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Bathrooms I Pinned for the Mountain Fixer (and why??)


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If you think reading about my design process is full of excitement – the style twists! the emotional turns! Brian Henderson having no opinions one day then a million the next!– then imagine living it. It’s design whiplash and the impact is hard but the recovery is fast. I was scrolling through my own mountain fixer pin board the other day when I saw some early pins of bathrooms and I was like, ‘Who stole my sausage fingers, logged into Pinterest and pinned all these crazy contemporary/modern bathrooms?’

Me. I did.

Because one of the best and worst things about me is that I’m ‘style-polyamorous’. You see, at the time I THOUGHT I was designing a contemporary Scandinavian mountain chalet of which Brian and I both agreed on (pre rustic/refined vote), and while many of these don’t fit into that category (and definitely wouldn’t fit into the current design) I was inspired by something in them.

All of them are simple, but still special and interesting and while most of the colors and many of finishes were and are too contemporary and modern for me, those things can be changed. Sometimes you have to look beyond just the style you are focused on, to find new ideas that can be implemented in any style and yes, can be timeless. So while these contemporary, minimal and cold bathrooms are wildly different than what we are doing, I can remember why I pinned them.

bistro table bistro chairs gray tile pendant light
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People have been staggering tiles since the first cavewoman tiled her first powder room (it was rustic with a big dose of real-gold glam), and sure the ‘vertical stack’ is very popular in both mid-century and new-builds. But a ‘staggered vertical’ feels kinda fresh without being totally risky. I also like it because it properly describes my mid-20’s Saturday night signature dance move. Understandably, people might have thought it wasn’t a ‘move’ and perhaps more of a symptom of legal indulgences, but regardless, my ‘staggered vertical’ move was enjoyable for anyone who was lucky enough to witness it.

blue vanity copper sink modern
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Well that is kinda my spirit bathroom, but for a different house. That navy and rose gold with a simple but striking cabinet detailing and floor and wall simplicity. Speaking of navy and blush … do you remember when a commenter wrote, ‘UGH, ENOUGH WITH THE BLUSH AND BLUE’ and then I laughed (with my team, all my friends, etc.) A LOT, like for weeks. She was right, but the level of annoyance in her voice/text was palpable. Girlfriend was SICK OF ME DOING BLUSH AND BLUE. And then we laughed even more when I realized the following 3 makeovers ALSO had strong blush and blue game. And then I was like, ‘it’s indigo and rose’ and some of you wrote, ‘UH, THAT IS BASICALLY THE SAME THING’ (in a nice way) and I was like, ‘I KNOW! I WAS TRYING TO BE FUNNY!’

Anyway, if Brian ever allowed me to go in that direction I’d have that bathroom in my life. FYI some of you wrote that you feel kinda sorry for Brian, assuming that I must be steamrolling him and while he and I both appreciate your support for his feelings, I’d like to go ahead and say that if there is one person, on this planet who you should not feel sorry for right now, it’s Brian Henderson. His wife, me, is designing his dream cabin, because she/I is a wonderful person who also happens to be style-polyamourous, thus making her/me flexible, adaptable and generally adept at compromise, and he is getting exactly what he wants with someone else doing all the work.

Sorry for the 3rd person. And that wasn’t passive aggressive – it’s literally the facts. The point is, I can’t wait to write about the whole process of designing and renovating with your partner. Especially if you (me) are a designer whose ‘collaboration with said husband’ will be seen by millions.

green tile bathroom modern
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I pinned this one because I was attracted to the idea of using two different colors of tile on one wall – like a colorblock. I typically don’t because it feels risky, and yes it can feel kinda dated (70’s), but I was thinking more about doing two different tones of the same color or even a matte and glossy mix. Maybe the break is at chair rail height or maybe it’s two different scales of the same finish and color – think 4×4 from floor to above faucet, then a 2×2 above that. It could even be a zellige tile or a subway or brick scale. Maybe you stagger the bottom and then herringbone the top, both in the same finish and color …

