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7 Tips For Creating A Unique Home You REALLY Love


If you love vintage things and going to the flea market, you are not alone. Michael, our newest team member is OBSESSED with them. In fact, for years I would run into him at the Rose Bowl, he would stop me and we’d chat all things blog and flea. He has also been showing up at all things EHD for nearly a decade like volunteering at the rummage sale and helping at the shelter holiday decorating event. Naturally, after all those run-ins we became friendly. Every now and again he would tip me off on some new social media app that came out. He was always so supportive and made me feel like someone was actually reading and learning from this blog. Cut to last year when we were desperate for help in all things communication and he texted me saying, ‘how about me?’ Not only did he have a ton of experience (13 years in digital marketing alone, which is basically since the beginning of the internet) but he’s read the blog every single morning for eight years. So as Brian put it after our 2-hour interview, “Woah, that guy is uniquely qualified to work for the blog”. If you think I just hired a yes man, it’s actually often the opposite. He reminds me why people read and have read this blog for years and even shuts down ideas that he thinks are just not what you (the readers) want. He quickly dubbed himself our “Fan Ambassador,” (I like ‘Reader ambassador’ more) telling us what he thinks you want, need, and most importantly how things will be interpreted, or misinterpreted, etc. He’s already campaigned for things like the return of Craigslists finds, DIY projects and more thrift store excursions which I’m so happy we are doing because frankly, it’s all I want to be doing. We’ll get into that in a separate post but boy is it fun to have a one-person-focus-group actually on staff – and I LOVE hearing about what surprises him most being on the inside after watching from the outside for years (hot tip: we make it look really easy). If you want him to write about it, leave it in the comments (maybe we’ll do it on stories?). But for now, it’s time to let Michael take it away. P.S. You should know that Michael is literally the most enthusiastic person I’ve ever met, so if you think his excitement is faux, we promise it’s not. Head to insta stories to meet him in person:) Take it away, Michael.

Hi readers! First off—and I’m not joking—this is an ACTUAL BUCKET LIST dream of mine coming true. As Emily mentioned, I’ve read this blog every day for eight years and I couldn’t help but wonder/have daydreams of channeling my inner Carrie Bradshaw and writing something for this blog…and now HERE I AM?! Over a year ago, I cooked up the idea (long before I ever worked here) to pen a story about “Everything I Know About Design, I Learned From This Blog.” That’s what I get to write about today in my EHD debut…dreams happen, people. And I bet a lot of you have learned tips, too, that I’m hoping you’ll share in the comments once you hear my seven that I’ve applied to my house over the years. (Sidenote: is it me or do we look like Amish siblings in that photo?) 🙂

vintage living room

Also, I think this is the point where I should mention that showing you all my house is slightly terrifying. How does Emily do this every day? Imagine having thousands and thousands of people peaking in your windows and seeing how you live?! Oh dear, I had never thought of it that way until RIGHT NOW. Don’t get me wrong, the day we styled and shot my living room for this post was one of the best days EVER but now that we are publishing it for you all…I really, really hope you like it as much as I do.

I used to be a picker (as a hobby) so my house is filled with all affordable and thrifty pieces that I’ve found at flea markets, thrift stores and online treasure hunting. I’m proud of my resourcefulness in finding interesting pieces that mean something to me and make me happy and gives any room some soul. Which leads me to my first lesson…

Lesson #1: Flea markets are your new best friend. Hang out with them all the time.

vintage living room

vintage living room

Going to the flea market is an adventure. It’s also how I’ve been able to curate cool furniture, unique doo-dads and original art in a really affordable way. This handsome fella above the fireplace is one of my absolute favorite things in my whole house and I think I only paid around $60 for it. It’s signed and dated 1916 and I was told he was a famous matador in Spain. Half the fun of vintage art is thinking about the provenance (I had to Google how to spell that)…where did this painting come from, who owned it, who was the subject and what kind of life did they have?! I want to be friends with this matador and ask him if I can borrow his hat. The paint is chipping off his face and it makes me love the painting even more.

