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      Architecture

      Boston's Favorite Christmas Homes

      By now, as the holiday rush winds down and Christmas draws closer, you probably are in need of some de-stressing. What better way to get away from all of the season's stresses and still have some quality time with your family or friends than to take a look around the city for some wonderfully decorated holiday homes. Perhaps take some queues on how to dress up yours next year, when you make that move to purchase your own.

      For some reason, Christmas lights always brightens up one's day. They're at the very heart of the season, bringing brightness into the longest, coldest, darkest nights of the year. Some are inspired by the Christian faith, some are purely decorative. But whether you're moved by "Peace on Earth" or a holly jolly Christmas, below are nine must-see electric yuletide displays from Dorchester to Saugus' incredible Lynn Fells Parkway that will warm your cold New England heart and melt it away... and if you see a property you like along your drive, remember to keep us in mind - it might just be up for sale and the perfect gift for yourself next Christmas!

      16 & 22 Lynn Fells Parkway, Saugus

      The Amsden and the Guarino families, who share a driveway, are behind this show-stopping display--one of the many light extravaganzas along Lynn Fells Parkway in Saugus. This dual display includes a penguin popping out of an igloo, a manger scene, pink flamingos and a life-sized Santa riding in a sleigh pulled by a little red-nosed Rudolph.

       

      26 Norton Street, Readville

      The couple who owns this Ginger-bread like home have been decorating it for over 40 years. The lights, if you get out of your car, come along with festive music to cheer you along as you marvel at the over 2,000 lights that are decked out on its halls. Adams Street, Fields Corner Hoa Nguyen and his father, Trong Nguyen, light up Boston's Fields Corner neighborhood with an animated spectacle of electric snow, hovering angels, blinking Christmas trees and what seem to be LED fireworks.

      Otis Street, Somerville

      John Ragno, the owner, has been doing the decorating on his house for almost 30 years now. He decorates three houses he owns in the neighborhood as well, two side by side, and one across the street. The joke is that he started off with a manger outside, a small manger on the porch. And it grew to what it is now - a massive Christmas medley of decorations.

      Bainbridge Street, just west of Rockwell Street, Malden

      Over the past decade, Maryann Spinney and her daughter and son-in-law Evelyn and Mark Anzalone have lit up houses down the lane from each other on Malden's Bainbridge Street. Several neighbors have also gotten into the act, so that it's become a whole glowing holiday neighborhood.

      The Charles River Esplanade Hatch Shell & Longfellow Bridge

      You might be wondering who's boat that is along the Charles that has a Santa riding in it. Well, the answer is it's Community Boating Inc.'s holiday hello to everyone passing over the Charles bridge. It's a pretty nifty sight to see especially when you're crossing over to Cambridge.

      Spooky Spots In and Around Boston

      If you're one to celebrate All Hallow's Eve (aka Halloween), then this list is for you. Boston and the rest of the Bay State is known to have haunted locations all over, given its abundance of antiquated buildings, and richness in history as the state is one of America's oldest settlements. Beantown's cobblestones, which date back as far as the early 1800's, are a sign of the city's dated past and have been witness to a lot of happenings, both commercial and creepy. Most of the homes built then were intended to house multiple families and have been home to many generations that some say still hasn't left its premises.

      Charles Gate Hotel, Back Bay Sitting in Boston's Back Bay on Beacon Street, this hotel was built in 1891 by John Pickering Putnam, his architectural influence was derived from his interest in Nationalism. Frequented by the wealthy until the 1920's, the Charlesgate quickly became a boarding house for ladies of the night and it was linked to the Mafia. The Hotel is now filled with multiple condominiums complete with visitors from the other side. Apparitions in the form of Flappers have been spotted by several dozen workman and visitors, and the basement, once a stable has had quite a few sightings of ghost horses.

      Omni Parker House, Downtown Boston The ghost of Harvey Parker, who opened the Parker House in 1856 and died in 1884, allegedly roams the hotel's 10th floor annex. During his life, Parker was "a perfectionist who kept his hands in every detail of his restaurant and hotel operations," says the Omni's website, so his apparitions "hardly come as a shock." Other encounters include shadows, mysterious rocking chair noises -- especially strange because the hotel has no rocking chairs -- and orbs of light. Elevators also mysteriously come to the third floor, where Charles Dickens lived for two years, without being called.

      Lizzie Borden House, Fall River Although she was acquitted of the gruesome murder at her 1845 Victorian home, the ax-wielding Lizzie Borden never shook her "forty whacks" claim to fame that she killed her father and stepmother on Aug. 4, 1892. In addition to her chop-chop notoriety, Borden apparently had an intimate relationship with actress Nance O'Neill. There's also a theory that she had a torrid love affair with the housekeeper, Bridget Sullivan. Currently a bed & breakfast and museum, the Borden house is open for curiosity seekers to spend the night where the murders took place.

