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5 Outdoor Living Trends that Instantly Turn a Drab Deck into a Beautiful Oasis

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The weather is finally warming here in Boston, and warm weather means more time to spend outside enjoying gentle breezes and sunshine-filled days. Is your deck or patio ready for months of outdoor fun? If your outdoor space is a bit drab, there's no need to fret. The year's top trends in outdoor living will transform any deck in an instant and create a space that is truly an extension of the home.

"Homeowners are demanding expanded livable spaces and are looking for fresh ways to update their decks and patios for premium enjoyment," says Madeleine MacRae, exterior market manager for Somfy Systems, maker of motors and controls for shades, screens and awnings. "The good news is that an existing space can easily be transformed into an outdoor oasis with minimal effort and financial investment." MacRae offers top outdoor living trends that will instantly transform your deck into a beautiful, relaxing oasis:

Shade Sunny days define the warm weather months, but outdoor spaces can quickly heat up and drive homeowners indoors to cool off. That's why shade options are a necessity, with automatic awnings leading the trend. Somfy Motorized awnings not only create cooler, more comfortable outdoor spaces, but they can also be set to react to the environment with sensors customized to open and close the awning as wind and sun intensities shift. These modern high-tech awnings do more than enhance outdoor living; they improve indoor living by blocking the sun from coming inside the home, creating real energy savings by keeping AC units from kicking on in peak times.

Lighting The American Society of Landscape Architects recently released the results of its 2014 Residential Landscape Architecture Trends Survey, and lighting topped the list of in-demand outdoor living features. As the sun goes down, there's no need to retreat indoors when your patio has the proper lighting. Solar lights are a popular option that again pair well with the sustainability theme - they charge during daylight and glow automatically at dusk. Strings of garden lights are another popular option, adding a subtle twinkle to outdoor spaces.

Ambiance Potted plants bring rich shades of green and other beautiful colors directly onto the deck or patio area to add unparalleled ambiance. A few strategically placed pots add a touch of serenity while tying together landscape themes. What's hot for 2014? Sustainability and low-maintenance continue to be in high demand, making native plants a natural choice. When deciding which plants to use in your pots, ask your local garden center expert to see what native plants will perform best in the area you intend to put them.

Some local options for advice and great plant selection include:

Mahoneys Garden Center in Brighton, (http://www.mahoneysgarden.com/mahoneys-brighton)

Russells Garden Center in Wayland, (http://www.russellsgardencenter.com).

Furniture Stylish outdoor furniture is a necessary element of designing a cozy, usable outdoor space with superb ambiance. Upholstered sofas and oversized accent pillows in a variety of colorful patterns are big this year. When furnishing your deck or patio, keep in mind the flow of traffic and embrace thoughtful arrangement of furniture to encourage conversation and comfort. In addition to couches and chairs, incorporating an eating area makes dining al fresco a joy any time of day. If you're tight on space, seek multifunctional furniture that performs double duty, such as a couch that also serves as a storage space for blankets under the cushion. If you have liberal space, installed furniture is super trendy, such as a hanging swing or sofa. If you are looking for furniture to spruce up the patio, deck or roof deck, there is no debating the quality and style that can be found locally or online. A few of our favorites:

JAUNUS et Cie located at 1 Design Center Place and online at http://janusetcie.com

RocheBobois, located in the Ritz Carlton Towers at 2 Avery Street, Boston and online at http://www.roche-bobois.com.

Brown Jordan: http://www.brownjordan.com

Frontgate: http://www.frontgate.com

Outdoor Kitchens Naturally aligning with homeowners' desire to create functional space both indoors and out, the demand for outdoor kitchens is growing. Whether it's a corner with a grill or a full kitchen with refrigerator, prep sink and all, incorporating a space on your deck for cooking food is a top trend. Whether you're slow-grilling for an intimate family dinner or flipping burgers for a cookout, outdoor kitchens will serve you well time and time again throughout the warm weather seasons, all while adding value to your overall home investment.

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7 Tips for Staging Your Home

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7 Tips for Staging Your Home Article From BuyAndSell.HouseLogic.com

By: G. M. Filisko

Make your home warm and inviting to boost your home's value and speed up the sale process.

The first step to getting buyers to make an offer on your home is to impress them with its appearance so they begin to envision themselves living there. Here are seven tips for making your home look bigger, brighter, and more desirable. The first step to getting buyers to make an offer on your home is to impress them with its appearance so they begin to envision themselves living there. Here are seven tips for making your home look bigger, brighter, and more desirable.

1. Start with a clean slate. Before you can worry about where to place furniture and which wall hanging should go where, each room in your home must be spotless. Do a thorough cleaning (http://www.houselogic.com/home-advice/maintenance-repair/home-cleaning-secrets/) right down to the nitpicky details like wiping down light switch covers. Deep clean and deodorize carpets and window coverings.