I pinned this below shot for two reasons:

green vanity large round mirror
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I loved the play with circles – mirror, vessel sink, side faucet, and the idea of putting an off-center pendant which makes so much sense (won’t hit your head, duh) but as far as functional light feels off.

green bathroom modern black and white tile floors
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Apparently vessel sinks are back with a ‘deep’ vengeance. I wish there was an emoji on blogs that said, ‘pun intended’ so I didn’t have to call it out … and yet a good pun also needs a ‘beat’ or pause to help people register what just happened or to give them assurance that yes, that was a pun. ugh. Not saying that was my best work, but when the ideas flow you have to drain the bad and sink into the good. (insert pun emoji)

But that’s not why I pinned the above photo – I loved the marbled ‘v-groove’ because I hadn’t seen anything like that before. It fresh because it’s a typical wall paneling profile, but in an unexpected yet totally classic material. These kinds of ideas get my wheels turning (a la brass grout that is now being mass produced, by the way). A huge part of my design process for this house is taking a simple idea or design principal and putting a new or personal twist on it.

I also like how they used a contrasting bullnose trim. I’ve only put matching bullnose on tile, but doing a subtle version of that could be interesting.

Blue bathroom coral tile black fixtures
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Again with the two tones … and contrasting bullnose. Although to be honest, that is far too ’70’s gym locker room’ for me (ooh, although now that I wrote that down … trend alert). But the point is, sometimes you pin something for a specific reason and not because you want the room, but because you like an idea in it and want to do it in a much more subtle and appropriate way for your house. But as a general PSA – be wary of the peach stacked square tile. You can be peach (blush). You can be square. You can be stacked. But don’t be all of those things.

black and white bathroom grid tile black floating sink
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I pinned the above shot because of the simplicity and yet high impact of that tile – it’s just a tiny brick pattern with dark grout and A LOT of it… One big field of tile can definitely make a statement if it’s unique and just the right size and color. Much smaller would have been dizzying, but bigger wouldn’t have been so unique.

blue bathroom modern ladder black stool
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The above bathroom is certainly unique – I barely even understand it. The scale of it all feels weird (not the tile, but the whole room), and yet I’m staring, so something is compelling about it. It’s definitely just a set, by the way… and thank god you can wash your 2 liter soda bottles in the sink! TBH the more I look at it the more I don’t actually like it, but I know that the idea of combining two tiles of the same finish and scale, but different color is something I’m drawn to right now. Just a better version.

abstract tile blue bathroom geo mirror
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I pinned the above because I liked the combination of marble slab backsplash going into painted paneling … taking notes right now. If done in classic stones and colors then this isn’t a risk at all. If there were some pebble flooring and some wood somewhere I’d draw ‘Mountain Fixer’ all over that photo with my mind-pen.

green bathroom white grid tile orange pendant
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Hmm… I think I pinned that shot because of the mirror/grid situation – although Brian would be horrified if he saw it and thought it was impacting my brain in any way. While mirrors were never ‘out’, the average sliding closet mirrored door is due for a revival. I am also taking the style of the grid and wondering if it can be the profile of a shower door. It feels like an updated version of the french steel grid. But I think they are cabinets …

As I’m designing this house and writing about it I’m trying to not get caught up in creating these epic posts full of reveals and ‘get the looks’ but instead calling out aspects of my process. Would I read a blog where Nate Berkus told us why he pinned what he pinned? YES. And while I’m not at his level (although we are due for a playdate with our kiddos which we planned after a boozy lunch recently) I’m hoping there is a lot of value for you when I ‘dabble’ or ‘deep dive’ into this thought process.

Even if it’s a bunch of photos that reflect almost NONE of how the project will turn out… If only I had a full year to design this house before renovation I would NAIL IT.

