Mid-Century Modern(ization)

Redefining modern for a family-friendly home


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DIY Wall Art

Art is expensive.  I can usually afford a cute postcard-size artist print when we visit a street fair or something, but our dining room wall has a 9′ expanse of blank wall and, well, that’s a whole lot of postcards.  The blank wall was beginning to bug me, but since funds for artwork are currently non-existent, I knew whatever we were going to hang on that wall was going to have to be made in-house.

This is the wall of which I speak:

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We do have a table in there now, although admittedly not much else.

Now, I’m no stranger to the DIY wall art thing– a couple years back I created a fantastic 8′ panel featuring an airplane that we are planning on hanging in the dining room bedroom hallway.  It only took a day to complete and it is SO FREAKING AMAZING.  Seriously, I think it may be the greatest thing I’ve ever made second only to my kid.  Since it’s currently I pieces in a dark corner of my bedroom I’ll have to show you the finished project once it’s hung, but this is Pottery Barn piece I replicated:

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To recreate this piece for about $40 (opposed to the $299 it retails for), I printed an image of a similar plane laid out across 35 sheets of 8.5″ x 11″ paper.  Then I pieced the plane together with tape and used Mod Podge to transfer the ink onto wood panels.  This is the template I used for the ink transfer to give you an idea.

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I found the template at The Cre8tive Outlet who provides fabulous details and instructions here, here, and here if you want to give it a try.  Doooo it!!!

So, we toyed with hanging this piece in our dining room, but the chandelier would hang down in front of it, and I love the plane so much that I just don’t want to have anything hanging between me and it’s awesomeness.  That decided, I hit up Pinterest for ideas for a new piece.

At some point it occurred to me that it might be neat to do a transportation theme (maybe I can make a train for Logan’s room down the line?) using different mediums.  For whatever reason, I decided a bike would be neat for the dining room and because of the length of the wall it seemed that a tandem bike would suit my needs best.  So I downloaded a silhouette of a vintage tandem bicycle I found on Google Images and enlisted my mom to come help with the artistry (not my strong suit).

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This time around I wanted to use something other than the 2′ x 2′ wood panels I used for the plane — that thing is HEAVY and hanging it is going to be a bear.  I figured canvases would be nice and light and, with that in mind, I bought three 2′ x 3′ canvases for this project (FYI Michaels frequently has 40% off their canvases and you can pair that deal with their Deal of the Week — just pull the coupon from the website up on your phone and they’ll scan it at the register).

Rather than trying to draw the bicycle freehand onto the canvas I decided it would be easier if I just blew it up to the size I needed it and traced it. Luckily, I work in a construction office and have access to the giant plotters that architects and engineers use to print their drawings — though I’m sure Kinkos or Staples could print something up for you for a couple bucks.

I pasted the image on a 36″x72″ template and printed it across four 30″x32″ pages.  Like this: Bicycle

So once I had my canvases, the prints, and some craft paint my mom came down and we played with the baby until he was ready for some zzz’s.  Once he was down, she started painting the background on the canvases while I started cutting out the silhouette so that we could trace it. I very carefully cut the bicycle out so all I had left was the black bike (and I trashed the white background) and taped the segments together.  As soon as all the canvases were painted and we were ready to get to tracing and painting … the baby woke.  Go figure.

So we went to the Zoo.

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When we got back and the kiddo went down again, Mom and I traced the bike outline onto the canvases and painted it black.  Minus the addition of the spokes, we clapped ourselves on the back and considered it very near done!

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But … when we brought it inside something wasn’t right.  I loved the orange and chose it because I thought it was fun and bold, but sadly it didn’t work in our space.  As soon as we brought it into the room it made all the wood in the living room (the paneled wall especially) seem really light and brassy — can wood look brassy? —  instead of warm and rich as it had before.  I went to bed wondering how I could fix it and determined that, sadly, the color would have to change.

Blues are opposite of browns on the color wheel (whereas orange is a near neighbor) so I knew a rich blue would bring out the warm tones that I was after in our woods.   I also thought that the gold would not only incorporate our mid-century chandelier (we may or may not replace this down the line) but add a touch of glam, too.