vintage living room

And since I’ve been to A LOT of flea markets, here are some “insider” tips for you: Have patience; you won’t find everything right away but just keep trying and be the one to get there early, you’ll get first pick at the good stuff. And for those of you without a flea market near you, hit up garage sales, thrift stores, estate sales, your grandma’s basement, eBay or Etsy…it’s all a fun treasure hunt. I got the vintage leather ottoman you’ll see a few photos down on eBay for around $80. (I have a habit of wanting to share with everyone how cheap everything I get at the flea market is. I wear my frugalness like a badge of honor). Another one of my all-time favorite finds came from eBay. It’s this English bulldog painting from Great Britain dated back to the 1800s. I mean, how RICH were you in the 1800s to be able to afford a portrait of your dog?! Where did that dog live? Was it a castle, a manor, did they get to sleep inside? What was their name? Buttercup, Mr. Pickles, Dame Judi Dench? I genuinely love it so much. It’s also very fitting because as you can see, life imitates art…I have my own little English bulldog…Dottie.

Lesson #2: Collections aren’t just “clutter.”

vintage living room

I’ve studied Emily’s shelves over the years and she often has little collections (remember the birdcage ladders?). I don’t even know why or how but when you pull a grouping of something together, it all of a sudden looks like a cool, purposeful collection. I have a grouping of long old photos hung and framed on my wall (one is of a circus from the 1930s), a collection of National Geographics from the 1920s. I even have a collection of vintage wooden toy airplane propellers. Why do I need them? I don’t…but they are interesting to me because my dad was a pilot in the military for 25 years, so I think I subconsciously have a lot of nods to him. I think the key is to have a collection of things that are a bit unusual and random. I’m not saying to collect little spoons, although those are fine, but a collection of something unique…yardsticks, croquet balls, globes, antique hotel bells (yes, over the years, I’ve collected them all).

Lesson #3: If at first you don’t succeed, just keep trying and styling.

vintage living room

I think a lot of people, myself included, get intimidated by design because of the fear of “doing something wrong.” But here’s the thing…it’s YOUR house, so you can do no wrong. I witnessed it when she helped me style the house. We just kept styling, playing around, moving furniture, adding more books, taking away books. Then would stare and stare at it. You’ll know when you have it to a place you like. And then a time will come when you won’t like it again and you’ll want to change it. That’s okay! Things are allowed to shift and evolve. I’m going to let you all in on a secret…knowing Emily was coming over to my house to shoot was SO EXCITING but don’t think I wasn’t up until after midnight styling my shelves over and over to get them just right for her. And get this…the amazing thing is when she got there…we KEPT styling the room even more because, simply put, it’s fun. It’s one of our company mottos…Style. Play. Every Day. (and also, styling to camera is a totally different skill I didn’t even know was a thing until that day).

A good tip…having cute pillows and a good throw, in my humble opinion, can “save the styling day” and is the easiest and cheapest way to change up a room. I change these out a few times a year and it gives me my “design fix.” And this doesn’t mean you have to go out and buy all new things. Source from your own home….bring out pillows, throws and other decor from bedrooms and do a switcheroo. You’d be surprised how much “fresher” everything will feel without having to spend a penny.

Lesson #4: A coffee table doesn’t have to be boring.

vintage living room

Emily had this coffee table at her previous house that I was gagging over (do you remember it?). I mean…that table gave me palpitations I loved it so much. But I couldn’t find it anywhere. And when I finally found out it was from Anthropologie, it wasn’t being sold anymore. But I didn’t give up. I kept hunting and hunting and found this similar one on Chairish. I love it so much and think it gives off a good vibe in the living room. So don’t panic, take your time, but find a coffee table that makes you happy. It isn’t the sexiest piece of furniture to shop for but the right coffee table is something that can really make a room soar.

Lesson #5: Weird is good…in small doses.

vintage living room

Having a few unique or even wacky things is how you can make a place feel interesting and personal. It is also what separates you from looking like a showroom and makes for great conversation pieces at your next game night. It’s what I think so many of us love about Emily’s work. There’s often a surprisingly weird and unexpected element to it that makes it human. You can see on my shelves that I have an old beat up leather rhino and a strange cast iron monkey that is both a doorstop and a bank (hard to pick out here, but it’s next to the stack of books on the left). I mean, what the heck did someone need a door stop and bank in one for? Not sure but I like it on a shelf. And none of my friends have one, so I feel special.