      Cutler Majestic Theater, 219 Tremont St. The theater was built in 1903 and opened and closed on many occasions before Emerson bought and restored it in the 1980s. "Every theatre major at Emerson must do tech work at the Majestic, and most have experienced something," according to a write-up on Massachusetts Paranormal Crossroads. Some say the ghost of a former Boston mayor, who died during a performance, still sits in his seat, while others believe a couple and their daughter hang around the building's upper balcony.

      Hammond Castle, Worcester Inventor John Hays Hammond, Jr. who built the medieval-style castle in the late 1920s had an odd desire to be reincarnated as a cat. Many believe the black feline who roamed the grounds and sat in his favorite chair in the library was Hammond himself. Henry Davis Sleeper, the legendary designer who is rumored to have had an unrequited love affair with his Red Roof neighbor, Abram Piatt Andrew Jr., designed the inventor's favorite spot, known as the "whisper room," where people have heard disembodied voices from beyond.

      How To Survive In A Walk-Up Apartment

      In our previous post, we gave you tips on how to locate the best walkable neighborhood. This time, we thought we'd focus on something else that Bostonians know a little (or, actually, a lot) about: walk-up apartments.

      Boston, being one of America's most historical cities, has a lot of brownstones and row housing. They are the quintessential backbone of the true Bostonian neighborhood, dating back to the 1800's when the English built the city on brick and mortar. Most of these buildings are still standing, and are even considered to be the most luxurious of all types of properties in the city.

      As most know, a walk down the South End, Back Bay, and Beacon Hill gives you a sense of how colonial Boston was, and what kind of houses were available. Fast forward to today, these are iconic living spaces, and food and shopping destinations.  This scenery excites both visitors and future residents of the city, as there is a certain charm living in these tenements, regardless of their age since majority have been updated.

      One bothersome factor with living in these brownstones, as most brownstone-dwelling inhabitants would attest to,  is the fact that not all are equip with elevators. Some are - with old-fashion and vintage lifts, but majority are not. This means that if you're on the fourth floor and above, you have a long way to go before reaching your destination, whether to go up or to come down.

      That is why it is not surprising that the two oft complaints of residents living in walk-up apartments are: 1) forgetting items of importance in their unit, and 2) having items with them on their trek up.  But just like any apartment, there are pros and cons that will become part of daily life. The only way you can make sure that a living space is 100% perfect to your needs is if you have it custom-built to address each and every one of your needs.

      Given that, the key then, to surviving a high-floor walkup apartment is leaving the house as little as possible and carrying as little as you have to go up and down the stairs. Organization, along with the help of a few friends, is surely the way to live a life in a walk-up apartment. Here are the best tips we've thought of to make your high-brow, high-floor living as painless as possible:

      1. Post-Its are your protection

      Having to go up and down five or so flight of stairs is no fun. This is especially the case if you forget even only one item that's important and crucial to your day. Say, your mobile phone or umbrella. It's no fun at all having to go back for something that's not as replaceable or could be substituted (i.e. water bottle, etc.) The most common solution to this? Post Its. Though they're not aesthetically awesome displayed by your front door, they are your last line of defense for forgetting stuff or reminding you of things you need to do before you head down that sprawling staircase. They'll not only save you the physical stress, but also keep your mind alert by way of memorization.

      2. Free delivery is your BFF

      • Use UPS or FedEx to receive big packages because they will deliver and pick up packages from your doorstep (as opposed to USPS which does not).
      • Sign up for free or flat-rate delivery services such as Amazon.com's Amazon Prime, which provides free two-day delivery and access to streaming movies and shows and Kindle books. After a free 30-day trial, a yearly subscription is $79. They ship via UPS so it'll be to your doorstep.
      • Peapod by Stop and Shop also features free grocery delivery right to your doorstep for qualifying orders. This is most ideal not only because you are in a walk-up, but also during winter season when it is even more of a pain to get supplies. 
      • Food delivery sites such as Foodler and GrubHub enables you to order take-out delivered straight to your door from hundreds of local restaurants.
      • Furniture delivery can be daunting and costly. Many national companies don't understand Boston living and only deliver to curbside--a big no-no for the many Bostonians who reside in walkups. Be sure to scan for "white glove delivery" (discount sites like Overstock.com offers this for most of its heavier items) to have bulky items delivered to your door.

