the paint colors needs to be changed, but with the amount of wood trim & floors, I think your heavy, dark furniture is another factor that's making the rooms appear dark. Also, your rugs & accent pieces are mostly red - a color that's working against the orange in the woodwork (including the floors); blues/greens would be much more soothing & lighter colors would probably help, too.

The woodwork in your house is extraordinary - & I'm not a big fan of oak! - & I hope you give careful consideration to any changes you decide upon. Painting wood is easy - removing it is a b*tch & it will never be quite the same as the original, regardless of who restores it in the future.

    Bookmark   April 2, 2010 at 11:41AM
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In the days this house was built, folks were exploring new parts of the world, living with exotic plants and rich rich rich detail. It was not as uptight as you might think.
The bay windows in your house are lovely, but they sure do need a good cleaning. I'm also thinking that there was a lot of nicotine smoking up the walls. Stripping off that old wall paper might get rid of a lot of it, but it may be contributing to the orange-ness of the woodwork too. However, shellac gets oranger over time. I'm also thinking that in the old days when this house was young, they used heavy drapes to keep out the sunlight, to avoid fading out the rich colors of the upholstered furniture and the carpets. In keeping out the light, they also kept the woodwork from drying out. You'd be surprised how much damage unrestrained light can do to wood.

In another thread, someone in Hawaii working on the McCormick Onion House was asking how to keep wood exposed to ultraviolet light from fading and drying out. They were using the Sikkens products usually thought of as a marine grade finish, to protect the wood. Spar varnish, another marine product, will really turn it dark and orange, and that is the look that I'm seeing with your wood.

Perhaps when you first have a chance, you can find a piece of the woodwork to take for experimental purposes, and strip it, and then apply the finish you are wanting to use.
Since there is SO MUCH WOODWORK, I'm of the opinion you could hire a professional to methodically redo all the woodwork for you, and you could listen to his/her recommendations and professional experience. Before turning ANYONE loose on your house, I'd check them out with the historical society for reputation, and the BBB as well.

Oh yes, another little thing to do: Watch the movie
THE MONEY PIT, with Tom Hanks and Shelley Long.

You had the good fortune to find and recognize a jewel. It is an adventure marking a turning point in your life, whether you recognize it as such or not. Enjoy it.

    Bookmark   April 2, 2010 at 12:46PM
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@Kimkitchey, it was actually rejuvenation, it's not far from us in pdx but I thought I'd read recently on another site that their manufacturaing had changed locations, I may have been mistaken:) The DW saw the house but it's on the wrong coast for me to get a look. It is a nice neighborhood, and walkable to work/schools:)

@bill, Thank you for the color advice. We take possession this June but don't move in until October so will have a few months to think things through with the house empty and cleaned -hopefully that will help. We've rented in flats/apartments from similar periods but this is our first home. The reason we are rushing is that with an infant and a toddler, we'd like any and all work done during the 3 months while we're renting nearby, afterwards getting major work done will be difficult.

@antiquesilver, I'm glad you like the wood and the current mantle. Hopefully the color/cleaning/furniture suggestions here will be sufficient to beautify the house to our liking.
I appreciate that the replacement mantle may not appear to go with the current styling. The marble mantle actually comes from a Victorian house of a similar era from just down the road but I admit it doesn't blend as well with the current abundance of wood (our original intent having been to paint more of it white). I guess we'll have a couple of months onsite to play with colours/shellac/stain ideas and determine the mantles fates before committing.

Thank you all again for your opinions/advice:)

    Bookmark   April 2, 2010 at 6:34PM
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@mocassinlanding; Thank you for the historical background and the explanation as to why our shellac may be particularly orange. I'd hoped to do as you suggest and procure a test piece of wood to try finishes prior to decision-making. There should be some professionals in the area with adequate experience and I will make inquiries through our GC:)

The Onion house looks beautiful! Thanks for sharing that interesting locale. I have seen the money pit- but it's been a while. I really hope we don't find ourselves in that situation, the inspection/GC didn't turn up anything that should have my feet dangling through the ceiling...

I am including some pics of houses with somewhat similar features to our own currently or recently for sale in the same region, some within blocks. If anyone has specific preferences from these photos and how they could be adapted to our house, I'd love to hear about it. Many have had the wood painted white but not all. 17-19 looks quite lovely but I'm not sure if we could get our house to look like that...






