Lesson #6: If you are gonna splurge, why not do it on a beautiful chair that you’ve wanted forever.

vintage living room

This vintage safari chair is functional AND looks like art! After eight years of daily blog reading, it’s clear to me that Emily has some amazing chairs. The Windsor from Round Top, the Cherner chair, the Paul McCobb. So go find a chair that makes your heart swell, you deserve it. Just keep hunting on Craigslist, you’ll find something special if you keep looking and go get it first before anyone else can! This one is a little beat up, but I’m okay with that, it gives it character and charm. The chair doesn’t have any screws…it’s all dowels and weight suspension. It’s a little scary to sit in but it works, plus I love to look at it. It looks sculptural and makes me feel way cooler than I actually am. So maybe I’m being that one friend (we all have one) but I’m telling you, go splurge…you deserve it. Buy that cool chair!! You won’t regret it.

Lesson #7: Live in your place a little before making any rash decisions.

vintage living room

If you’re anything like me, when I first move into a place, I want to go 120 miles an hour and just get the whole placed finished all at once. Decorate every room, hang every picture. Ironically, I either do that or I do absolutely nothing for two years. But here’s the thing Emily taught me: sometimes you have to live in a space for a while to figure out how you are going to actually…live in the space. Seems obvious but for me it wasn’t. This wallpaper was in the kitchen nook when I moved in and I definitely considered removing it because I didn’t think it was “my style.” But then I was like…sure, it’s out of my comfort zone but it’s pretty and very different than what I normally do, so I think I’ll keep it. I’m so glad I lived with it for a while before ripping that down with my bare hands like I almost did. It really does make that room feel more charming.

Michael Keck Living Room 17

Okay, that’s it. Thanks to all of you who made it to the end of this. (Hi Mom!) This has genuinely been so fun sharing my lessons with you. I’d love to hear what YOU’VE learned from reading Emily’s blog over the years. There have been so many amazing tips and tricks…share them with all of us below and let’s discuss them together.

***photography by Sara Tramp

Fin Mark


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Love love love this post!

Michael Keck

Thank you so much!! This is SO FUN chatting with you all down here in the comments. I’ll bring the snacks next time for us. Chips and Salsa for EVERYONE!!!

[…] post 7 Tips For Creating A Unique Home You REALLY Love appeared first on Emily […]

Jackie Ireland

Hi Michael! Love your space! Hope that couch is comfortable. You would of loved my mom she had such good collections after a lifetime of picking. I am always scratching my head over the coffee table placement on this blog … it’s almost centered rather than close enough to put a mug down without reaching or getting up. Maybe it’s for the camera idk??


OMG! That’s exactly what I was going to say and have wanted to say for a long time!


I’ve had the same thought about coffee table placement in blog photos. To me, a coffee table exists to hold mugs, to hold stuff you need like the TV remote, and to put feet on, so if you can’t do that, why have one?

Susie Q.

Maybe Michael has very long legs, LOL.

Michael Keck

VERY long. hahaha


Thank you for bringing up this ongoing coffee table placement situation on EHD!
I too feel compelled to respond to the EHD mystery coffee placement in nearly every post that has involved a coffee table. I agree – I have never been able to comprehend why a “designer” would place a coffee table in the middle of a room and out of reach of any seating in the room.

Michael Keck

Ohhh, this is a juicy one. Looks like a few other people are wondering about this. I can only vouch for my own coffee table experience but I put mine there essentially for 2 reasons…1.) My rug has a very unique pattern where it literally points to the middle, and it drove me nuts to not have it centered with that. 2.) The room is spaced so that when in person, I felt not having it centered made it feel really lopsided. And I just think it looks prettier centered with the fireplace too when you look at it from the other side in my dining room. But here’s what I do when I want to kick my legs up…I pull over that leather ottoman and start binging my shows. Hope that helps. (also, your mom sounds like she was a cool lady). xo


Hi, i’m french so exuse my english … but i really wanted to leave a comment to let you know that this is a GREAT article ! So closed to what i’ve learned from Emily too ! The way I decorate my house is really closed to yours so I an looking forward to read more of your tips !

Michael Keck

Your English is way better than my French! Merci Laetitia!!


I have loved all the posts from the last few days but this might be my fave! The home is so beautiful and I moved into my apartment a few months ago so this is exactely what I need to read. Thank you!