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So, there was no easy fix unfortunately, but with a little time and effort (and another $5 for new paints) I could have the look I was going for.  It was funky, it was bold, but it had a dash of elegance to it, too — a mix I thought perfect for a dining/living room combo.

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I started by taking the blue and carefully covering the orange.  I purposefully didn’t cover all of it because I liked the look of the variations peeking through–although it did give a bit more coverage that what you see below — this is just the first coat and all three canvases got one and a half (the half being a spotty dusting where I deemed there too much orange).

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Here is a photo showing all three stages of the transformation.  On the right is the original orange panel, and the final blue and gold on the left.  The middle panel is halfway done with the new blue paint covering the orange, but without any gold applied yet.

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The greatest thing about paint is that it’s not permanent.  You can always, always, always change the color if you don’t like the way things pan out the first time around.  In my case, the finished product ended up taking a week to complete (night hours after the bambino was in bed) instead of a naptime afternoon project that I had anticipated but whatev.  I love it.

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No, I lurrrve it.  Can’t wait to hang it and show you all how it looks in the dining room! (EDIT: we hung it! Check it out in the room here!) But first, spokes. This part makes me nervous!!!

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To get the spacing right I’m going to need to find the diameter circumference of the inner circle and … divide by …. sixteen??  …No …that won’t work.  Thirty-two.  …Right?

Math is, again, not my strong suit.  Whelp, at least I can always paint over it and start again if I get it wrong!

Update: See it on the wall with the spokes here!

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The Welcome Wagon

In an earlier post I mentioned the 11 rugs we’ve bought since moving in.  Of those 11, four were door mats that I’d purchased because I can’t seem to keep the mulch from the flower beds out of the house.  Unfortunately, they don’t work well as a mulch deterrent, but they do seem to scream “Welcome, one and all!” in echoes throughout the neighborhood.  In fact, one quite literally does.

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We have this same mat, but ours is covered in leaves so instead I’ll give you this pretty pic courtesy of Two Twenty One.

We’ve just completed our first month in this house and in that time we’ve had many visitors from the neighborhood stop by — both to welcome us to the neighborhood and to satisfy their curiosity I suppose.  They no doubt heard the racket of us replacing the floors in those early days and wanted to see what it was all about and, I imagine, anything else of interest that we may be up to.  Many of the homes in our neighborhood have similar features (although none are the same) and so I can see how one might want to tour through another person’s home to see what they’ve done with those quirky design elements.  To date, we’ve given three or four tours to complete strangers!

The neighborhood entourage began with our Block Captain (mmm hmm — she lives next door) who came bearing a little gift from the Welcome Wagon … and the cost breakdown for our neighborhoods’ private security detail.  The cost is steep, and the guilt trips are at the ready (it’s on a volunteer basis, but they brazenly avoid mentioning that), but at least the deal was sweetened with chocolate and coffee.

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Last night, we were greeted with yet another knock on the door.  Typically, I’m thrilled with each new neighbor we meet because we knew exactly ONE by name at our last house after living there for six years. However, on this occasion the bed wasn’t made, dinner had exploded all over the kitchen, and my husband was eating pizza at the kitchen table in his underwear.  Not to mention the person at the door was the previous owner of our home.

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I am absolutely in that 1%.

I considered not answering it, but it’s hard to hide in a house full of windows with no drapes (and I had seen her approaching so she very likely would have seen me dive under the kitchen table with a squirmy and increasingly vocal one-year old and a 6′ tall man in his boxer briefs).

Needless to say we graciously toured her around (fully clothed) as she oohed and ahhed at the changes we’d made.  She had known that we would be installing hardwoods, and although she initially couldn’t understand why someone wouldn’t want carpet in the bedrooms (to each their own — but I swear once you pull up a wall-to-wall carpet and see what’s under it you won’t want to touch another carpet in your lifetime) she agreed they looked fantastic.  She loved what we had done with the laundry room “It looks so much larger!”, but looked a little disappointed that we’d removed all the heavy drapes and the wallpaper in the kitchen, “What will you do instead?”

