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‘I Design, You Decide’: Mountain Fixer Style + VOTE!



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**** UPDATE: The poll has now closed, and we have a winner of REFINED SCANDINAVIAN CHALET, with 55% choosing Refined Scandinavian Chalet and 45% choosing Rustic Scandinavian Cabin. Thank you to everyone who voted, entered, and shared your opinion. We love having you participate in this exciting project and we can’t wait for you to weigh in on the next design decision. In the meantime be sure to head here to see all the polls and progress of the fixer-upper project.

TODAY IS THE DAY. I’ve been waiting for this day since September when I came up with this big series idea, and bought this house. My thought was this: in many ways YOU helped us buy this house, so how can we make you part of this process? How do we give some of the decision making to YOU and furthermore let some of you even stay here when it’s done?  I haven’t been able to design the house really until today because your involvement effects how I design this sucker.

After pinning and debating for months on the overall art direction of our mountain/lake house, we have narrowed it down to two different styles and YOU ARE DECIDING TODAY (the polls are open for a week, technically).

The ‘I Design, You Decide’ series will not be an ‘Ask the Audience’ situation. While I do love those posts, there is an element that feels like I don’t really know what I’m doing and while often I don’t (because every design job is unique, and your input is invaluable) I want this to be different. Instead, I’ll treat you like a client – I’m your designer. I’ll show you two different overall style directions (today’s post) then once that is chosen I’ll design each room TWICE, digitally of course. I’ll show you mood boards and renderings and you will choose what gets executed. Is this twice the work? YES. Will it be so fun?? YES.

All the rooms will be under that overall style direction (so it doesn’t look like a crazy house) and it’s my job to create design plans that are different enough, but I have to love them both. The polling technology that we implemented won’t be rigged. You will vote and after a week the polls will close and the design plan will get executed. Of course, there are a lot of moving pieces and many partners involved. I’ll be totally transparent about those partnerships and you’ll know what pieces can’t change or can only slightly change due to those (for instance I’ve already chosen all the plumbing with Kohler, but all the tile, flooring, lighting and surrounds will be different).

It’s an experiment in design, marketing, and digital strategy. It’s the wild west over here and every day our goal is to up the traffic and engagement all while creating interesting, beautiful and educational posts for you.

There is one more component to this – after you vote you have the option to share your vote on your channels and every time you do you will get entered into a contest. You can share on all your platforms (Instagram, Facebook, Twitter, email, Pinterest and yes, comments will count, too). The more times you share your vote, the better chance you have of winning. How will we track? Well, you’ll put in your email when the box pops up and my IT guy at the end will tally and track (I was very curious how this would work as well, and he said that he’ll outsource to a company that does this). That’s all to say, this is LEGIT. Every time you share, you have that much more of a chance to win (so if I were you I would have all your friends do it as well so that even if you don’t win, they can and you can go).

For Instagram use the hashtag #EHDmountainfixer so we can track that (the rest can be tracked through email).

What will you win?

A five night stay at the cabin this summer (with some black out dates, of course because our family uses it) with $1,000 towards travel expenses (if you live driving distance then it’s just fun money, or if you live internationally then we will cover up to $1,000 of your expenses. So, all the international readers please feel free to participate and enter as well). The house sleeps up to 8, so yes, bring your well-behaved friends. I’ll meet you, show you around and end with a happy hour on the boat. I’ll give you the keys to the golf cart (vintage, from the 80’s with fringe on top and the previous owner painted it red and put Ferrari stickers all over it – it’s LITERALLY BRIAN’S MOST LOVED POSSESSION). In that golf cart you can drive 5 minutes down to the beach club or do what I do all the time – run through the forest down to the lake. At the lake there is a beach with lounge chairs and beach toys, a cafe (that serves fairly disgusting but wonderful nachos) and total serenity. It’s magical for kids because it is shallow for 20 feet.

