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For tourists and locals, a guest house just like home

Candace Julyan pours a beverage in the Malden guest house she runs with her husband. Candace Julyan pours a beverage in the Malden guest house she runs with her husband. (Joanne Rathe/Globe Staff)
By Taryn Plumb
Globe Correspondent / April 17, 2011

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When the family of four visited from east Texas last July, they packed just about everything you can do in Boston into one week.

They took the T every day from the Oak Grove station a few blocks away (an adventure in itself, since the Lone Star State has no subways); attended two Red Sox games; followed the Freedom Trail; and cruised Boston Harbor.

“We thought it was one of the best vacations,’’ mom Kelly Lockwood said through a thick Texas drawl. “We don’t know how soon we’ll get to come back, but we’d like to.’’

So where did she and her family stay while on their visit?

Not at the Copley Square Hotel, not at The Charles Hotel, or at any of the area’s dozens of swanky high-rise lodgings.

No, instead, she, her husband, and their two teenage sons settled down each night in Malden, of all places, in a green-shingled Edwardian tucked into a rocky ledge on Ridgewood Road.

Malden isn’t exactly a travel destination, and it also isn’t known for its hospitality business: Its accommodations mainly consist of motor courts and motels scattered along Broadway.

But there’s at least one place within this Boston burb, Treetops Suite, that serves as an attraction for a mixture of guests.

Since 2004, the three-bedroom, two-bathroom lodging house enfolded into a neighborhood on Malden’s west side has welcomed visitors from just down the road, from across the country, and from abroad (the latter including travelers from Iceland, Canada, and Paris, as well as members of Vancouver running clubs who typically come to town for the Boston Marathon, although they won’t be lacing up their shoes for tomorrow’s race).

Most notably, though, Treetops has established itself as a guest house for the neighborhood: It’s where Maldenites put up their relatives when they’re simply visiting — an especially popular option when it comes to in-laws, owner Candace Julyan quipped — or attending weddings, births, reunions, or touring colleges. Some also book the hillside house when their own homes are being renovated.

“This becomes their home away from home,’’ Julyan, who runs Treetops with her husband, David Hancock, said from her seat in its kitchen, with pale green walls and fold-out shutter windows, and hinted with the scent of freshly brewed coffee. “I end up meeting and seeing whole families.’’

Julyan acknowledged that some in the local hospitality industry initially scoffed at the idea of a bed-and-breakfast in Malden; and in fact, the city doesn’t specifically permit them, instead allowing what’s known as guest lodging, which prohibits Julyan from cooking for her guests or cleaning up after them until they’ve checked out. Even so, she and her husband pushed ahead with the idea, reconfiguring and redesigning the two-family that Hancock, a principal with CBT Architects in Boston, bought in 1980.

“We did an enormous amount of renovations,’’ said Julyan, who’s lived in Malden for more than 30 years. A former science educator originally from Ohio, she’s now dedicated her career to restorative justice, a mediation approach that gives victims, offenders, and member of the community the opportunity to come together and solve social problems.

Looming over a narrow street on one of Malden’s many hills, Treetops’ boulder-embedded yard is spotted with craggy trees, birdhouses and bird feeders, wandering steps, and soon-to-bloom flower beds; on a clear day, the 1908 structure’s third-story windows also offer a view of nearby Boston through the trees.

Its walls, meanwhile, offer their own unique views: In addition to a lodging space, Treetops is an informal art gallery.

Local artists — some well-established, some who’ve never shown before, according to Julyan — provide a rotation of works, from watercolors of Boston landmarks, to abstract oils, to batiks, to black-and-white etchings. All told, about five paintings have been sold off the walls over the years, according to Julyan.

Some artists now featured include John Strother of Newbury, who layers materials to create architectural wall pieces; digital photographic artist Magdalena Taber; and Malden watercolorist Rod Peterson.

A recent retiree from state social work, Peterson has been painting for 40-plus years; he directs his brush to both city scenes, including Malden, and rural landscapes.

“The location of Treetops is so beautiful,’’ he said, calling it a unique neighborhood with a diversity of architecture.

Still, not surprisingly, because it is a suburb like so many others encircling Boston, Malden isn’t a stop on the map, a place that many people know about or even think to visit.

But Lockwood is glad she did.

“We always wanted to visit the Boston area,’’ said the mother of two from Tyler, Texas, who was referred to Treetops by Texan friends who regularly stay there. Noting her husband’s affinity for Larry Bird and the Boston Celtics, she added “It’s just a dream vacation we wanted.’’

Still, after spending every day in the hectic and charged city, it was refreshing to return to Malden every night, Lockwood said.

“It’s a total different atmosphere. “It’s more of a neighborhood. We felt like we were getting away from the city.’’

For more on the inn, go to www.treetopsboston.com. Taryn Plumb may be reached at tarynplumb1@gmail.com.

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