Update: Check out all of The Mountain House REVEALS here: The Kids’ BedroomThe Kitchen | The Kitchen Organization | The Kitchen Appliances | The Powder Bath | The Living Room | The Downstairs Guest Suite | The Loft | The Hall Bath | The Upstairs Guest Bath | The Dining Room | The Family Room

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Love this look into your thought process! I love your blog because it’s a little more style-forward than many others that a follow… and while it’s not always MY style, it pushes me to rethink things. Also, I think I already have that peached stacked square tile in my downstairs bathroom! #winning


I love this type of post. I think it’s very interesting to hear/read your design thoughts. Also my Pinterest boards are full of images that I pinned with one idea in them that I liked so they look pretty schizophrenic. I’m trying to edit it all down so my house doesn’t look the same way. It’s tough trying to make the whole house look cohesive. I’m curious how you and your team prioritize where to start on big projects like these when the whole place needs work? I bought a fixer-upper and it all needs fixing!


These are some of the most interesting bathrooms ever, and I hate vessel sinks! I always wonder if I’ll remember why I pinned something…must get a mind-pen.


No comments on the design…they all were fascinating but kind of exhausting. Like that two colors of the same tile with the bucket sink. Fascinating but where do you put the blow dryer…oh wait it’s on the floor. ??‍♀️ My comment is on your puns (which are terrible but kinda funny!) You seem to really like puns….sooooo let’s do a pun emoji. Most emojis don’t mean exactly what they look like because we as a culture create a narrative for them. If you pick an emoji to use for puns, perhaps it will catch on like how an eggplant is now an emoji for manly bits. You can start an emoji trend!! Here are ones I suggest, pick one and start sprinkling it liberally in your pun posts!! ❕?️??‍♀️?????〰️??? The clear exclamation point because it’s light emphasis. The big P because it’s a pun. The trash can because it’s like low key drop the mike. The circus girl because your puns are very being in the clowns type circus music. The comedy / tragedy mask because it’s how your puns make us feel painful jokes. The shouting head because it’s like the loud voice people use when their getting pun… Read more »


Haha!! Made my morning! I can only see half of them the others are x-out boxes but I like the yelling profile. 🙂


We have a pun emoji in my family! Thanks to my dad, king of dad jokes and puns…its the eyeroll!


I appreciate you. I appreciate that you share your process (warts and all). I appreciate that you are hilarious (heaven knows this world needs more levity). I so appreciate that you are design polyamorous (god, me too! And it is exhausting.) And, I appreciate how refreshingly honest you are (in a fun, self-deprecating way.)

I am a lurker, rarely commenter (sorry, I’m an INFJ), but I just felt like on International Women’s Day I should specifically call out all the women I find inspiring, that are shaping the world into a better place in their own gentle way, and are truly beautiful inside and out (you are certainly one of them, my dear.) Thanks for being you.


Well said!


I’m also a lurker, but wow – I just had to comment on Grace’s reasoning behind her comment. How unbelievably fabulous!
Too many times, we (I speak as a woman), don’t acknowledge the women in our lives who make a positive impact, whether they be inspirational bloggers, someone you work with, a teacher/mentor, that UPS counter lady who always greets my endless Amazon returns with a smile and her tape roll, and/or your sister/mother/friend.
I’m taking Grace’s comment, seconding it (Thanks, Emily for providing endlessly interesting content and commentary!!), and will be paying it forward.
And thanks to you, Grace, for reminding me to act out my feminist ideals…

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Julie P

Here here! Bravo. Emily you are incredibly inspiring! Thank you for sharing your thought process. The “trying to use classic materials in a fresh way” is awesome.



I just moved into a (rental) apartment with a 70s peach tile bathroom and I’m kinda loving it! I’d love to see a post sometime about how to work with some un-ideal home features – whether you’re a renter making it work or a new home owner prioritizing other projects first, it could be really helpful and fun. Dated/wacky bathroom tile, ugly countertops, builder lighting, etc are some common ones.


Morgan, the Petersiks at their younghouselove blog has some great archived posts on exactly those issues: making dated finishes work. when you can’t change them immediately. That might be a good resource while we wait for Emily’s team to create some of that content!