We’ll have a cocktail cruise on our used 1984 party barge (pontoon) and if you have boating experience and a license you can have the keys for your stay (if not then we’ll have kayaks by then that you can use). We’ll take some pictures together and I can help answer any questions you might have about your weeks stay. Obviously, I’ll be vetting the winner to make sure that you don’t have say, robberies or arson on your record. 🙂

I’m working with sponsors to give 10 runner-up prizes for additional winners. I never enter contests online mostly because I’m like ‘does anyone actually win?’, so I’m trying to put myself in your shoes. What would I need to want to enter and share this contest? I would want my chances of winning higher than just one entry and I would want the possibility of more prizes in case I don’t win the main prize. I would want my enthusiasm and sheer desire for the prize to be counted towards my chance to win. But you can’t profile winners and choose based on that – it does need to be random, for legal reasons. So hopefully allowing multiple entries will help those of you who really want to win it, to win. I don’t want some random person who voted once and gave no cares about this project to stay at my house. I want a true reader, follower and someone that feels engaged in this process. I want someone who participated in the design the whole way through to be able to come and see it, live in it, and sit on the sofa you helped me choose. I want to be able to celebrate with these readers and say THANK YOU for helping me buy and renovate this house for my family. This house is ours, but it’s because of you so THANK YOU.



I know what you are thinking – you are letting strangers choose the design of your house?? Yes. But the reason it has taken so long is that we needed to find two styles that we both loved enough to let you choose between. Neither Brian nor I could be bummed with the results and that was a real challenge. It’s a poll, it can’t be rigged (well it probably can, pretty sure anything can be rigged these days but I wouldn’t). Obviously, it would be more fun to let you choose between 4 totally different styles (which was my original idea) but ultimately we (Brian and I) really wanted it to be a certain style and I don’t think my heart would have been in it if my favorite hadn’t been chosen.

The two styles we are down to aren’t wildly different, but they are still different enough that a vote is in order. I’m happy with either but yes I’m leaning towards one and so is Brian (not the same, and it’s pretty easy to predict).

Here goes …

Emily Henderson Home Lake House Remodel I Design You Decide Poll Style Collage Refined New Graphic
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Oh yes. This fantasy house would be so gorgeous. It’s different than anything I’ve done and while it will have a midcentury bent because innately it’s minimal and modern, it’s going to be fresh and forward.

Both versions that you will choose between have Scandinavian in them and here’s why:

Our house was built in 1964, therefore it’s midcentury and the midcentury that I love most was birthed in Northern Europe – Sweden, Denmark, Finland and Norway.

The light in this house is so beautiful. It wants simplicity and for the nature that surrounds it to be more of the focus (as is Scandinavian). For our lives as well we also want simplicity and less ‘stuff”. But we also don’t want it to feel cold or too minimal, so this style brings in more color and textures than the more minimal/contemporary options I wrote about on Friday.

Scandinavian design lends itself so well to a house that has two extreme seasons – it feels cozy in the winter, and really airy and bright in the summer. And by incorporating a lot of woods we’ll make sure that it feels warm, year-round.

But this version wouldn’t be rustic woods, it would be more refined. Not SLEEK necessarily, but newer woods, more modern tile, with no age necessarily but I can’t stress this enough – STILL A LOT OF WARMTH (if you can’t tell Brian is still really paranoid about me making a stark, cold house).

Emily Henderson Mountain Fixer Upper Style Refined 011

Simplicity in every way, except in the architectural finishes (no concrete for us, though).

Emily Henderson Mountain Fixer Upper Style Refined 08

We will repeat design elements over and over instead of mixing up a lot of different finishes. Do I think I’m going to put the same wood on the floor as the walls? Maybe – but likely you’d help decide.

Emily Henderson Mountain Fixer Upper Style Refined 07

There will be a LOT of wood at this house, but whether it’s painted, raw or stained is still in question. And in this version the furniture low, deep and refined (no worn leathers, but lots of fresh linens).

Emily Henderson Mountain Fixer Upper Style Refined 06

There will be a big focus on the windows and views like in the photo above. The house is surrounded by trees, and yet the light is still really great. We will invest in making the light better in more rooms by making windows bigger or adding more (and yes, we still need a window sponsor – I’m terrified about the cost).

Emily Henderson Mountain Fixer Upper Style Refined 05

That photo, above, is the REAL inspiration to me for this house. I love how fresh and yet warm it feels. It feels happy and inviting, and yet still so clean and simple. We will use a lot of symmetry in this version and matching furniture – nothing too eclectic and no big patterns.