Michael Keck

Yay! Glad you liked it. Finding and using vintage stuff is fun!! Go get those treasures!!


This is great news! I really enjoyed your writing style, looking forward to hearing more of your voice. Welcome Michael! Also, I love love love your space!


Exactly this! Michael, you are a treasure! I loved this article and your writing voice so much! And, your home is STUNNING! Welcome, and welcome to sweet little Dottie, too! 🙂

Michael Keck

Thank you so much, I was so NERVOUS to show everyone my place. I really appreciate the nice feedback! And I’ll tell Dottie you say hi. xo


Bonus points for letting your dog up on the couch, too 🙂 I love dog people!!

Michael Keck

Dottie is the boss of me. I do whatever she tells me.


Wow, your home is beautiful! Thanks for sharing.


Beautiful space. I love the shot of the white tv console close up. The blues and terra-cotta shades look so pretty with the painting.


I LOVE the wallpaper. I’m so glad you kept it! Your home is adorable, Michael, and I really enjoyed reading this. 🙂


Hi Michael! So glad to have you as our fan ambassador 🙂 lmao at Brian’s comment – so true.
LOVE your living room and dining nook and really enjoyed this article. When do we get to see more of your gorgeous home?!


Everything about this is adorable – the back story, the interior, the writing, Michael – and his dog! I feel like this is going back to the old style of EHD blog post, with one gorgeous and potentially achievable space to admire and some great tips that anyone can use. I think it’s brilliant that Emily is doing bigger and more high-end projects but that sort of stuff is like window shopping in designer stores for me – gorgeous and glossy but ultimately irrelevant to my life, and actually pretty hard to wrap my head around. Whereas posts like this genuinely get me really excited for what I could achieve in my own house. You’ve probably heard all that said a million times but, anyway, I love this new mix of content. Yesterday’s Portland post (useful in its own way but more aspirational) juxtaposed with this post today = you’ve hit the sweet spot.


Gorgeous space and fun writing! Excellent new hire—so talented! Congratulations!

Michael Keck

Ohhhhhhhhh…this is a good one!! Thanks for saying all that! Let me know where I can mail you the check. hahaha. xo

Jessica Davis

Yay Michael! Love seeing a fresh face and someone who comes from the “other side” of being an EHD fan. LOVE your house. Where are those shelves from in your living room. Simple and clean but not your standard Ikea billy bookshelf. Also, if you ever need any hardware, LMK – we would love to have your team use Nest Studio! – have already emailed with Brady about it.


Damn! Your home is so sculptural — aside from the styling and pieces, I love the artistry in the way the lines come together (I compliment the photography for that too!) . I would love to see more like this, thanks!

Michael Keck

Thanks!! This is such a nice and fancy compliment! And yes, Sara Tramp is an amazing photographer and all around awesome person!

Lana Wren

I really liked Michael’s writing style and his is vintage aesthetic is awesome. Welcome to the club Michael!


Aw, this post makes me happy. Congrats, Michael! You have a beautiful home.


I love your home….so much character and soul!! Look forward to hearing more from you.


You’re a delight and so is your home. It’s clear decorating your home was a labor of love. I’ve also learned from EHD that it’s not as easy as it looks, even design stars have decorating angst, and to not be too hard on myself when I don’t get it right the first time. Like you, I also like changing out the pillows and throws, small throw rugs to breathe fresh air into a room, although it’s taken me some time to learn. I tend to find a place for everything- takes me forever!- and then I don’t want to disturb my new zen. But I’m slowly learning the “art” of refresh and it feels so good when I do! Looking forward to hearing more from you!


Ha! you two do look like Amish siblings! Great tips and looking forward to more from you.


Hi Michael! Love your home, especially that fireplace and your awesome flea market finds!


Such a great space! I love that’s it’s vintage and uniquely yours! Looking forward to reading and seeing more!


Welcome aboard, Michael. You have a great voice and awesome design skills. Your couch is spectacular. Can’t wait to see more of your house and to hear more from you.


Love your story. Love your house. I’m not great at picking up on design lessons simply by seeing beautiful homes, so I’ve learned the most from Emily explaining her thought process in different spaces.

I know you have a lot of new readers who have missed out on the great tips published years ago. It might be worthwhile to highlight old gems (but maybe with new spaces/photos).