Having recently toured through our own rental, I knew firsthand how it felt to see someone else’s belongings in your home. The smells are weird, the furniture arrangement is different, and you continuously find yourself wondering, “Why on EARTH would someone do THAT?!”  In respect of her and her previous 30 year tenure in the home we refrained from saying that we felt the house needed updating, instead, we just casually mentioned that certain things didn’t work for us and our lifestyle so we’d adapted them (like moving the giant kosher fridge to the garage).  She seemed to accept that well and said she looks forward to another tour next time she’s in the area to see what else we might “make ours”.  I gave her my cell number so hopefully I’ll have a little heads up next time … but probably not.

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Last week we also met the new neighbors that will be moving in across the street.  They are a young couple like us and have two small children that bracket Logan in age.  The kids will all be attending the same school in a couple years (each a grade apart) and I can’t wait for their first play date.  From the outside their house looks similarly laid out to ours so I know that someday soon I will be that nosey neighbor knocking on their door, bearing sweets, and craning my neck around them in the doorway as I try and weasel an invitation inside to tour.


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What I’m Loving — Paint

I’m no interior designer — and in fact I find many design decisions quite paralyzing — but I know what I like when I see it which is why my Pinterest and Houzz boards are overflowing with ideas that maybe one day I’ll implement, but most likely I wont.   In honor of these dozens and dozens of pinned favorites, I thought I’d start a new series called What I’m Loving and share with you guys a few photos I’m obsessed with and what I would do if I had the time/money to make it happen.

The first installment of the series?  PAINT

Paint can make a huge statement for very little money — although it can be time consuming to achieve a unique look.  Remodelaholic compiled this great list of 100 wall treatments and these are my top 8.  Wouldn’t these look awesome on an accent wall?

This herring bone pattern would be great in the den across from the paneled wall.  Man, that’s a lot of painters tape:

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I would love to do this simple design on one or two of the closet doors in my walk-in.

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I can see painting these bold stripes on the far wall in our dining room for some great impact.

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This random design would be funky in the guest room.  Very modern!

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I LOVE this. I’d do it in the guest room or maybe on a smaller scale on the huge pocket door to the den?

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This handwritten wall is awesome and all you need is a sharpie.  My handwriting isn’t consistent enough though. I’d be hyper critical of the final product.  Sigh.

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This is a fun (and super easy!) idea for a boy’s or girl’s bedroom!

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These triangles are also good for a kids room!

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This photo is from a Bloomingdales catalog.  I want to do this in the master bedroom. For realz.

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I’d do it in pink too if Kirk would let me.  Fat chance of that though.   But seriously folks — this is happening.


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A Look at the Laundry

I’m thrilled to have a light-filled laundry room right off my kitchen — really I am.  I even did two loads of colors and a load of whites on Saturday!  Kirk will be the first one to tell you that it’s been YEARS since I’ve done that (check out this post to read about why).  But as convenient as this space is, it has it’s shortcomings as well.

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The first issue — and the most easily addressed — is that it quickly became the catchall space for things that we couldn’t find a home for.  Stashed behind the previous owner’s kosher fridge were a rug, an ironing board, a vacuum, three lamps, three mirrors, two small tables, an art project, an art print, the 36×24 seating chart from our wedding, a vintage children’s desk from Kirk’s childhood, a small potted plant, and a basket of knickknacks.

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Our first order of business was to take pictures of everything we planned to list for sale on Craigslist  (not all of which was stashed in this room). The we made a concerted effort to find a home for things like the vacuum while the items for sale were moved into the garage — including the fridge which required taking off not only the refrigerator doors, but the door to the garage as well.  It also meant cleaning up this grossness from underneath.  These are now the cleanest nine tiles in the entire kitchen/laundry area.

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Yes, that’s dog food. The previous owner had a cat.