    Bookmark   April 3, 2010 at 1:45AM
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Other posters have suggested storms for your stained glass. Since the muntins are wood that is OK. But for posterity I want to mention that for stained glass windows with lead caming, storms can cause the temperature of the air pocket between the storms and the window to get too high on a sunny day, and soften the lead caming, causing the window to buckle.

So, storms for windows with wood muntins and standard glazing=ok. Storms for windows with leading caming must have proper vent holes. Which partly defeats the purpose of the storms.

as for the rest, based on your stated likes/dislikes and the pics you posted, you seem to have very good taste. the house will look very different with your furniture and window treatments in it, your paint colors on the walls. The elements you are concerned about now (woodwork, mantel, window) may take on a whole new character when surrounded by your things. I am glad I did not paint all the woodwork in my house, even though I wanted to at first. If you can afford to have the woodwork redone, great. I wish I'd found out about waterlox sooner; some of my woodwork has polyurethane on it now. Satin waterlox would have been so much better, and it's what I'm using going forward.

    Bookmark   April 3, 2010 at 7:48AM
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Living with it first is very good advice! My mom's friend moved into an old house and didn't like the french doors between the living room and dining room, so she took them out. They took up too much space to store, so she sold them to a friend for a ridiculous amount...I think $50. After living in the house about six months, she told my mom that she really needed something between the living room and dining room, as it was too open and didn't have the character of the rest of the house. She tried a few things, but nothing worked, so she decided to try to find french doors. Then she found out how much they cost...even more for the period type. She was shocked and so disappointed that she had sold hers. Being in such a hurry to remodel turned out to be a big mistake.

As for your house, it's beautiful! Live with it for a while and decide what you enjoy and don't enjoy about the house. Give it at least six months, but hopefully a year. If you must do some remodeling, stick with the kitchen or baths, but don't paint or change wood work, stained glass or anything else. If you still want to paint after that...I say go for it. (I know, I'll never be allowed back here, LOL) I prefer light and airy homes and I would never be able to live with all that dark wood. Creamy white paint on the windows and doors would make a huge difference, as shown in the pictures of other houses you posted.

That being said, you did buy an old house with a lot of history, so be sure of what you want before you change anything! :)

    Bookmark   April 3, 2010 at 11:25AM
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Congratulations on your beautiful house. These old Portland homes can be stunning. I bought mine with unpainted wood, 6 layers of wallpaper and a nasty smell and have been rehabbing it for the past 5 years (Laurelhurst). I agree with everyone. Sit and wait. Let the house speak to you. Mine certainly has changed my mind about a few things.

But for now, strip the wallpaper, paint the walls something light and bright. Please don't remove the fireplace as that one is amazing and you certainly could change one in the upstairs with your newer white mantel. I think paint colors and your own furnishings will certainly make things different. So, head down to Miller and pick up some wonderful Divine paint- it spreads so incredibly well on those old plaster walls- and change the color of the walls- It's also a much cheaper fix than tearing out the chair rail or mouldings and finding divits under them on the plaster wall (like I did). Had to find new mouldings to replace all the old that someone else tore out, or else live with permanent divits in the wall! Don't paint the woodwork in the downstairs. If you must paint the upstairs to lighten it up, then do so after having lived in it for a time.

As for that stained glass window, talk with some of the many wonderful glass artists we have locally before removing it. This one that I've left a link for, may be able to take out a few of the pieces to make it more of something you would like without completely removing the integrity of the piece. He did that for the stained glass in my house and I love the window now.

We are very fortunate here in Portland to have lots of artisans and crafts people who know and love these old homes and can give lots of great advice on restoration.

I hope you enjoy your home as much as I have mine! Good Luck!

Here is a link that might be useful: Schlicker glass studio

    Bookmark   April 3, 2010 at 11:46AM
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yhzinpdx, I didn't realize you hadn't moved in & the furnishings aren't yours. I think you'll be pleasantly surprised at how differently the interior looks if your tastes are similar to those in the neighborhood photos. And what a beautiful neighborhood it must be!

I'd venture a guess that the reason many of the neighborhood houses have white woodwork is because they had umpteen layers of paint that no one wanted to strip (too labor intensive & cost prohibitive). You may be surprised at how many neighbors will envy the untouched condition of your home.