      3.  Become a great tipper

      Make sure you take into account that delivery folks are going above (literally!) and beyond in carrying wares up to your cut-rate palace in the sky and should be compensated for it, particularly if the deliverables are extremely heavy and cumbersome. Also be sure to tip your frequent deliverers like UPS during the holidays.

      4. Go high-tech

      Thankfully technology has advanced a lot over the last decade, so gone are the days of having to procure movies at the video store and carrying 24-packs of water home from the store.

      • Forgo heavy tomes and instead read via your mobile reading device; get online magazine subscriptions; and order reading material from the Boston Public Library.
      • Subscribe to Netflix to have movies sent to your door and stream them via your laptop and take advantage of On-Demand movie ordering via your cable company

      5. When in doubt, DIY

      • Avoid needless trips to the bodega downstairs by buying your own coffee/cappuccino/smoothie makers.
      • Instead of lugging cases of seltzer--who doesn't love seltzer?--buy a SodaStream and turn ordinary tap into carbonated goodness in an instant without leaving your apartment.
      • Forget bottled water and go the Brita water filter route.
      • If you don't have your own washer and dryer and can afford it, outsource your laundry. For about 85 cents-$1 per pound you can have it picked up and delivered, rather than walking up and downstairs with heavy loads of dirty clothes to the basement laundry room (if you have it) or even further to the local laundromat.

      6. Remember that it takes a village

      Ask friends and or visitors to your unit to collect your mail from downstairs. This isn't a typical request, so make sure you do it to the right person who you feel will comply comfortably with your request. And remember to give them a "parting gift" - whatever that may be - to anyone who consistently visits you on the top floor; they are a real friend, so giving them a "parting gift" upon their departure probably would probably be a good incentive if you want them to return.

      7. Get in a Boston (walkup) State of Mind

      Telling people you live in a sixth floor walkup apartment makes you seem more hardcore than any neck tattoo ever could, so embrace it.

      Man up psychologically on those days when you are sick, exhausted or drunk (If you are are real Bostonian there will be days you are all three simultaneously). Pump encouraging music on your iPod as you crawl, lurch, or curse your way up the stairs. Stop at each landing if you need to, send a text to a friend or simply eavesdrop on the sounds emanating from the nearest apartment and construct an entertaining story for yourself about what lurks behind each door.

      El comienzo de la ciudad

      En el año 1630 con la llegada de los colonos puritanos emergería Boston, una de las ciudades más antiguas e históricas del continente norte americano. Aunque Boston es una ciudad pequeña se encuentra entre los lugares mas poblados de Nueva Inglaterra. Es por ello, que este municipio se considera el centro cultural y económico de la región.

      Este pequeño rincón situado al noreste de América alberga un fascinante contraste arquitectónico. Un claro ejemplo de modernidad y antigüedad se encuentra en la  plaza de Copley.

      En dicha plaza, podemos encontrar al edificio Hancock, construido en  1976, haciendo sombra a la iglesia barroca de la trinidad, construida en 1872. Si le gusta caminar, las calles de la capital de Massachusetts ofrece multitud de hitos históricos y sitios sorprendentes para conocer. La primera escuela pública, la primera biblioteca o la primera escuela latina son algunos de los monumentos que se escoden bajo el techo Bostoniano.Si busca una experiencia única e inolvidable...¡No lo piense más! Boston es lo que estaba buscando, una ciudad de innovación, cultura y sensaciones.

      Si busca el apartamento de sus sueños llame al (617) 505-1781 o escribanos a info@bostonire.com y concrete una cita con nosotros. ¡Le facilitamos el comienzo de una nueva aventura!

      What's In A Great Neighborhood?

      What distinguishes a great neighborhood from the merely meh? It's a difficult question, encompassing everything from physical attributes such as good design to the right number of parks and public places.

      Unmistakably, a lot of factors converge to create the perfect neighborhood. Of course, personal taste trumps all. However, according to experts that range from urban planners, to geographers, to well-known architects and real-estate agents, pinpointing the perfect neighborhood is made up of a set of characteristics, not just from  a single set of parameters. Neighborhoods are put on the map for buyers or renters because they are a fit to the person's desired features.

      Is it a quaint and charming street, good schools or an abundance of interesting shops, restaurants and other diversions? What elements conspire to create great neighborhoods such as Boston's Back Bay or sultry South End?

      PEOPLE AND PLACE If you ask public space experts, it's people, not developers, who create the next big place. According to them, it's always a bunch of individuals coming in who think the potential for their community is bigger. Potential neighbors have this feeling that something has happened there and start to do little things that collectively add up to a big thing.