When the room was cleared out, we started bringing back in only what it made sense to keep.  We rolled the rug out because I figured it made the space look at bit more inviting even if it’s the same color as the walls and a bit too big for the room.

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Then I brought back in this side table because I thought it would work well as a place to drop keys, purses and diaper bags.

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Next I brought back in the desk and piled it high with some of Logan’s books, puzzles and forgotten toys.  Now he has a place to play while I’m making dinner (he loooves to sit in chairs).

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Finally, I hung the mirror on the wall over the side table (perfect for that last hair check before walking out the door) and temporarily hung an art print of the seating chart that Kirk’s uncle created for our wedding reception.  I say temporarily because I gave it the Warhol treatment using some programs and printers at work and just have it tacked up there with double sided tape.

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Photo Bombing Baby

Those with a keen eye will notice the desk chair changed in between shots. I found this sweet yellow number at a thrift store for $15 — it’s making the rounds.

In the short window provided by Logan’s nap we turned this space from a glorified closet into usable living space.  Is it pretty?  Not really, but it’s functional and that was our short-term goal.  In time we’ll paint the walls a fun color, maybe swap out the rug (I have a red one to test out), add a bench so we can sit and put on our shoes, and maybe hang a few hooks for coats.

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Here’s a shot to get you oriented — that’s the door to the garage at the end of the hall and you can almost see one of the chairs in the kitchenette to the left.  You can also see Mission Wallpaper Removal underway.  It’s amazing how just knowing this room is open and uncluttered makes the whole kitchen space feel larger, even when you can’t directly see it.  Mind games.


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Vintage Finds

All these projects are wearing me out, but the research (ok, shopping) for them has given me so much inspiration!  Here are just a few things I’ve come across that made my heart go pitter pat.

I’m crushing big time on this dinette set I stumbled on at a local thrift store.  How awesome are these chairs!?  I love the curved backs.  The table has a leaf in the photo, but it can be removed to make a smaller circular table and its laminate top has a funky “inlay” that looks like an orange cut in half.

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The only thing keeping me from shelling out the mere $250 is that it’s a little dark for our kitchen (although that didn’t stop me from going back two days later to pet it lovingly).  If money were no object, I would reupholster the chairs in white and paint the metal table and chair bases a funky bright color (yellow?  Kelly green?).

The same store had this amazing pedestal desk (now you see why I went back?!) that I DID buy.  It was stickered at $130, but when the store owner saw me linger he said he’d give it to me for $85 because he had a new shipment coming in and he needed to make room. I’d wanted to pick up an MCM desk since we moved in because although I love the desk in our den — I refurbished it myself — it’s too traditional for the space.  Still, it’s technically Kirk’s desk (he uses it, I don’t) so I didn’t want to buy it without his input.

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But when I started to leave, the owner approached me again and offered his final price of $75.  The desk has some cosmetic wear but it was really well made and I knew similar desks would go for $300-400.  I couldn’t walk away.  But here’s where the story gets good:  as the owner was lugging it out of the store toward my car he accidentally chipped the top.  I was bummed because the white laminate top had been the one pristine part of the desk, but I talked him into giving me back $25.  So, that’s the story of how I got this baby for $50.  Oh, and this sweet yellow chair that had me at hello for another $15.

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I’m going to try and clean the desk up if I can, but if the sides are too rough I may paint them white.  I think the result would be pretty eye-catching.  Here’s my inspiration piece (I’d keep the legs natural though):

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Across town I found this vintage bar cart at a donation center.  It was in really rough shape, but for some reason it spoke to me.  It actually wasn’t even on the floor yet so I almost walked away, but my sweet friend (and fellow thriftier) Sarah charmed them into pricing it and wheeling it out for me.

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That sheet of drawer liner may look like it’s just lying there, but looks can be deceiving.  I probably spent 2 hours scraping it off with a chisel (really shouldn’t have bothered as I don’t believe it’s the original shelf anyway and would only be about $10 to replace).  I spent another hour sanding down the rust to try and get a smooth finish on the frame.  I’m not done yet, but I plan to give it a fresh coat of gold spray paint and do a little something unexpected with the top.  Maybe put a mirror in or some smoke glass?  Maybe just paint it a bright color.  I haven’t decided yet.