Agree. We had that pale yellow/black combo tile bathroom at our old rental. At first I absolutely hated it (Plus when you apply makeup in a yellow bathroom, you walk out looking like crazed stripper circus clown). However, it became a fun challenge trying to make it work – black & white striped towels, simple rug, art deco hooks, and wacky art – and now I miss its personality…


Agree with this! Our 1960’s ranch has TWO bathroom that are literally “peach stacked square tile”. This line made me lol: “You can be peach (blush). You can be square. You can be stacked. But don’t be all of those things.” I am constantly giving my bathroom tile the side eye…why must you be so peach??? I have read the tips on YHL and would love the EHD take on working with not-so-lovely tile!


i think stacked peach square tile sounds beautiful! i think you should just find a really great wall paper that goes well with it and do the rest of the walls (where it’s not tiled) in that.. i would love a peach tiled room. so warm and flattering to every skin tone!


LOVE this post! Learned so much! More, please!


I feel sort of conflicted about the Ask the Audiences (I know this isn’t an AtA post, but it’s about the mountain fixer upper and it’s somewhat related to the refined/rustic vote). The pebble tile and fireplace votes seemed straightforward – there was no “wrong” answer, and hopefully the results of those AtA’s are easy to implement. But the rustic/refined vote seems not to have mattered much – it seems like you’re trying to do a middle ground even though the vote was not evenly split (4%5 rustic/55% refined) which kind of makes the whole voting thing feel empty to me (I feel this way even though I’m someone who voted for rustic and should theoretically be happy that things are now moving more towards the way in which I voted). I guess no matter which style direction you go in, I had hoped for something that feels very Emily-y, and now things are going in a direction that feels more heavy and dark than the EH style I’m used to, and I’m struggling to get onboard. I generally like Brian’s taste too, but I feel like the direction that the mountain fixer-upper is going in can better be described… Read more »


I second what Grace so eloquently said! Thank you for putting yourself out there on a regular basis, being honest, and endlessly entertaining! You inspire me every day.
And I love this post – explaining your thinking and reasoning as you design is sooooo helpful! Thank you thank you!


At the end you said “if I had a year..”. As someone with absolutely no involvement in the design world (and my apologies if you’ve already addressed this!), is there a reason you couldn’t have given yourself a year? I know that you’ve said you hope to live at the house this summer, but could you have lived with it as is this summer and spent time designing it and then broken ground in the fall? In your post about the jack and jill bathroom you mentioned the wainscot being a bad idea and that you didn’t have time to properly talk to the contractor about its performance. Are you worried about anything like that happening with the Mountain House as it seems like you’re making decisions at a similar pace? Just curious. I am in the process of doing a very small face lift to our bathroom and am having a very hard time picking one finish, I can’t imagine having to make all of the choices you are having to at the speed it seems like you are, especially with the Portland house going on as well!


I like the first photograph, I’d stay in that design area but I can’t wait to see what you come up with.


agree….the first phot design is great. I think it would fit fine in an 80’s mountain cabin


I haven’t even finished reading this beautiful post but had to comment that I’m laughing SO much at your paragraph talking about blush and blue (“And then I was like, ‘it’s indigo and rose’”). You were channeling Orlando in a major way here. Hilarious. 🙂


Enjoyed your first book but seriously, you HAVE to write a memoir about your insane life and marriage and self-imposed chaos and fun. I read over 100 books a year and I guarantee you this would be a legit NYT best-seller in the pop culture genre. Surely you can squeeze another manuscript into your life?


Holy cow! Yes, yes, yes. I would read that book. Add in a sprinkle of the chaos of raising a family with a big heap of design, and I would be all over that book.

Also, I love posts where you show your thinking process. Pretty, picture-perfect reveals don’t do much for me. I want to learn the whys and why nots.


Buuuut who really wants to watch themselves on the toilet? Not me.


Fun post! The grid mirror cracked me up, cuz who wants a full-length mirror next to the toilet? So many reasons why that’s wrong.

Also that tall vessel sink is silly on many levels, but mainly because it looks like you can’t get your hands in there between the faucet and top of the sink. Unless you had very tiny hands 🙂


These pictures felt like a breath of fresh air— so different from the images that overtake most of my social media feeds, which are all so similar that they’re beginning to have a numbing effect on me. Hah. Feeling inspired, THANKS!