      That might include a shoe-repair shop owner sprucing up his storefront, a coin laundry adding an attached coffee shop or a resident putting in a park bench on the corner to allow people to stop and talk. These twists give a signal that something is going on here. Pretty soon other people put a bench on the street. Most of the time, this is when, revitalization and gentrification is born. Take, for example, the Village in the suburb of Brookline.

      In many areas across the city, this urban renewal is started by artists - those who need to live cheaply to pursue their craft but want to be close to cultural and physical amenities. Somerville and Davis Square in Cambridge are perfect examples of this.

      Not too long ago, these neighborhoods were quite desolate and rundown. Now, it is teeming with life and culture, especially for the hipsters who live out there, and who crave that kind of life. Musicians once exclusively reigned these two neighborhoods, but now most Bostonians are torn between being across the Charles or staying put in Beantown. The move of these artists sparked the beginning of a thriving district.

      This is also true for South Boston and the Waterfront area. Districts have sprout out like wildfire in this part of the city, with the Innovation District and the Fort Point Channel leading the pack. Start up companies have espoused growth in the neighborhood, leading the younger folk to follow where the jobs are. For those who remember, this is how the area of Kendall Square / MIT began. Now, the gentrification is moving southward, as space is becoming tighter and tighter in the downtown districts.

      Elements that encourage interaction - parks, boardwalks, public plazas and wide sidewalks - serve as people magnets. Best of all are sidewalks on a community's main street that run between café seating and storefront window displays, allowing people to walk dogs, greet neighbors and people watch. Add things such as weekly farmers markets, civic-association pancake breakfasts and multidimensional establishments that offer opportunities to linger, such as a coffee shop with art displays, a lively bulletin board and outdoor café seating, and you've got the beginnings of a great neighborhood hub.

      These are the places you take friends and family when you want to show them the neighborhood, city tour guides say, as it's a known fact that people attract people. So when businesses converge in one place, such as a theater, bookstore and art gallery, they give people reason to stick around. Indeed, developers take notice of this, capitalizing on the most important and useful places, such as the local post office, coffee shop or park. The more things that can be clustered around these places, the PPS says, the more central and beloved a neighborhood will become.

      Boston Fenway Citgo Boston International Real Estate BostonIRE BIRE

      LOCATION, LOCATION, LOCATION Of course, few people are going to settle in a neighborhood if it doesn't have access to well-paying jobs. The places that have the most value and that gentrified first were those closest to, or have access to, high-paying jobs. That is why you see neighborhoods revitalized near the subway lines into Fenway's Kenmore and Longwood areas.

      True enough, planners say access to good public transportation can turn even some suburbs into hot areas. A study released earlier this year by the American Public Transportation Association and the National Association of Realtors showed that between 2006 and 2011, home values performed 42% better on average if the homes were within a half-mile of public transportation with high-frequency service, such as subway, light rail or bus rapid transit. Residents in those areas had better access to jobs and lower transportation costs, leaving them with more money to enjoy neighborhood amenities. Another perk that transit stations offer is the ability to attract and open retail shops, services and dining, giving some suburbs without a real downtown a place to walk and linger.

      LET'S NOT FORGET SCHOOLS By and large, the highest-value home prices in America are found in school districts of very high quality, preferably those with access to high-paying jobs. These areas, such as the Boston commuter suburbs of Newton and Brookline, are the blue-chip stocks of neighborhoods, even for people without kids, because they attract people with higher levels of education, who tend to be more active in preserving community value.

      Good schools and walkability are two of the biggest themes in terms of leveraging a neighborhood's marketability. Information for these commuter towns describe and show quaint main streets and residents talking about taking a quick stroll over to parks, bars, shops and theaters in their free time.

      And with millennials entering the marketplace, volatile gas prices and fringe suburban home prices in decline, the demand for walkable neighborhoods has outstripped supply in most of the U.S. Walkscore, the online giant community, ranks Boston as the 3rd best city in the country to walk around in. Here's their official survey that ranks the walkability of America's cities and neighborhoods.

      GET OUT, STAND OUT Sometimes, a whole host of elements serve as magnets to draw people out of their cars. Items near the top of the list are:

      • Short blocks with relatively narrow streets and wide sidewalks.
      • Ample windows at eye level that let you see activity or displays inside as well as entryways, courtyards and arcades.
      • Human-scale lighting, benches and signs.
      • Tree-lined streets that provide a sense of buffer from street traffic and a comfortable canopy overhead.
      • Landmarks such as fountains, historic theaters, gazebos or clock towers.
      • A complexity of architecture, building materials and color -- at least on the first couple of building levels -- as well as a mix of building uses.