Everyone thinks I’m crazy for this one, but here are some photos of how I plan to use it when all is said and done.

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Pretty neat, right? I love upcycling vintage pieces in unexpected ways.  You can buy the bar cart in that first photo for only $948!  Go ahead.  Click it.  Or you can find a rusted up one like I did for $6.

What’s your best thrift store find?


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Let Me Entertain You

On Labor Day we had the family over for a pot-luck style cookout.  We had sprinklers, and swings, and bocce, and cherry cobbler.  It was fun!

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Our impromptu gathering served as a first look at the new place for most of our family and so I was motivated to get some quick to-dos checked off my list.  Not that our guests were going to be inspecting the hemlines on my shower curtains or anything but, well, if they were to they would notice that they went from this:

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Sad and saggy.

to this:

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Perfectly pert.

For the record (and before you get too impressed) I didn’t actually sew them.  I used fusible webbing that I just ironed on in about 3 minutes … ’cause that’s how I roll.

And if they were to get up close and personal with our sliding glass doors they might notice that I not only washed them inside and out, but I scrapped off this goo (melted caulking perhaps?) that I had previously assumed was dried paint.  The drips on these windows spanned the entire length of the living room.

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Before.

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After (but obviously before Windex).

Now this seemingly innocuous task deserves a pat on the back.  I thought it would take me two minutes with a paint scrapper, but it took closer to 30 with an arsenal that included three butter knives and a Brillo pad.  Goo Gone came to my rescue again.  I’ll say it again: we should all buy stock.

I’m sure it’s of no surprise that our family did not subject our home to the white glove test.  They came for the good times and the good food and there were plenty of both — we are so blessed to have such amazing family! (But, oh, if they HAD!)

Also, this guy tried to crash the party, but luckily — for us, not so much him — something got to him before he made his way to the beer.  He was DOA.

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Hope you all had a great — and snake-free — Labor Day!


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Wallpaper, Oh How I Loathe Thee

From the first time Kirk and I saw the wallpaper in this kitchen, we knew that if we bought the house it would have to go.  And fast.

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The day after we got the keys my mom came over to help me organize the kitchen (mom, do you know where we put the spatulas?!), but we both kept getting sidetracked. Who, me? Sidetracked?

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We would find a new home for a box of spices or a stack of tableware and then steal a glance at that blue slashed wall — our fingers twitching to tug at a curling corner. It didn’t take long before we locked gazes and, in silent agreement, abandoned the nine boxes marked Pantry Goods and started in on the walls.

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In 10 minutes we had peeled off the decorative layer of the two-ply wallpaper and were left with a golden fuzz on the walls. It wasn’t pretty, but it wasn’t horrible either. The sallow tones faded away into the walnut cabinetry — almost too well as I nearly forgot about the felt-like backing papering the walls over the next month.

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Almost.

It was my mom who decided on the new wall color; casually lifting a small glazed pot the color of the sea on a gray day. It coordinated perfectly with the cabinetry and was subtle enough to be, well … subtle. That little pot found a new home in the hyper-organized yellow bath.

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I spy with my little eye…

Inspired, I snagged some paint color swatches, found the match (Bear’s Water Mark), and began to envision the forthcoming transformation.

But that was all before I tried to get that fuzzy second layer of wallpaper off. I tried a scraper, I bought a steamer, I soaked it with vinegar and wallpaper removing compounds. But this stuff was the real deal and it made me work for it. Chipping away a panel at a time, by the end of the first week I was left with this (and a very sore bicep).

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In the following weeks I moved onto other projects, but these three naked panels plagued my mealtimes, and detracted from my gratuitous baby photo ops.

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And so I wrote this post. Trying to rekindle some inspiration and get this project going again. Because there’s nothing more motivating than a public proclamation — and with it the threat of public failure.

Amiright?