Love it all! And I totally get it – There are two thought processes when it comes to Pinterest. I could pin something because of the overall feeling or style, or because I like a particular PART of the picture. The pic could be way off style-wise, but I’ll save it because of a certain material or how something was constructed or implemented. (I often worry I’ll be judged for saving awful spaces for that reason… which is why I have a lot of private boards! haha.)

Often I’ll type why I’m saving a pin into the description so that I can always remember. I learned that lesson in design school – We had a group project, and therefore a group pin board. I had to write what I liked about each picture so my group understood my intention didn’t think I was nuts!

In other news: The line “You can be peach (blush). You can be square. You can be stacked. But don’t be all of those things” made me laugh way too hard!


Long tiles are what these all have in common. Various scales, orientations, and colors, but lots of tiles with a bigger length:width ratio than a standard subway tile.

I like blue, too. My husband has to keep me in check. The struggle is real.

Regarding the last photo: Please, please, PLEASE do NOT put mirrors next to the toilet.

I enjoyed this post. I’m slightly embarrassed to admit that I was wondering what was up with the super modern bathroom pins. I wasn’t sure if you’d changed direction! I’ve gone back to my boards and thought “…why do so many of these pins have white walls when I swear I don’t want white walls?” (answer – they usually have wood floors).


Am I the only one who is sick of seeing marble everywhere? I get that it’s a classic material and I can appreciate it for its beauty (I definitely own a marble coffee table so I’m not that much of a hater). But I’m feeling like marble is the new “all white room” of the interior design world–it’s a choice that feels very obvious, safe, and easy to me. I like the v-groove version but I’m definitely hoping you’ll spring for some materials that are a bit more unusual and out of the box.


Another comment in support of the stream-of-consciousness process post!


Love this post. BTW I feel super sorry for you to have to keep your husband (soooo) happy. He should be thrilled that he has such a talented wife. I agree that he should be listened too, but how far do you have to go???? hmmmm


Oh man, I love the peach, stacked, square tile. Every time I see someone rip out vintage pink tile, I die a little.


I love it too. This teeny house in Melbourne is to die for – so much peach square stacked tile.

Brittney DeFriez

I feel like I’m getting old or something because so many of the new trends are not appealing to me. Is that how you know you are old? I’m only 32! When you’re younger you see people clearly stuck in a decade by their dress, hair, etc and you say, that will never be me! But, so many of these bathrooms have a public bathroom feel even if the materials/finishes are high-end.


I can see why you pinned all of these!!! Finding the unique and then picking a couple for yourself keeps it interesting. Love to hear your process and think you are so funny to boot!!

Love the first image and the two-toned!! Bathrooms seem to be an area where you can do something a little less safe.

Portia Alyce

Thanks for sharing all of the eye candy.


1. YES to all the puns!
2. YES to posts like this! Please don’t apologize or make it seem lowbrow to enjoy them.
3. I have the peach/blush, square, stacked tiles too! With bonus teal bullnose trim and a few floral peach AND teal tiles at the top. Just because it’s a half bathroom doesn’t mean it can’t be a whole party!
4. This is the first post in a while where we didn’t “get into it”. I’m okay with it, I just wanted to make sure you were. Everything okay? Did Brian actually write this? 😉


Emily, please come hang out in Denver, specifically at this bar: 🙂


I never comment, but I just had to say your comment about being able wash your 2 liter soda bottles in the bathroom sink really had me laughing. That sink is just bizarre, especially for a bathroom.


These are my favourite kind of posts! Inspirational and informational 🙂

Thanks Emily!

Susie Q.

Those are some weird pins. I vote no for sitting on the toilet and being able to see yourself in the mirror. For some reason I do like the folding-table-as-a-vanity (pin #1), but it seems impractical.
Your final pin made me shudder–I have seen this done cheaply and badly many times (not in the U.S.)–the edges of the tile on the vanity get chipped and stained, blrgh!