Scott And Scott Architects: North Vancouver House

The kitchen could be simple flat panels with no hardware and very little detailing so that the wood really shines (p.s. where do I buy STUNNING wood?).

Emily Henderson Mountain Fixer Upper Style Refined 021
Emily Henderson Mountain Fixer Upper Style Refined 03

The walls will likely be clad in wood, and any opportunity for coziness will be taken (like that window seat). I think that actually goes for both versions.

For this version, I would probably have to invest more in the finishes but it will be faster to design and source than the second version… This version will have elements of minimal and contemporary but it will have a midcentury bent and so many soft textiles everywhere.

I want to design that house so badly.

BUT WE HAVE ANOTHER STYLE THAT I LOVE SO MUCH AS WELL. Which brings us to its competitor.


Emily Henderson Home Lake House Remodel I Design You Decide Poll Style Collage Rustic New Graphic 01
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This version is still fresh, airy and neutral without a lot of pattern or accessories BUT the finishes might be more worn or at least more organic. The furniture might have some more age to it and the tile might be more handmade. It won’t necessarily mean reclaimed wood everywhere (or anywhere) but just more rustic and raw.

Emily Henderson Mountain Fixer Upper Style Rustic 01

That kitchen, for instance, has that beautiful painted white brick, the raw wood on the ceiling, a bead board detailing on the cabinetry and of course a rustic dining room table. It’s still modern and fresh but it’s so warm.

Emily Henderson Mountain Fixer Upper Style Rustic 02

This one goes even more country than I was thinking but you can see how we might bring in some more rustic-y elements in the decor.

Emily Henderson Mountain Fixer Upper Style Rustic 09

That room above is obviously stunning. I love that the raw finish of the wood, that vintage style fireplace, and very lived-in furniture. I don’t think we’d go super aged on many of the finishes, but who knows – if I found some AMAZING reclaimed wood that could work on all the ceilings we’d probably go for it (during the winter it would be really nice to have those ceilings be a real stained wood, I just don’t love the finish of it as-is).

Emily Henderson Mountain Fixer Upper Style Rustic 042

It’s strange how some of these photos look less warm than the refined version but I think that they would be equally as warm. We’d likely use unpainted wood somewhere, we wouldn’t do all white like the one above. But I LOVE that vibe. The stark black chairs, the big blue piece of art (See? Simple, but still high impact).

Emily Henderson Mountain Fixer Upper Style Rustic 05

This kitchen also feels slightly more ‘country cabin’ than the ones in the refined version. While I don’t want to repeat my kitchen in our current house, if the rustic version is chosen we’d do something more towards this.

Emily Henderson Mountain Fixer Upper Style Rustic 06

It was actually super hard to find imagery that felt ‘rustic’ but airy and minimal. So while I don’t know what I would do from that shot above, I love that it has that combo.

Emily Henderson Mountain Fixer Upper Style Rustic 07

Same with that – I’m unsure if I’d ever use aged brick, but that wall is so pretty and warm especially with the white wood panels and the aged floor ….

Emily Henderson Mountain Fixer Upper Style Rustic 08

And that bedroom that I love so much from the Anvil Hotel would feel more at home in the more rustic version. That house is a bit more traditional than we’d go, but I also love that big shock of blue and white – feels fresh, happy and yet not too busy.

So there you have it.

You vote. I’ll vote. Hell, I’ve already voted.

If you don’t care about the contest you can still vote in the poll. No biggie. If you want to be entered in the contest then you have to follow the prompt and give your email but if you don’t, you don’t. No spam, I promise. It just enables us to track for the winner. We have created a landing page for all of the posts and polls related to this series as well which you can navigate to here.

I hope you like this series. My overall hope in life is that you, my very trusted and loyal audience, will want to be involved in this design process. My favorite thing to do is design houses, but I’m a collaborator and I don’t like to do it alone. This way, we do it together.

I can’t wait to meet the winner of this contest. I just hope we all love the house as much as I do in my imagination. Because in my brain – THIS HOUSE IS AMAZING.

Let the voting begin. 🙂 And let us know in the comments if you have any issues with voting or the process as we are still tweaking and trying to get out all the digital kinks.