      In other words, cookie-cutter big-box stores and row after row of parking lots aren't found in many of America's great neighborhoods. In fact, a neighborhood will draw people if it's providing the opportunity for interaction with a backdrop of design that is enjoyable to look at. And interaction is key to satisfaction in a community. If people are happy and engaged with their community, they are more involved with its activities and work harder to protect it.

      THE NEXT GENERATION

      Many wonder whether the host of developments that are currently being built in Boston will end up clogging the city and leaving no more room for improvement. To that, we say that many of the best neighborhoods are yet to come, as cities encourage more creative development in urban areas and tend to sprawl outwards to the suburbs. Take for example the South End - it's continuously evolving (and even expanding!) even though it's already a quaint and perfect neighborhood.

      Projects Pouring In On Boston

      As inventory housing is quickly rising in most major metropolitan cities save for Boston, the city is up in arms in building more housing units to host the growing number of students, professionals, locals, as well as internationals relocating to the hub. Early this year, Gov. Deval Patrick, together with Mayor Menino signed a monumental memorandum supporting the construction of more than 20,000 housing units that will be added to the city by 2016.

      Nationally, the housing inventories grew an average of 4.3 in June to 1.9 million units, reaching its highest level in the year. Industry practitioners are stunned by this "unusual" growth in inventory, taking into consideration that it is a nationwide number. Some suggest that inventories are booming in smaller cities, where developers have started constructing projects since 2011, projecting the real estate recovery then that is being experienced now. Rising home sales fueled this speculation early in 2012, and builders responded accordingly.

      Locally, Boston is lagging behind. Inventory levels for June remained flat and far away from last year's crop. Specifically, Metro Boston's inventory is down 35% from the same period last year. This phenomena however, is not isolated to Beantown as other key metro areas in the country are in the same spot - Seattle and San Francisco is also down 23% and 21%,respectively.

      But all of this inventory news shouldn't get you down, as developers are coming to the rescue. Just yesterday, the Boston Redevelopment Authority approved six massive projects that will, in total, add 1,100 mostly-market rate housing units to the city and its surrounding suburbs. With only a small amount of affordable housing being made available, these units are projected to rise within the next year. These recently-approved developments include:

      The Residences at 399 Congress St.

      A 22-storey tower with a total of 414 mid- to luxury apartments, with floor plan configurations ranging from one- to three-bedrooms, and 63 affordable apartments and 60 market-rate "innovation" units that are poised to be fantastically furnished yet optimal and efficient.

      Point at Brookline Avenue

      With 320 units masterfully planned and professionally decorated, these apartments will definitely cater more to the medical community surrounding the area. Currently, Brookline has inventories that are way below the past two years' levels. This is due to the fact that a lot of Bostonians are relocating to this convenient and accessible suburb. Planned layouts include one- to three-bedroom units.

      University Place Residences, Columbia Point, South Boston

      Located on a triangular plot between 140-150 Mt. Vernon Street, this sprawling 7-storey residential and retail complex will have 184 units in total, including 24 affordable units. This development will respond to not only to city dwellers, but also campus kids from UMass who are looking for an alternative to student housing. With retail establishments on the ground floor, it is poised to liven up  and further gentrify the surrounding neighborhood of Columbia Point.

      Boston East, Border Street, East Boston

      Not to be outdone, East Boston also has some contribution to the city's transformation. With already multiple projects set to be turned over this year, the addition of this 196-unit complex in the area will definitely add to the ever-changing skyline of the "city east of the city". Featuring one- and two-bedroom unit floor plans, the developers are targeting the growing demand for new housing in the area, as more and more Easties enter the job market.

      75 Armory Street, Jamaica Plain

      The hotly-anticipated development and gentrification of Jackson Square is surely on the rise with the opening of mixed-use retail and residential 225 Centre. Phase 2 however, particularly with the ground breaking of 75 Armory, only seems to solidify the fact that growth is coming towards south of the city. With 164 units including 39 affordable apartments, this mostly two- and three-bedroom lateral development (townhouse-style) will eventually transform and add diversity to the community of Jackson Square in Jamaica Plain.

      Parcel 9, Roxbury

      Originally only to be used as a luxury hotel development, the property owners will be including fifty (50) mid- to high-end units to this much-anticipated project, also south of the city. With a 145-room hotel attached to residences, it also aims to make use of 12,600 square feet of ground-floor retail and community space.