This house is amazing! Love how curated it looks with vintage finds! Two thumbs up…!


So good! Also, I think all posts should include a dog. What a sweetie!

Michael Keck

I agree. All posts need DOGS! It’s a miracle we got that picture of Dottie and I. She normally doesn’t sit still for more than 2 seconds. We had 3 people behind the camera trying to wrangle her. LOL. But look how cuuuuuute she looks.


Hi Michael! Love your place and your post. It did make me curious if I am in some niche oddball group that avoids coffee tables? Or am I like the only one? My living room is narrow and with a footstool for my BOYFs chair I just don’t feel like a coffee table works. But design blogs this breaking the riles means using smaller tables or whatever. I’m like,nooooo breaking the rules (or doing it my way?) means nothing in the center of the seating area except rug, pets and a footstool. Anywho, you asked about what I’ve learned from this blog. So much. But I wanted to do a fan girl gush about the post that introduced me to all of you: the one that explained what California casual is and how to do it. I was RIVETED to learn why I kept liking the same kinds of images on Pinterest and to understand its rules really helped me make a key decision about the fourth chair my living room needed. Those of us in small spaces can’t really collect chairs the way our hearts want. So paralysis by analysis is real. But THAT post helped me understand what… Read more »

Elise Bielen

Love your style and voice, Michael! You’re going to make a swell Fanbassador. Now I’m feeling extra revved up for thrifting this weekend.

Michael Keck

You are brilliant…Fanbassador! I love it! hahaha! I’ll have business cards made with that as my title.


Congratulations Michael on joining the EHD team. Just thought I would let you know that the balls in the bowl on the bottom shelf of your wall unit are cricket balls, which is an interesting thing to collect in the US. Do they even play cricket there?

Paula Carr

All I know is that a lot of the British actors (starting waaaaay back in the silent era) who lived in Los Angeles started cricket and lawn bowling clubs for other ex-pats. I have no idea if the clubs still exist, but that could be the source of those balls.


TONS of cricket players in my (small) town. There is even a league. We have a lot of people from India who work in the tech industry and play cricket. I’ve read that it’s popular in many places now.


This was wonderful, thank you for letting me take a peek through the window;) Love what you’ve done, and love Dottie! I’ve always loved Emily’s style, she’s helped me be brave and just try. I enjoy the process now more than the final design:)


I’m mesmerized by your fireplace. I would sit and stare at it all day if I were you. I want it.


Yes! Those tiles are amazing. I would love to no more about them.


Awesome post!! And four more votes for more Michael posts on EHD (my kids are voting too.) Have a lovely Friday folks.


What a lovely space! Thank you for sharing it with us, and for the seven tips. When I saw the photo of the dining room, it was a stop and “wow!” moment. That wallpaper is not immediately my style either, but with the gray of the table top and the warmth of the wood, it looks beautiful all together. From a fellow English Bulldog lover, welcome. 🙂

Hanna Dollard

Hello! Thanks for writing this post I think it does really touch on some highlights from the blog. I’m a relatively new reader here but I actually have a question for you all about how to balance displaying great unique finds with family pictures and memories? I don’t see a lot of family photos in magazines but get sad thinking about keeping all those memories stored on a phone instead of a wall. What are some guidelines or recommendations you have for family pictures? Thanks!!


Yes, please. I’d love a post about styling family photos. (I even have a long photo of all the workers at my grandfather’s textile mill. Michael’s long photo grouping looks marvelous, but what to do with just one? Maybe I should look for more at flea markets!)


Oh man…I swear Emily posted something about this a while back, but I can’t seem to find it. She mentioned that she used to not use family photos for decorating much until she had her children, but now the photos bring her so much joy that she is tempted to put them everywhere.

The tips I do remember are (paraphrasing):
1. black and white prints are easier to style, because they automatically look sophisticated and they hide amateur photography flaws
2. groupings of multiple family photos in similar or identical frames with mats can keep them looking purposeful and cohesive

Hopefully that helps! Maybe someone else will be able to find the original post for you!


Was it a post about a grid of children’s photos in Emily’s foyer, over the blue cabinet?

Hanna Dollard

Thank you! Yes I’d love to hear more if anyone can find that post. That will get me started though.