I Design, You Decide

The Overall Style

Option 1

Refined Scandinavian Chalet

55 %

Option 2

Rustic Scandinavian Cabin

45 %
(Vote by Monday, Jan 29th to have your voice heard.)
You did it!

Thank you for voting!
Your vote has my vote 🙂


Now enter to win

A five-night stay at the cabin this summer (with some blackout dates, of course, because our family uses it) with $1,000 towards travel expenses (if you live driving distance then it’s just fun money, or if you live internationally then we will cover up to $1,000 of your expenses. So, all the international readers please feel free to participate and enter as well). We’ll make it a dream trip! Including cocktails out on the lake with me.

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Fin Mark


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This. Is. So. Fun!!!
When you find out where to get stunning wood, fill us in!


Ok so definitely the Refined Scandi Chalet. Simone Haag’s house has been a major inspiration for me and I love everything about her whole house and not just that inspo picture!!


GAHH!! LOVE THIS IDEA! It reminds me of the the ‘Win This House’ Facebook Live/video series that Candice and Andy from Old Home Love did a few months ago. SO EXCITED!


I can’t wait to see what comes next! So excited!


I agree…this is going to be sooooo much fun!


This series is totally! I’m excited about participating in the design of the mountain house and a chance to see it in person. I love the textural elements happening in the rustic design. #teamRUSTIC


Yikes – this is so tough! I love both styles.

I think the rustic style is probably more in your comfort zone (and perhaps a bit more liveable with two small children).

But I’d love to see what you do with the “refined” look.

Mary Margaret

Refined scandy for me (first option). Either way, it will be lovely, but I like the fresh clean look of the first option warmed up with wood. Gorgeous!


This is all so exciting!!!! I can’t wait to see this all come to life! And the prize is awesome….I’m one of the rare people that has hardly any social media presence-just Pinterest! But for this I may have to get on Instagram! Thanks Emily!

Jerusa McCullock

I LOVE the rustic version — rustic can often feel so hard and rough, I would love to see if softened and done in a way that doesn’t just evoke feelings of cold camping nights. Can’t wait to see it all come together, this is so fun!


Yes, this is amazing! I cannot wait to see the whole process!


What’s weird is that I totally thought I’d be pro the more rustic look, but from those images I’m totally in love with the sense of airiness in the more refined version. It just feels like it would be so soothing to step into, and would showcase the outdoors more.


I agree. A few elements rustic but overall refined.

Can you share your polling technology with the US govt (but not Russia)? cool, thx.

Mary Beth

@Bubgourmand – Thanks, this comment gave me a good, hardy laugh!


I was thinking the same thing:)

Anna McNinja for president!


I second that!!!

Jeanie Griswold

You had me at Scandinavian, but I choose chalet all the way! SO SO fun. #scandichaletfortheW

Régine from The 256 Project

I voted for the first one because it’s really unlike anything we’ve seen you do before. It’s an opportunity for us all to grow in design and I can’t wait to see how you push the envelope. I like option 2 as well, but felt it was actually a little too close to your LA house. The bedroom photo above with the blue beadboard looks so much like your master bathroom. Having said that, I think it would be cool if you could infuse some of the old, colorful Emily into option 1 because you do color so well. Thanks… Read more »


I agree with Régine! Especially on the color: I could really get excited about all the lines and fabrics and textures and airiness of the first option with even more warmth an energy through some muted, rich colorblocking in the textiles… and I know you’d do it so well! Some well-placed deep reds or mustards, earthy greens or rich deep blues would be right in line with the 60’s Skandi style but would feel so very daring and outside-the-box these days! Thanks, this was a really fun set of posts!


yes!! i totally agree too. Infuse some of that Jonatan Adler meets Emily Henderson -ness into Option 1!!


NAILED IT, Régine! There seems to be more possibility for your design-growth with the refined chalet option, and I am so looking forward to gaining inspiration for my own home 🙂 … let the remodeling games begin!!


Great idea!! So excited to follow the progress. Clever, clever, clever!


Number two! You can’t really go wrong with either, but number two seems more like you can lounge around in your bathing suit or slippers and play checkers.

I once Facebook- April fooled that I won the HGTV dream home, and my friends were STOKED until they realized I was kidding. If I won this trip, I’m not sure anyone would believe me. Ha!