      UPDATED: JULY 23, 2013

      40 Trinity Place, Back Bay

      The John Hancock Tower will soon have a new neighbor that's poised to overtake its gleaming glass windows. To be dubbed 40 Trinity Place, the mammoth building will rise 33 stories above ground and is planned to feature a hotel, luxury condo units, three restaurants and a roof terrace on one of its top floors. Particularly, the proposed $255 million project will have 227 luxury hotel rooms, 115 condominium units on the top 12 floors, and a two-story "sky lobby" on the 18th and 19th floors, including a stunning restaurant and lounge bar with open-deck layout. The building will be modernly designed to rival its neighboring skyscrapers. Originally proposed for the Boston Common Hotel and Conference Center, the 400-foot glass and concrete tower is expected to break ground late in the year.

      However, if you're a buyer who can't wait for these developments to turnover and deliver, then make sure that you have your realtor be diligent in their efforts to stay on top of the market as properties become available, because if the current trend continues, those properties won't remain available for very long. We can help you with that. Call us now at (617) 505-1781 for a free no-risk consult.

      Livening Up Your Space for Spring

      With three back-to-back winter weekends, it's not at all hard to imagine why Bostonians are raring for Springtime to hit the city. And with sunnier days fast approaching, everyone's looking forward to new beginnings - especially at home. While completely redoing that old kitchen or adding use to an old room might run you into some serious money, there are also plenty of other smaller projects that can freshen up and transform your space, all without breaking the bank.

      Minimalist hanging planter box

      Starting small is key, and there's no better way to experience a fresh new room than concentrating your efforts on a singular space. First, think of the room that you best spend your time in when at home. Most often than not, you're probably better off starting with the living room, as this is where most of the lounging happens. You don't necessarily have to go as far as replacing your comfy couch - as long as it's still decent and provides support - but you can certainly add and remove elements in the room to make it livelier. For instance, putting a planter box, faux or for real, gives the room a breathe of fresh air. There are many indoor worry- and mess-free planter boxes that you can get for cheaps online and in-store that would provide the living room with life.

      Minimalist hanging planter box

      Nooks, though nowhere near imposing, make for nice experiments. If you're really on a tight budget, going for smaller spaces and the details within them might be your best bet. There are a lot of things you could do to give a particular room a do-over without changing much. For audiophiles as well as those who relax while they're bathing, consider installing a shower head that not only cleanses, but also spurts out sound while you're scrubbing! Play your favorite tunes via bluetooth with this shower head sensation.

      Minimalist hanging planter box

      Spend more of your time in the kitchen? No problem, get a small but significant centerpiece gadget that breaks away from your usual chef duties. Consider a tequila buffet set that not only complements the spring and summer season, but would make for a great entertainment piece as well.

      Minimalist hanging planter box

      A fresh coat of paint might sound intimidating, but really it isn't. And no matter how small your living space is, an accent wall or two would definitely make your home look brand new. Not sure whether the color would go with your decor? Try sampling it out first on a slab of wood or cardboard box, prop it by your stuff, and see for yourself. If you're the creative type, consider creating a wall chalkboard for your instant ideas! There's an awesome spray paint that converts your wall into a full-fledged chalkboard without having to tear out your drywall or install anything else. And if you're tired of jotting down on your wall, simply clean up with a wet rag and you've got your old wall back!

      For long-time homeowners, you've probably collected many items and home decor over the years, and it's probably a good idea to start organizing and tagging them so that come spring or summer, you'll be ready to host a yard sale of some sort. While you're at it, revisit those things in storage and figure out if it's either time to bring them back out or completely sell them off. Some pieces may take on new life with a coat of paint or fresh upholstery, or simply by being moved to a different room than the one they're meant for. Either way, you're freeing up some space (potentially for another use ) and getting a couple of green bucks out of it.

      Interested in these pieces? Email us for resource list.

      Where To Find Peace & Quiet In Boston

      Wellesley College, Shambhala Meditation Center, Boston Public Library, Stanza Dei Sigari, Peter Faneuil House Gardens, Berkeley Perk CafeThe first long weekend of the year is coming up, do you have any plans? Although MLK weekend is traditionally celebrated with people tuned into their television sets for the Presidential Inauguration, it might be a good idea to skip this one and pamper yourself while the weather is still warm-ish. There's also a good chance that you're still perhaps fresh out off the holiday daze, with the season having been barely three weeks ago. If that's the case, then we have just the thing for you - escape the hustle and bustle of the city (without actually leaving its confines) and get some much-needed rest with these rest & recreation hushspots:

      Wellesley College, Shambhala Meditation Center, Boston Public Library, Stanza Dei Sigari, Peter Faneuil House Gardens, Berkeley Perk CafeA "Smart" Escape If it's been a while since you've gotten lost in our fair city, it's probably a great idea to take a little tour somewhere that will actually "freshen up" your view. Go to Wellesley College, where a brisk walk around a quiet woodsy pond might give you the relaxation you're rearing for. The College welcomes tourists anytime of year to hike their well-worn paths and trails - and if you muster up some appetite, there's always the dining halls where you can dive in to an open-to-all, cheap, eat-all-you-can meal deal.