    Bookmark   April 3, 2010 at 4:10PM
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You have details in original condition that many of us have striven for years to reclaim from under many layers of (usually white) paint.
I think that the house at the very least deserves to be given a chance to speak to you in person; having bought it sight-unseen you really are yet to permit that.
Live with it through a few seasons, see how the light-play really works, and make a determination what is still wanting.
That said, IMO that chair rail molding can safely be done away with and the spaces will not suffer. Check, though, to see if the wallpaper isn't hiding a wooden tongue & groove wainscotting of which that chair rail is the cap. There may be more dark woodwork lurking there!
It was good of you to ask advice; it shows you have some concern for the architecture, and I appreciate that. I am an old-house advocate; they don't have a voice, so I am their "public defender".
p.s.: Please try to keep the colored glass window! They are usually the brightest element in the space, if they are cleaned and sun-lit.

    Bookmark   April 3, 2010 at 9:52PM
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Good gravy I was hoping this was an april fools joke :(

Ditto what casey said. Be kind to your home please....it's lovely and your plans are taking it in the wrong direction.

By the way, I live in a home with a toddler and babies on the way. You have no need to do anything to the wood except maybe do some floors...so do that now, but sheesh don't strip the stuff and ruin the house just so you can do it while the kids aren't there....if you have to leave and do it later after serious thought, that's better than just ripping it apart now before you understand the history and glory of your house as is!

    Bookmark   April 4, 2010 at 12:17AM
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This video/house is the inspiration for many of the changes we've considered and our kitchen plans. Interesting that they've mentioned the paint/white/wood dilemma in historical houses, but if we can get our wood to look more like theirs I think we'd be thrilled.


@slateberry51: Thanks for the advice concerning the stain glass/storm windows and the waterlox. We'll look into both.

@lavender_lass: I appreciate the advice concerning waiting, maybe we will just paint/paper the walls and refinish the floors prior to moving in... Anything that we remove will be kept -promise:) Thanks for the dissenting voice supporting white. I've tried to be PC given where I've posted but I suppose this is akin to asking vintage car enthusiasts if I should put in a new Honda motor...;)

@oldhousegal: I'm glad you're enjoying Laurelhurst, good to know about Miller's Divine paint and the chair rail issues. The Schlicker glass looks beautiful, sadly the house is on the other coast, but maybe there will be similar talent:)

@antiquesilver: It may be that that's why they've painted so much white. I still feel that it looks better than the alternatives in many of the photos but I suppose everyone has their preferences.

@sombreuil_mongrel: Thank you for the advice concerning the chair rail and potential wainscotting, we'll investigate that possibility. Perhaps we will hold off on the fireplace and stained glass window as well as refinishing some of the woodwork. The colored glass window is facing an adjacent house three feet away so I'm not sure if it's placed there for light so much as to block the view of the house next door.

@igloochick: No joke, but as the subject states we did not purchase this house to set it up as a monument to it's original appearance/style. If it burns down with us in it 30 years from now, we want to have enjoyed it, not suffered orange wood overload and dark rooms for historical accuracy. Hopefully the lighting/paint/cleaning/chair-rail/storm window suggestions here will take us in the right direction.

We were also concerned about the dangers of construction materials/dust/off-gasing etc. with kids as well as the complacency to not make additional changes that a busy/established family/work life is certain to engender.

    Bookmark   April 4, 2010 at 3:47AM
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I'm just curious than...why did you buy an old home if you really wanted a brand new home made of safe stuff like drywall, cheap wood and polymolded crown molding??? I'm asking, really, because i just don't get this. See I care if my house burns down in 30 years....Not because it's a museaum, but because it's stood for 120 years without burning and I don't want to be the idiot who burns it while disrespecting the wonderful treasures inside.

You'd have to know me :) But our home is not a shrine or museaum. We have a VERY active 4 year old and are planning the nursery for hopefully twins as we speak. We live a real life, entertain often and largely, and our home is still a home, but also a tribute to it's builder and it's history. Thank god no one ever thought to paint the woodwork white!!! And we do this all with a busy/established family/work life and all of the complexities that this involves. and a great fear of being haunted :oP

    Bookmark   April 5, 2010 at 1:06AM
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Why did we purchase our house?:

1.2.&3. Location 4. Size 5. Availability 6. Price 7. High ceilings 8. Hardwood floors 9. Not paying for someone else's recent renovations. (ie seventies kitchen/baths to redo for ourselves) 10. Expandability

We did not purchase our house for specific preserved details, -that would have been foolish/near impossible- and if we had it obviously wouldn't have had so much orange wood and a great big dark oak mantle on a fireplace that we can never use:) White paint and an actually older mantle from down the road does not mean that we want a new house, nor is it exceptional to prefer white over wood.