2. Stow away your clutter. (http://www.houselogic.com/home-advice/maintenance-repair/home-cleaning-secrets/) It's harder for buyers to picture themselves in your home when they're looking at your family photos, collectibles, and knickknacks. Pack up all your personal decorations. However, don't make spaces like mantles and coffee and end tables barren. Leave three items of varying heights on each surface, suggests Barb Schwarz of Staged Homes in Concord, Pa. For example, place a lamp, a small plant, and a book on an end table.

3. Scale back on your furniture. When a room is packed with furniture, it looks smaller, which will make buyers think your home is less valuable than it is. Make sure buyers appreciate the size of each room by removing one or two pieces of furniture. If you have an eat-in dining area, using a small table and chair set makes the area seem bigger.

4. Rethink your furniture placement. Highlight the flow of your rooms by arranging the furniture to guide buyers from one room to another. In each room, create a focal point on the farthest wall from the doorway and arrange the other pieces of furniture in a triangle around the focal point, advises Schwarz. In the bedroom, the bed should be the focal point. In the living room, it may be the fireplace, and your couch and sofa can form the triangle in front of it.

5. Add color to brighten your rooms. (http://www.houselogic.com/photos/painting/home-color-ideas/slide/plenty-of-upside/) Brush on a fresh coat of warm, neutral-color paint in each room. Ask your real estate agent for help choosing the right shade. Then accessorize. Adding a vibrant afghan, throw, or accent pillows for the couch will jazz up a muted living room, as will a healthy plant or a bright vase on your mantle. High-wattage bulbs in your light fixtures will also brighten up rooms and basements.

6. Set the scene. Lay logs in the fireplace, and set your dining room table with dishes and a centerpiece of fresh fruit or flowers. Create other vignettes throughout the home - such as a chess game in progress - to help buyers envision living there. Replace heavy curtains with sheer ones that let in more light. Make your bathrooms feel luxurious by adding a new shower curtain, towels, and fancy guest soaps (after you put all your personal toiletry items are out of sight). Judiciously add subtle potpourri, scented candles, or boil water with a bit of vanilla mixed in. If you have pets (http://www.houselogic.com/articles/pet-odor-can-chase-away-buyers/), clean bedding frequently and spray an odor remover before each showing.

7. Make the entrance grand. Mow your lawn and trim your hedges, and turn on the sprinklers for 30 minutes before showings to make your lawn sparkle. If flowers or plants don't surround your home's entrance, add a pot of bright flowers. Top it all off by buying a new doormat and adding a seasonal wreath to your front door.

Visit HouseLogic.com for more articles like this. Reprinted from HouseLogic.com with permission of the NATIONAL ASSOCIATION OF REALTORS."

More from HouseLogic Spring Cleaning Guide (http://www.houselogic.com/guide/spring-cleaning-101/) 11 Ways to Create a Welcoming Front Entrance for Under $100 (http://www.houselogic.com/home-advice/home-improvement/front-door-entry-ideas/) Fragrant Plants that Will Keep Your Home Smelling Good (http://www.houselogic.com/blog/air-quality/fragrant-plants-will-keep-your-home-smelling-good/)

G.M. Filisko is an attorney and award-winning writer who occasionally rearranges her furniture to find the best placement-and keep her dog on his toes. A frequent contributor to many national publications including Bankrate.com, REALTOR Magazine, and the American Bar Association Journal, she specializes in real estate, business, personal finance, and legal topics.

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Millennium Tower

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One of the most anticipated high-rise buildings coming to central Boston is the Millennium Tower. This development was one of the first major projects to get approval in Bostons recent building boom.

Located in Downtown Crossing, this area of Boston has been an up-and-coming hotspot in recent years. In 2005, Emerson College purchased the aging Paramount Theater and completely refurbished it. In 2010, Suffolk University followed suit with the historic Modern Theater. Both developments have been credited with breathing new life into Downtown Crossing. Now, the Millennium Tower is set to become the crown jewel of the neighborhood when it is completed in 2016. The project is currently under construction on the site of the old Filenes building, which had been knocked down in 2008 for another development. That development had been stalled due to the economic crisis and left a giant hole lingering in the middle of the neighborhood. With approval of the Millennium Tower in 2012, the unsightly hole will be filled in with one of Bostons greatest architectural marvels.

At 685 feet, the Millennium Tower will be the tallest residential building in Boston and the third tallest building in the city overall. According to the Boston Business Journal, the development will cost over $680 million to build and will create over 1.2 million square-feet of commercial and residential space.

The tower will hold over 400 luxury residential units ranging from 759 to 12,846 square feet. Residential units will start around $850,000 and the top floor will be graced with a $37.5 million penthouse. At 60 stories high, the penthouse will take up the entire top floor of the tower and is rumored to have a 2,500 square foot roof deck.

The lower floors will consists of retail and office space, along with a restaurant, a health club and a spa.

Link 1: http://www.bizjournals.com/boston/real_estate/2014/10/details-of-millennium-tower-boston-emerging.html

Link 2: http://boston.curbed.com/places/millennium-tower

Link 3: http://millenniumtowerboston.com

Nick Lattarulo for Bostonia Properties

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