      Wellesley College, Shambhala Meditation Center, Boston Public Library, Stanza Dei Sigari, Peter Faneuil House Gardens, Berkeley Perk CafeOM is for "Open Meditation" If hiking doesn't quite fancy your feet, then meditation might tickle it. Shambhala Meditation Center in Brookline offers free meditation programs, with introductions to Buddhist-inspired practices and meditations. The audience is quiet targeted, catering to the LGBT community under 30, people in recovery, or just laypeople with an interest. There are also good yoga and and tai chi classes and art seminars.

      Masterpiece Museum If you're the artsy type looking to relax and unwind with masters of classic artworks, then you would be glad to know that there's a hidden gem tucked deep into the heart of Back Bay. Not only does the Boston Public Library have one of the largest collections of books, but it also has a relatively unknown collection of masterpiece artworks ranging from Rembrandt to Goya to Picasso. Looking for these pieces is an adventure itself, since they're scattered throughout the library and its different research rooms.

      Wellesley College, Shambhala Meditation Center, Boston Public Library, Stanza Dei Sigari, Peter Faneuil House Gardens, Berkeley Perk CafeHookup With A Hookah Since speakeasys tend to be a good place to relax and just lounge, the underground setting of Stanza Dei Sigari should be a great place to relax and smoke a hookah or two. Not only does its laid back ambiance take away those tensions, it also offers a quiet and cozy place to mingle and just chill with friends.

      Urban Oasis Off a quiet street on Beacon Hill is a quaint and largely unknown park that's a respite from the downtown Boston crowds. Decorated by the Beacon Hill Garden Club, the little space called the Peter Faneuil House Gardens, beside the former Peter Faneuil School, was once an abandoned playground. Red benches sit in the shade of tall birch trees and walkways fringed with high shrubbery weave their way around stone-lined garden patches. There's even a half basketball court, also flanked by benches for spectators, though there usually aren't any.

      Wellesley College, Shambhala Meditation Center, Boston Public Library, Stanza Dei Sigari, Peter Faneuil House Gardens, Berkeley Perk CafeNot Your Ordinary Cafe If you're sick of all the Starbucks lying around the city, and seeking for a restive respite, then Berkeley Perk Cafe is the right place for you. Off the beaten path across the Berkeley Street bridge from Back Bay, their offerings are unique and pleasing to the palate. They have several varieties of hot chocolate too, perfect for the winter season.

      Boston's Unravelling in 2013

      Boston unravelling 2013, avalon exeter, the kensington Boston, millenium place, Liberty mutual Boston, 319A towerTwenty twelve has come and gone, and though it was a tough year, it was a good one for real estate, to say the least. With all the positive news in the property sector last year - ranging from news highlights about increases in property prices in Greater Boston neighborhoods as well as the record quick snap-up of condominium units emptying existing inventories, 2012 drew to an interesting close.

      However, one thing that made 2012 stand out was how it will go down in Boston's history as "The Year of The Crane". Why, you ask? It's because in the past year, there has been a record 22 groundbreakings, representing private sector investments in the city amounting to $1.6 billion. To add to this distinction, the Boston Redevelopment Authority (BRA) also approved an additional 37 projects, many of which is scheduled to begin early this year, as the projects started last year will commence their soft turnovers at year's end.

      And whether you're looking to move this year, invest, or just curious to see how all these projects are faring at the onset of twenty thirteen, here's a quick snapshot of the biggest developments of twenty twelve and how they stand now:

      AVALON EXETERBoston unravelling 2013, avalon exeter, the kensington Boston, millenium place, Liberty mutual Boston, 319A tower 40% COMPLETE Location: 88 Exeter St., Back Bay Details: $100 million, 28 stories, 187 luxury rental units, opening early 2014 Developer: ?AvalonBay Communities

      319 A ST. TOWER 40% COMPLETE Location: ?319 A St. Rear, ?Fort Point Details: $100 million, 20 stories, 202 "microunit" apartments, opening next fall Developer: ?Gerding Edlen

      FAN PIERBoston unravelling 2013, avalon exeter, the kensington Boston, millenium place, Liberty mutual Boston, 319A tower 50% COMPLETE Location: ?50 Northern Ave., South Boston Details: $800 million, two office buildings for new Vertex Pharmaceuticals headquarters, finishing late 2013 Developer: ?Fallon Co.