I'm curious as to what major renovations/additions/restorations you have been doing and if you'd feel comfortable/safe doing them with a four year old and twin babies around while maintaining your active social calender?

I'm also really glad you enjoy keeping your house as a tribute to it's builder and history while enjoying it for yourselves. I do not want my house to burn down either but the allegory was meant to highlight that nothing lasts forever (especially wood houses) and so you should enjoy what you have -as you seem to be doing. In our case, we probably will not enjoy that much orange/dark wood. For us the wonderful treasures of this house will be what we add to it/experience in it, not the woodwork.

Maybe someday people will be having these same arguments about brown tile, shag carpet and wood paneling in seventies bungalows...or maybe not :P

Good luck with the twins!

    Bookmark   April 5, 2010 at 4:11AM
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Your new home is amazing! I'm sure your family will be happy there.

I have small children, so I do understand the push feeling of wanting everything done. It seems impossible and dangerous to do work while having kids in the house. I wanted quite a bit of work done before we moved in. Things didn't go as planned and it didn't happen. I am so lucky it didn't. There were things I would have done not having lived in my home that would make me cringe now, only a year and a half later. So, my voice would echo the others in saying wait. I know you don't want to deal with work on a home while you are living there, so for the decorative things, don't. Remember you have little ones and they are terrible on everything. How refreshing to have woodwork that you don't love so you aren't cringing that their toy cars are driving on the molding or mantle. How nice to shrug when they learn to throw properly at the top of the stairs toward your stained glass and you think, well, it was drafty anyway. Plus, how nice to have a project that can occupy you when they start to get older and prefer the company of their friends to you.

On my own preferences with your house, my home has turned me into a preservationist, so I agree with lots of what other people said. Your mantle makes me drool and I love your woodwork, to me, natural woodwork is majestic and so forgiving. White woodwork doesn't have the same beauty, plus, with kids, it always looks dirty. I re-painted the risers of our stairs white (they were a chipped cream color). They looked beautiful... for two weeks. Now they are disgusting, because I have small children. I try to regularly clean them, but I have enough on my plate without having to scrub stair risers.

A quick note, although the people in this forum are for the most part ardently preservationist, there is much experience and good advice in many people's words. I think most of us would rather see woodwork painted than either neglected or ripped out, but it is hard to see so many beautiful things modernized that will never get back to their original beauty. This is not to say that this is what you will be doing, but I just wanted to give a little background on why some posters feel as they do.

I hope you enjoy your new home!

    Bookmark   April 5, 2010 at 11:30AM
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Thank you for your very diplomatic reply autumngal. I hadn't thought about looking at it from the perspective of the dammage that children are likely inflict upon anything we add/change in the imminent future:) That they may as well rough up the stuff we like less! Perhaps you'll make a preservationist out of me yet! Good to know about the stair risers as that and the rails seem to be common parts to paint white. I imagine a runner would do little to prevent that?..

My views will certainly be modified by actually seeing the house and I greatly appreciate the suggestions that yourself and others have provided as to how to improve the rooms delicately/discretely. If I was determined to gut the house I would not have posted here and our decisions will undoubtedly be influenced by the preceding recommendations.

I'm glad the current mantle has received such favorable replies. I'm becoming very anxious to see both the house and the mantle!

    Bookmark   April 5, 2010 at 1:58PM
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We are only stewards of the houses we buy. They will eventually be owned by others after we move on or are gone. I just purchased a beautiful home built in 1780. There are things I love about it (the 2 feet plus wide floor boards and walls in the den) and things I don't (old plumbing and old electrical) and I've never had a fire breathing dragon in the basement before! But I want to be careful of any changes of "improvements" I make as I am only a temporary presence while the house will be here long after me.

    Bookmark   April 5, 2010 at 5:13PM
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Oh gosh.......I've just been checking in occasionally to see how this one is playing out. I've lived in many Victorian (and older) houses. One of them my mother rented when my father was away until we could finish out our last year of school. It had belonged to a physician, was filled with leaded glass windows, heavy ornate mantles, Natural woodwork throughout, tall ceilings, build in window seats, beautiful wainscoting, butler's pantry and serving door, pocket doors, marble slabs on the radiators. The whole nine yards. We moved out of state, and when my father was ready to retire, found out this house was on the market. They drove back here with the intention of purchasing the house.