What a lovely post. And I would pretty much kill for that 30-drawer cabinet! Very cool piece. I think I’m still getting my head around the “collections are not clutter” thing. I keep looking at various bits and bobs in my house and thinking “Why is that here?” and “Does that look stupid sitting there?” You have inspired me to spend a couple hours today attempting to style. Cheers!


Can Michael please write about what surprises him here instead of stories?

Great to meet him and learn what he’s learned! I think the biggest thing I’ve learned is that if you want your best room, you have to work for it. If it’s something you enjoy, it will be fun for you, but no matter what, it will take time, money, and experience to make a room look great. If you are willing to put the resources in though, there are lots of ways to make a room amazing!

Susie Q.

I agree. Sometimes I look at stories, but it’s often with the sound turned down. If there’s just a lot of talking (talking heads), I skip ahead. I’d rather read…!


I agree! I’m really curious about the “behind the scenes” you’ve experienced now working at EHD – full blog post please! 🙂

And your house is amazing!! Thank you for sharing!!


What a great post, and a really fresh new voice – welcome to the team, Michael!


I’ve loved Emily for years and popped in on the blog on a regular basis but the last two weeks it’s become a daily ritual. This post was good for the soul. Bringing back some of the old eclectic magic. I’m so happy you got a check on your bucket list. Your writing voice is a lot like Emily’s, an enjoyable read. Good save on the wallpaper. It really makes the space. I love that you said hi mom at the end. Look forward to hearing more from you.


LOVE this and LOVE Michael. Your space feels more COLLECTED than DECORATED – personal and welcoming, which is what makes a space special. Can’t wait to hear more from you!


Awesome! Love your vintage-y eclectic, simple, bright space! It’s so well curated. Congratulations and cheers to dreams coming true!


I love this post so much! Welcome aboard. I can’t wait to hear more from you.


Lovely room and inspiring post! I definitely want a couple of Cherner chairs like in your breakfast nook!!


I love this! Michael’s writing style is super entertaining, gorgeous apartment, cute backstory.


Loved this! Michael–you have a great voice (& style)


Amazing post! Love your voice – and your place!


Michael! You are a dream! As another long time reader, Welcome. I love your enthusiasm, your style. 10,10,10! Seriously though, great post. You have taken so many of Emily’s tips over the years, made them real, and reminded us why they really do work. My favorite takeaway? Art in off beat places makes an unexpected statement. 🙂 Looking forward to your next post.


Michael! Congrats on the job. You are precious and I love your voice and your house! Great job.

Julie P

Michael I am super thrilled you’ve joined the team! It’s like Emily polls the readers and we say “more approachable, more weird, more slow decorating” and poof then you materialize! Go team EHD!!!


My fiance and I have been renovating a complete fixer upper for the last six months, and I have learned EVERYTHING I need to know from this blog. I so appreciate the educational posts about how to avoid design mistakes, how to hang curtains the right way, how to space furniture in the living room, how to find affordable pieces that look beautiful, and so much more! I reference “what Emily taught me” all the time to the point my fiance thinks I know her IRL. The most instructive series for me was Introducing modern Victorian. Our home is 100 years old and I lobbied HARD for rich, dark paint colors and luckily I won that debate! I tell everyone that our home is going to be styled as Modern Victorian and when they look at me with a puzzled face, I direct them to that blog post! Our budget is nothing close to the homes that Emily designs, but I am so inspired by this blog that I know I can make our home LOOK like a million bucks. So thank you for sharing how to find gems at flea markets! I live in Washington DC and there aren’t… Read more »

Olivia Macdonald

Absolutely beautiful home!! And I’d definitely like a post on lessons/surprises about EHD now that you are behind-the-scenes.


Michael, your home is stunning! What an addition to team EHD; your aesthetic, your writing style, your perspective are all a great fit here. I look forward to reading and seeing more from you.

Strongly agree, the advice to live in one’s space before making big design decisions has been key for me.

My other big Emily take away is to boldly mix vintage / new / big box. To my eye, it is the key to keep her spaces fresh and interesting and it has worked well in my home.

Michael Keck

Yes, that is a GREAT Emily tip! She always finds the BEST stuff, both new and vintage. I thought I was good at treasure hunting but I was at the Rose Bowl with her a few months ago and she legit found the MOST AMAZING lamp on a table amongst a bunch of actual junk. She’s got EAGLE eyes!

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