      THE KENSINGTON 55% COMPLETE Location: 659-679 Washington St., Chinatown Details: $188 million, 28 stories, 381 rental units, occupancy late 2013 Developer: Kensington Investment Co.

      120 KINGSTONBoston unravelling 2013, avalon exeter, the kensington Boston, millenium place, Liberty mutual Boston, 319A tower 15% COMPLETE Location: 120 Kingston St., Chinatown Details: $127 million, 26 stories, 240 apartments, completion in mid-2014 Developers: Forest City Enterprises, Hudson Group North America

      LIBERTY MUTUAL 80% COMPLETE Location: 157 Berkeley St., Back Bay Details: $300 million, 22 stories, 650,000 square feet of offices, occupancy in June Development manager: Colliers International

      LONGWOOD CENTERBoston unravelling 2013, avalon exeter, the kensington Boston, millenium place, Liberty mutual Boston, 319A tower 20% COMPLETE Location: Brookline and Longwood avenues, Fenway Details: $300 million, 11 stories, 413,000 square feet of offices and labs, completion late 2014 Developers: Alexandria Real Estate Equities, National Development, Charles River Realty Investors, Clarion Partners

      MILLENNIUM PLACE 48% COMPLETE Location: 558-580 Washington St., Downtown Details: $220 million, 15 stories, 256 luxury units, occupancy in October Developer: Millennium Partners

      ONE CHANNEL CENTERBoston unravelling 2013, avalon exeter, the kensington Boston, millenium place, Liberty mutual Boston, 319A tower 25% COMPLETE Location: A St., Fort Point Details: $225 million, 11 story office building for State Street Corp., 970-space parking garage, public parks, finishing early 2014 Developer: Commonwealth Ventures

      100 PIER 4 10% COMPLETE Location: 130-140 Northern Ave. (Lot 1), South Boston Details: $195 million, 21 stories, 369 apartments, completion in 2014 Developer: Hanover Co.

      THE VICTORBoston unravelling 2013, avalon exeter, the kensington Boston, millenium place, Liberty mutual Boston, 319A tower 70% COMPLETE Location: 95 Haverhill St., Bulfinch Triangle Details: $92 million, 12 stories, 286 luxury rental units, opening in June Developer: Simpson Housing

      WATERSIDE PLACE  25% COMPLETE Location: Congress and D streets, South Boston Details: $120 million, 20 stories, 236 luxury apartments, leasing late 2013 Developer: Drew Co.

      Downtown Crossing Reimagined

      Downtown Crossing reimagined, KMDG, BRA, Boston Redevelopment, Boston Real EstateAs we've written in our past articles, Downtown Boston is experiencing a resurgence in developments and improvements. As tall high-rise buildings and highbrow hotels are slowly but surely inching their way into the district, improvements on the streetscape are also on the way, with the rehabilitation of Downtown Crossing's commercial and business streets, and the Orange's line underground terminal, complete with a Times Square-esque open amphitheater.

      To add to this distinction, the (BRA) Boston Redevelopment Authority has selected urban landscape and architecture firm Klopfer Martin Design Group (KMDG) to develop a streetscape design program for Boston's Downtown Crossing District. KMDG , headquartered in Cambridge, was selected from 11 proposals submitted to the BRA for the project. The firm presented its long-term vision for sidewalks, roadways, pedestrian zones, signage, and the vending program, during the BRA's Annual Meeting earlier this week.

      In a press release posted on its website, the BRA selected KMDG for its expertise in "landscape architecture, wayfinding, urban design, and universal design". The firm will incorporate on-street retail , vending, civil and traffic engineering, and bicycling needs in their forthcoming designs, to be fully realized in time for the Spring and Summer months.

      In response to changing demographics, KMDG will use urban design to 'recast the crossing' as a public, open space. New wayfinding standards will be used to highlight intersections and opportunities to 'connect the connections,'" according to the BRA website. "Wayfinding components will include all modes of transportation (private motor vehicles, public transportation, bicycling, and pedestrians), informational kiosks, maps, and the area's history and culture to 'unlock the experience'.

      Downtown Crossing reimagined, KMDG, BRA, Boston Redevelopment, Boston Real Estate

      Surely, as luxury buildings like the Millennium Place and the soon-to-be-built Filene's basement replacement are in development, the district will allow for a great street experience as tourists, residents, employees, and shoppers milling about the area will be treated to a modern urban architecture - something this part of the city   has long been promised and is now being fulfilled.