The ceilings had been lowered, the natural woodwork painted, and the leaded glass windows removed. The new owners were so proud of their work. My parents walked away from the sale in disbelief. It was one of the most intact, and beautiful old homes I'd ever seen and by the improvements, it lost its resale potential. It had become just another old house. It's been bought and resold several times, and now sits empty. People who specifically look for character homes to buy usually will up their offers the LESS is done to it to change an old home's original character. If you're not an old home buff (yet, but you will be if you live in one) it's hard to imagine depreciating a house by improving it, but you essentially turn away a market segment when you do it and don't keep it in character.

I owned an 1890s home much like that one for awhile. It had even more wood interest, including most of the walls in the entry hall. Like others have said.........when we got the walls repainted, and I got the wood cleaned, and furnished it to our liking, the wood not only didn't bother me.......it was like a frame on a beautiful picture. It was not overpowering at all. I will say the kitchen wood had been painted with white enamel. As were the old original kitchen cabinets. I see that in many, many old homes and somehow, it was in character for kitchens and sometimes baths. Seen as utilitarian and sanitary.

Yes.........there have been little ones through all our moves and renovations. I never gave that a thought. We managed. LOL.

My only advise is to change the walls out, check to see if it's just shellac ( it looks suspiciously not to me, looks like a modern covering, argh), and see what it looks like with the right paints and furnishings. I think you'd be surprised.

    Bookmark   April 5, 2010 at 8:14PM
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I note that most of the floors seem to be dark, or at the very least in these photos they don't seem to be light. There seem to be dark rugs exacerbating the problem.

Floors are underrated as a decor issue when we look at spaces, and dark floors are currently fashionable - but especially in modern open-plan houses where no one ever dares to use a wall colour that isn't the first chip on the paint card. There, they can be tolerated, might even look good.

This being a house with discrete rooms, I suspect that light floors would do wonders to open this place up. Ours are fir, yours perhaps more likely oak. Ours, once sanded, were simply clear coated, and have a light honey colour; they pick up any light that gets into a room and reflect it around. Oak isn't really any darker when clear coated, in fact I wonder if it is really even all that dark under all those rugs.

If I look at your photos, my fingers itch to remove the window treatments and all the dark furniture, to pick better paint and wallpaper colours, and above all... to wash the woodwork.

Like someone mentioned above, I bet this place has been smoked in a lot. It wouldn't surprise me if the woodwork colour as well as the wall colour wasn't overlaid with that yellow nicotiney coating. I would be all over it with well-wrung damp cloths, which won't hurt it a bit, before making any decisions about it. And then I would paint and do the floors before deciding whether to paint the woodwork or not. The website I've linked to below is the blog of a colour consultant who has some good entries on paint colour selection for dark spaces (and she apparently does consultations by email :-))

Let me say this: if you do paint it, please paint it well! No paint drips. Once they get painted over 10 times, trust me, they look really awful. If you plan to paint that stair railing, first read the concurrent thread from people trying to strip paint from one.

Oh, and if you take out that mantle, you can send it to me - and I don't even have a fireplace! Other than that :-) store anything you remove - it'll add to your resale value. Including the staircase chair rail. Leave the next owner pictures of how it was all installed to start with.

I do respect your desire to make it a house you like to live in. I think you can do that without compromising the desire of future owners to have heritage. And that is not the nicest stained glass window I've ever seen, and I might take it out too.


Here is a link that might be useful: Color me Happy blog

    Bookmark   April 6, 2010 at 12:42PM
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I do understand your mindset, I just hate it :) Really...I do cuz I'm an old house snob..I wouldn't necessarily chose the things I have here in a new home, but because they're part of the fabric of the history of this home, I do love and respect them and will learn to work with them to make them a feature in the home (not a museaum) we live in.

I chose my house for all of the reasons you did in pretty much the same order except that 1, 2 or 3 would be "not destroyed by the previous owner). Fortunately no one thought to paint out our fabulous (and yes somewhat orange) wood. It was a feature that added significantly to the value of the home. Our home is actually known for it's woods and I'd not be able to sleep at night if I removed it or replaced a fireplace because it wasn't the right wood color personally.