Rustic for the win.


Ok I am generally a bit sceptical about “let the audience decide!” thingies because what if people vote for the style you secretly hate??? But the way you have planned things does sound more reasonable + exciting! I love both styles, refined Scandi looks a little airier and easier to pull off, but oh my when done right rustic scandi looks amazing and so so comfortable… I am hoping for a 50/50 tie so that you’ll have to do both 😀

thank you!! that’s been the biggest challenge – and will continue to be so for each room. I have to design TWO versions that I HAVE to love. SO HARD!!!

emily jane

I would also love to see a combination of both -Rustic Scandinavian Chalet and/or Refined Scandinavian Cabin.!? If it isn’t a tie and we must choose just one option, I’m more drawn to option #1 Refined Scandinavian Chalet. Such a fun idea but also a process we can all learn from (has elements of both your style diagnostics and combining-of-styles Magic you used to perform on SFAS). Looking forward to watching it all unfold : )

Lauren Tramaglini

Normally, I am anti rustic. A lot of times I feel like it can be a little cheesy looking. And it’s a fine line between looking forced and authentic. But from the photos you posted of your take on rustic, I’m all about it! One vote for RUSTIC! Super cozy, and wonderfully homey. There’s nothing like designing a home that looks… well, homey!

Tiffany Bryant

I couldn’t have said it better. Totally agree!!


Fun, unique idea! A genuine and authentic way to include your followers, thank you! Slightly conflicted as I love REFINED SCANDINAVIAN CHALET but more so the images that feature warmer/natural wood versus white (normally I gravitate to painted wood 99% of the time) as those read more “mountain chalet” to me and really draw the outdoors and location into the rooms in a refined way, making the views part of the design.


So excited to watch this design process (and I totally entered in all possible ways). Both styles are beautiful, but I love the refined look best.


Definitely the more refined look, love it and can’t wait to see how you interpret it in your new place. Would also loooove to win the stay but the $1000 spending money wouldn’t go anywhere near my travel expenses from Australia! I’m also a fan of Simone Haag whose home you’ve chosen to illustrate the refined Scandinavian chalet, she designs beautiful spaces.


Love them both and this reader participation idea. Excited to see how it all turns out!


So fun to see what you’ve put together! I think the rustic version would be A LOT of work to pull off and I personally don’t like it as much as the refined. I agree the refined version seemed cozier to me from the two options presented. Can’t wait to see what style wins!


This is so exciting!! I can’t wait to see what we create! 😀


Either of these would be wonderful! But I would want the rustic if it were mine. Either way how awesome for your family. This is going to be fun to follow! Thanks for including us. (I was curious if it was in Big Bear or Arrowhead – now I know).


Oh boy, this is going to be STUNNING! And what a prize!

I just wanted to say, as someone who works in digital marketing and social media strategy, I just so appreciate how you are pushing the industry forward and keeping authentic connections a part of it. It’s not easy and I love watching that as much as the amazing design!


I personally like the refined better, BUT I voted rustic because I think it will be easier with renters. And the vibe will be so completely different than what you’ve done before. Excited either way!


I’m so excited! Thanks Emily for making this so interactive – it’s going to be fun! Dinesen is an incredible source for quality wood and great customer service (full disclosure – it was too expensive for us and we ultimately used a local guy – depends on your budget)


Scandi Chalet Scandi Chalet Scandi Chalet!!! I was hesitant when I read it as the first option…but once I saw the second option I knew scandi was the winner. The “cabin” version feels like something I’ve seen before.


This is fun! I wanted to also note that I would be one of those people who only enter once, and doesn’t share the contest, but I don’t think that should necessarily be seen as a reflection of how much I care about the blog or the project. I just don’t like it when my friends on social media do this kind of thing (share something just to have a better chance of winning). Just wanted to point that out, in case one of the single entry folks like me does win. (I’m wondering, can you look through comment history… Read more »


LOL, I was thinking the same thing and hoping that would be the case! I pinned it, because that’s less obnoxious, but I definitely hate instagram shares for promos (or tag a billion friends in this post to be entered!).