Yes! These posts are insightful and fun to read and totally enjoyable to see that people whose final design results I admire so much get caught in the same Pinterest blackhole as the rest of us. Keep it up!!!! thx xx


I liked this post. I think “what I pinned and why” are good posts. I like reading your thought process while seeing beautiful and/or interesting spaces. I learn so much from these. Please keep them up.

I am not a designer. I appreciate good design however. I like to understand why or why not something works. I may just instantly know when a space works but not even grasp at the why. You illuminate that for us.

I am a choreographer. I am a writer. I could write dance reviews or book reviews and speak of different aspects of the works with alacrity. Design and spaces–not so much. I am glad to have your insight.


Thanks for sharing your great idea about mountain house. It’s really amazing blog.


I had so much fun reading this post!! I love hearing about your creative process! And I think whenever you do post about designing for your husband it will be HILARIOUS (speaking as someone who has designed for her husband) so much humor potential!


I can’t imagine how difficult it would be to design this a) two ways for each room and b) for a client who has a different style than you but you still have to live there too! Fortunately my husband backs off and lets me manage the design, but I still factor his style/vibe into most decisions because of course it’s the right thing to do. I secretly wish I could just make it 100% how I want it, but sometimes acknowledge that his influence has resulted in a stronger design in the end. SOMETIMES. 🙂 My hat is off to you! Also, as someone who expressed concern for Brian earlier, I should clarify the *source* of my concern. After refined won, you wrote that Brian was dejected and sort of gave up on the process because your style won. I didn’t feel like he was steamrolled, but rather that he had stopped wanted to be involved. So I felt like I needed to give Brian a ‘win’ in the next poll so he would get back on board and – ultimately – make your life easier. (Although it sounds like his participation may not exactly be making it easier!… Read more »


You’re awesome. So talented, so funny.


wow very nice bathrooms ^_^


I don’t understand why you don’t take a year to design the house! Why settle for OK when you could slow down and think about things a bit more and get them exactly the way you want them?


I think I understand Emily’s comment about “if I had a year”. My husband and I bought a lot last July. It was not at all unexpected – we had been looking and I had been pinning (at a high volume!) and (amateur) designing a home in the area for at least a year prior. We finally got the architect, contractor and and bank loans all lined up just before Thanksgiving – and of course everything went dormant over the holidays, which gave me even more time to generate and (ha) narrow down ideas. We picked up again in January and OMG! All the things that come at you: the setback requirements meant the house was narrower than I imagined so I had to abandon all my round dining table pins for rectangular; we had to reorient the bathroom so that changed how the materials played off each other, etc. ETC. And one change truly causes an unexpected chain reaction. Then you find out that something you feel like you see “on every blog” is actually gosh dang darn expensive so you have to come up with a creative alternative you hadn’t previously considered. Your designer is so used to… Read more »


Hahahahah!!! You just described my life!
Especially the wilted cabbage. Also, there are the things that keep me up at night that are already installed! The pressure of only having ONE CHANCE to choose the (insert building material here) of your dreams that will come in at budget and will go with everything else is….daunting. fun, but daunting…and could easily take me 10 years. Meanwhile we want to move in and the kids are teens/preteens and we can’t spend a huge amount of our mental energy or time because neglected children aren’t a good thing!


I love love love having you share your design process in these posts! Thank you, Emily!


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When I worked in residential design, my boss always said, “the worst curse a woman can have is a husband who cares.”

Of course, I went and married an architect… who says he doesn’t care, but he does SO MUCH (especially once I’ve fallen in love with an idea/made a decision).

So I feel you.

Kyla @HouseOfHipsters

I just installed a vessel sink in my newly renovated powder room and LOVE it! You can see it here!


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I love the back wall’s blue


I’m an interior designer and I live to read. I meant to write ‘love’ but truly I really do live to read. While I like reading about design, I don’t often love it. I love reading your writing on design. Thank you for sharing your design process, and for sharing your writing. Most projects don’t have a defined before and after; the mushy-in-the-middle is where most of us are at. Please don’t stop! Process post are great posts and I feel like they add to the balance, freshness, and realness that makes your blog a delight ?

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