What am I attempting....well first, I'm on scaffolding daily doing the first phase of the dining room (remove paper, scrape, prime to seal in any possible lead issues, clean up wood where necessary with natural oil based products, fill plaster cracks, etc and paint the ceiling (oh and remove carpet and paint floor). I am using all chemicals and products safe for a home with small children and pets. I love them and wouldn't hurt them. I shut the door of the dining room when not working on it and wear a mask when I am. It's fine :)

In the next couple of years we will make a kitchen (the current kitchen is just a 25x20 room with cooking impliments on the porch). I'll relocate a few walls back to original locations, completely renovate (back to period appropriate) 12 bathrooms, turn two rooms in to laundry rooms, remove carpet from all rooms (our wood floors are special as well). Refinish the wood that needs it (and leae town when we do so). The better question is what won't we be doing :) But each project will be done with the family comfort and safety in mind with drop cloths to prevent dust from spreading hung on doors (those zipper cloths). Plugged vent systems during construction etc.

You can work with small kids, just shut the doors and finish the room one at a time. Especially when it's easy stuff like painting. If there is a spot that's harmful (ie floors) than leave while it's being done and plan around it. We've done that before (gut remodel of the last house...1983 condo). But if you do what you're thinking....well you'll learn in the end because it will cost you.

I did set out to find a historic home that could be made special. We found a home that has orange wood :) We don't cringe when DS runs his cars over them because he's not the first! Beyond all else our home is a home....while it will hopefully one day be as beautiful as a museaum, it's still going to be a home. We gave the tour today and I ahd to appologize because the easter grass was ALL OVER the public rooms :) The house is no longer a stuffy victorian, and yet it's still a wonderful victorian and we feel it's important to keep it that way.

doing some of the things you want to isn't going to kill the value (but will hurt) but removing that fireplace..it will cost you a great deal. At least paint can be removed :(

We are giving our home a year to tell us what it needs, how it should flow. Already we can see things we thought we'd do are not what it needs after living in it. Try that first???? You will not regret that at all...and hopefully a future purchaser won't either.

    Bookmark   April 7, 2010 at 2:39AM
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I have what seems to be a different opinion than most here. I am a lover of all things old and with a history/past, including homes. Having said that, THIS IS YOUR HOUSE NOW! I get the strong sense from the photos of other houses that you have posted that you are drawn to the painted moldings and overall brighter feeling of the mostly painted woodwork look. So do that. You don't owe the house or those with strong preservationist opinions anything. I truly don't mean to cause offense to those here who are horrified at the thought of painting wood, but I feel that a person's home environment is intensely personal and has great impact on emotions, moods and general outlook on life. I live in Seattle, and like Portland, they grey days certainly outweigh the sunny. A dark and heavy interior does not do much to help the mood. Go with what feels right for you and your family, as you did say that you do not want a museum :) Also, in my opinion, a properly and professionally-sprayed paint job with appropriate alkyd or impervo paints and subtle wall colors can enhance millwork and it's lines and make it the star of the room.

    Bookmark   April 7, 2010 at 11:55AM
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Igloochic- You have a beautiful old house and I think it's wonderful that you want to preserve it for future generations. I admire anyone who wants to take care of old homes, usually because they love the history and would never want to change it. I used to work in one of the most beautiful homes in Spokane, Washington called Patsy Clark's Mansion. It is a Kirtland Cutter home and it is magnificent. It has so many different kinds of woodwork, opalescent lamps on the staircase, in fact George Bush Sr. came to eat there in the China Room. It's a beautiful mansion, that was a restaurant, but now I think it's closed again. It would make a wonderful B & B, but no one seems to be making a go of it. I hope no one ever changes the details, because they're irreplacable.

That being said, many houses don't fall into that category. My old house has 1950's trim that replaced much of the 1920's trim, which I prefer. It's got a gorgeous rose brick fireplace in the living room, but otherwise nothing special...except Bing Crosby was supposed to have eaten dinner there once (distant relative of my husband's family) LOL.

Since Alex hasn't seen the house yet, I think it makes sense to wait on any major remodeling, at least until seeing it in person :)

Finally, a house is for living in. If this were a one of a kind mansion, I would hope someone who bought it would want to preserve it. There are many, many old homes in nearby Spokane and many have trim that's been painted white/cream and many have remained wood. Both look good, depending on the colors and finishes used throughout the rooms. What colors do you like? If you like pastels, white/cream is going to look better. If you like Arts/Crafts colors, wood is going to look better. I like the white/cream trim with floral and small patterned wallpaper (more like Alex's picture #13) but everyone has different tastes. Think about it a while, look at other period homes if you can, and then do what YOU love for you and your family :)

    Bookmark   April 7, 2010 at 3:40PM
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You might find some useful information in the concurrent thread linked below about simply removing the shellac, if that's what the orange is, from your moldings.