AGREE 100%!!! Around our house, my husband knows who “Emily” is when speaking conversationally about something you’ve done. “Emily selected this same light fixture!” and he doesn’t give me a blank stare… So, I too hope that one level of entry isn’t considered a ding against enthusiasm because I’m just not big on other levels of social media, but your blog is the first I read every single day when I get into the office… and has been for years! p.s. I went to Denmark a few years back with Carl Hansen & Son and Scandinavian design has since consumed… Read more »


Same, including references to “Emily” when speaking to my husband about twinning design choices!

Cris S.



I’m in the same boat. Long time Emily fan (Design Star, Secrets of a Stylist- I still miss it), but not a big social media person. 🙂


I’m in agreement as well. Makes sense to give people credit for sharing, but it’s just not something I am comfortable doing. I read this blog every single day and comment from time to time. My enthusiasm is real but just can’t be calculated based on this! In any case, I vote for the refined style. I think it looks way more like YOU than the rustic style.

Anna McNinja

I also agree with the above! I’m just not into social media these days, but I’ve been a huge fan of Emily’s since 2010.


Same here.


Same here!


I’m the same! A daily faithful reader, who just isn’t into other social media platforms.
I vote refined!!!


I agree!

Megan T

I really love both of them! I am also sooooo excited for this idea. It will be so fun to be part of the process. I like option 1 more just because I think this is what my house leans towards, so I would love to see you do it! But number 2 would be good as well!


#teamrustic, baby!!!!!!!!!!

Jordyn Burne

Refined Scandinavian Chalet all the way! I am designing a house at the moment and this would be MAJOR inspo for me!




Voting technology question: I use a different email address for blogs, Facebook, and Pinterest (I have three email addresses). If I vote using one, and then post on FB which is linked to a different one, do y’all know how to keep that straight?


Love this idea! Thank you!
I voted for refined Scandinavian. It’s beautiful!




I thought I would go for the rustic, but I’m actually really into the refined. Thanks for including us in the process! I’m excited to see where this goes.


This is a hard choice! I love the refined version, but rustic seems more true to the house’s innate style and its location. It also seems like a better compromise with Brian’s initial vision for the house. Looking forward to seeing what you do with either option.


I love the inspiration for both of these. I’d be wary of trying to add in ‘rustic cabin’ details to a gut renovation. I think the character that is appealing in these images isn’t necessarily something you can just throw on in a couple of months. The details ‘feel’ right when they’re organic to the structure and function of the house. Beadboard, old bricks etc. may look kind of off if they don’t make sense in your space. I do think overall the midcentury scandi vibe is a great direction for this house.


Love this new series!


Hi EHD team – hoping I can enter from CANADA? I didn’t read any rules against having to be from US?

Been reading the blog daily for nearly two years now:) would be THRILLED to win but just want to make sure the effort won’t be for naught!!


yes, she said it’s open internationally. good luck.

Ashley Larkin

Love the concept, Emily. I’ve got loads of respect for both your communication as you start the process and your vision to do this with your audience. I’m #teamrustic by a nose, but will be so happy to follow along with whatever is chosen! All the best from Portland.


Love both, but I like the idea of the rustic look just a bit more for a cabin by the lake. Just seems like a better fit. Can’t wait to watch how this all unfolds.

Karyn Meadows

This is so exciting I cannot stand it. Waited all weekend to see what you came up with and was so not disappointed. I absolutely LOVE the Refined Scandinavian Chalet. I love how modern and yet soft and warm it is., especially with the plans for wood walls and big windows to capture the beautiful light!!


Hard choice. I think the first looks like it fits your house better, but the 2nd seems more like what Brian wants? Both are lovely.


Oh boy!! I love them both but since it’s a mountain house, #2 feels more suited to the dwelling and area. On a side note, having recently moved I’ve just realized that my own style is what I will call ‘Scandinavian beach house’. It’s now a thing 🙂


These are both great options, but I chose the refined Scandinavian mostly b/c I miss all the midcentury genius of your old home. Don’t get me wrong, I LOVE what you have done with the English Tudor, I just wish there was some alternate universe where we could live in two fantastic houses at the same time!! It was a tough call though, I hope you end up blending in a little bit of the one you don’t choose. Can’t wait to see this project come together 🙂


Refined Scandinavian chalet! I love the simplicity and the warmth.

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