Here is a link that might be useful: About removing shellac

    Bookmark   April 8, 2010 at 8:41PM
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Lav, some peopel think that because we live in a "special" home that those are all that need to be saved and that's where my mind set it. I actually want to save your house too...and the 1920's modest bungalow down the street, and every folk victorian on the face of the earth (or at least in america) and the old farm homes, and the simple cottages...in all of their simple glory because if we don't respect them, we don't honor their history. We just become ugly american's who mow it all down with white paint and cheap trim.....which is sad, for the 100 sq ft home and the 10,000 sq ft home :o(

It's easier when there are many homes like it, but it still pains me. Sorry :( I just love houses and the history behind them, orange woodwork and all.

    Bookmark   April 9, 2010 at 2:09AM
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I just want to add a small note about dark and light.
First of all you can not tell how dark a house is just from pictures. Some houses have such lighting and contrast that they do not photograph right with the "average" type of camera. You have to be there to experience it during the different hours of day.
Second some houses are dark because they are positioned wrong in the land or because the builder only cared for space and functionality not for light. Or because a new house was built later in an adjacent plot and is now blocking the light. HOWEVER(emphasized) some house are purposely built by architects to convey a certain atmosphere. For example a hall way might be dark in order to emphasize the light coming from the rooms surrounding it. If you brighten that hall way then the light coming out of the living room is less "inviting". Also some stair cases are purposely dark in order to emphasize the light that is filtered through the painted window. If you brighten the stair case too much then you loose this effect.
I do not know if I make sense but not all house are dark because of a mistake.

    Bookmark   April 9, 2010 at 9:42AM
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Good point Alexia. Makes a lot of sense.- I was going to suggest to the OP it might be worth hiring a professional designer (old house specialist), someone who has the esthetic sense + the ability to translate that into solid advice about paint colors, etc. I certainly cannot do that I know what I like, but have to experiment w/ trial and error to get there. And to give advice from a photograph  impossible!
Re: old house preservation, I like to use the vintage car analogy  the one with the most value has original features intact and in pristine condition. Sure, you could modernize it and put in a sun roof and air conditioning and modern computerized engine parts and such  but why would you? Better just to get a car that suites your needs.

Its not "living in a museum," itÂs understanding that the original design made, and still makes, sense and not trying to impose some modernistic mindset on it for no reason other than to make it more "modern".

As others have said - its the dingy paint colors and décor that is all wrong in the photos  not the wood! Greens work well w/ orangey or red-brown wood but on the other hand if you really donÂt like orangey wood, you donÂt have to go that route at all!

There are clear shellacs, and (Im not a total purist here) some acrylics that are clear and donÂt yellow and take on that sickly heavy dark dingy yellow tinge that polyurethane gets as it ages (actually, I wonder if thatÂs what might be on that wood & not shellac  it kinda has that look.) A clear finish over oak would read as a much more neutral shade of brown (and browns of course are quite hip these days). Or do a slightly grayed out stain. For something like oak an oil finish might be a good choice as the grain and texture of the wood.

Definitely live in the house before doing anything irreversible like removing fireplaces, windows, or any other feature, or painting over anything. Especially if your coming with a more modern esthetic/mindset  that may very well change. You may find like I did that you actually PREFER a small kitchen dedicated completing to cooking. And the more closed off rooms for dedicated purposes VS. the big cavernous noisy hard to decorate spaces.

Renovators oath: first do no harm! Alternatively  there are SOOO many houses that have already been remuddled, why not get one of those and have at it?

Sure weÂre an opinionated bunch, and of course itÂs your house  all IÂm saying really is know and understand all the ramifications before proceding.

IÂve been on various old house forums for 10+ years and every now and then encounter someone whoÂs absolutely heartsick as it begins to dawn on them that they really didnÂt have to (for instance) spend $15,000+ to replace all their original windows or that theyÂve spent mucho money on a kitchen gut & remodel which in the end really wasnÂt what they wanted afterall.

    Bookmark   April 9, 2010 at 12:36PM
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I also want to say "congratulations" to the original poster. Even if you do not do any renovations you still own a beautiful house. From the pictures it looks like the house is very well taken care of.
Maybe one day my "after" pictures will look like your "before" pictures... sigh...

    Bookmark   April 9, 2010 at 1:09PM
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I want very badly to jump on the band wagon with many other posters. But....I sense that you purchased the home because you liked what you saw in the pictures. I also think you posted here for input as to what could/should be done?

I will say that I think you should at least see the home, as well as hopefully spend some time in it before making major changes.

If you plan to rent prior to moving in so that changes or remodeling can be done, why not consider just cleaning, changing wall colors, etc. Then live there a year. Then if you after that time you still feel the need to "remodel", then rent for 3-4 months while it is being remodeled. This would give you the time to let the house speak to you before irrevocable changes are made. You would still only rent for about the same amount of time.

    Bookmark   April 13, 2010 at 11:52PM
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Your new home is beautiful - we've just moved into our 1913 Foursquare in Texas (only 3 prev owners) and while we think we'd like to add/extend a room on the house for a larger kitchen/great room we are also waiting 6mths to live with it. The woodwork has all been painted white or beige and I love it...but would feel fortunate if it was still the gorgeous stained oak. I agree with everyone else the paint and wallpaper is causing a good deal of your problem...paint a lighter color perhaps a soft gray green or blue gray or creams. Next question would be are you in a historic district? That will make a big difference on the glass window...its very in keeping with the style of home. Creating a window behind the stained glass one is very common in Texas where its a requirement on new construction. If done right causes no problems. This would be your easiest solution..however it does keep it from being a working window. I personally would not remove it, if you do, please keep it. As to the fireplace, many of the fireplaces of that era were very imposing...it would still be in keeping however with the era if you set a mirror above the mantel. It would not be original but would lighten up the dark and still be appropriate.
Good luck...

    Bookmark   April 20, 2010 at 12:21PM
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In your second group of photos, #20 and #21, with quite stark white walls, is visually arresting. Certainly not an historically authentic color choice, but it looks bold and bright and modern. I like it. And it does no harm. Even if you later develop a desire for deep jewel tones, the white paint just could act as a primer. Good luck!

    Bookmark   May 3, 2010 at 5:55PM
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I live in Portland and have a similar style house that was built in 1907. When we bought it one of the things we liked about it was the fact that all the wood was unpainted. We painted the rooms various jewel tones. After living in the house for five years the the dark wood trim became the thing we liked least about the house. We agonized about whether to paint the trim white for all the reasons that people have raised here. We finally decided to just go for it. We ended up moving out of the house last summer and had everything inside and out repainted. You have no idea how much happier we are with the white trim. Everything seems so much brighter. Since it's so gray in Portland for much of the year, the last thing you want is for your house to feel too dark and gloomy.

The most important thing is for you to feel comfortable in your own home. Ultimately it doesn't really matter if others approve of your aesthetic choices or not, particularly if it's likely that you will stay in this house for another 30 years.

    Bookmark   May 7, 2010 at 7:27PM
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I, too, am an old house preservationist. My 1880 farm house was remodeled in the 1980's. Remember when "antiqued" paint hit the market? ALL my downstairs woodwork is antiqued. I can't imagine it's the original woodwork either ;-( Since nothing had been done since the 1980's, I am trying to update and still keep the character of my house. One thing no one mentioned so far (and I agree with everyone for keeping it original as much as you can.) is lighting. I added more light to my kitchen and it's a whole new room. I didn't use those things in the ceiling, I added more antique light fixtures. The new light bulbs are cooler running so I was able to use more/higher wattage in the old fixtures. I also added under cabinet lighting. Lots of fluorescent/LED or whatever they're called strips. I did find the old kitchen door - and I know it is because the layers of paint matched the layers on the kitchen walls. But I am sad that whoever modernized it made it so plain. I didn't find the original cabinet doors. If it would have been possible to restore the cabinets, I would have done that. The newspapers we found under the sink cabinet were dated 1950. I suppose that's when the porch was converted to be the kitchen. I'll bet that homemaker was as happy in 1950 as I was in 2010. I lived with that 1950 kitchen for 5 years 10 months. Some days I hated it more than I could bear. Some days I just hated it. But where I'm going with this is now, with it changed a bit, it feels right. When I walk into that room it feels like it should have always been that way. You will find what needs to be done for you and what needs to stay. Take your time. It's hard to put it back after you've thrown the original away. And TAKE PICTURES!! LOTS of before and after pictures!

And I'm available to take anything you throw out off your hands;-) It's costing me a pretty penny to put stuff back.

    Bookmark   May 8, 2010 at 4:31PM
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