Kate Owens is an economist and urban planner, and she and her husband, Rusty, are raising their two little boys in the Petworth neighborhood of Washington, D.C. “D.C. is a great place to have a family,” she says. “Most of the museums are free, so we can just roll in on a Sunday.” As a policy nut, Kate also enjoys the vibe: “Everyone here is really dorky and it’s so refreshing! Here, you’re supposed to be a dork about policy.” Here, Kate show us how their bright, beachy home came together…
On a home project: We were so excited when we first saw this house — it’s on the corner of the block, and getting a rare corner unit in D.C. is a huge deal. But we knew it was going to take work. It was dark and hadn’t been maintained much over the last 40 years. Still, walking through it, we were like, ‘If we made some updates, this could be killer.’
On a beachy vibe: The kitchen tile was inspired by our love for the ocean. My father is an oceanographer and I grew up on Cape Cod, so the ocean has always been part of my life. As an urban planner, I also did my research near the Indian Ocean. I love that this kitchen makes it feel like you’re at the beach, even though you’re really in the middle of the city.
On a do-everything dining room: Our dining table is right next to the kitchen island, which works well because it’s easy to throw things onto the table. But like a lot of folks, we also use the dining area for a million other things. It’s the craft zone. It’s where the kids are learning to read. My oldest will also sit here all day building with Legos. They can get expensive but they’re cheaper than a babysitter. I can hand him a Lego set and he will sit down to build it and not talk to me for like five hours. They’re his super power!
Teardrop mirror: Crate & Barrel.
On family meals: I LOVE cookbooks and used to have so much fun becoming an Ottolenghi expert. But that’s complicated in mom life. The kids were NOT into the pomegranate-eggplant whatever. So, I’ve recently started a running list of recipes that everyone likes. I’m up to 17 recipes, and my goal is to get to 25. The kids love this Glazed Tofu with Limey Cucumber Noodles and Mango (the mango distracts them from the tofu). This spaghetti frittata has become our mac-and-cheese replacement for comfort food. And, actually, everyone loves the Ottolenghi preserved lemon roast chicken. That’s a staple. If we’re really stuck, we do something with hummus. Hummus is a food group in our house.
On a chat-friendly living room: This room is set up for conversation. My parents’ best friends live in Georgetown, and whenever we visit, we all end up in their huge overstuffed chairs. The best conversations of my life have happened in those chairs. I definitely used it as inspiration for our living room. The guy who sold me these chairs told me, ‘The right way to sit in these is with your legs over the side.’
On a TV-free zone: We decided to keep the TV in the basement, rather than the living room. We enjoy TV, but we wanted to be more conscious about when we watch it. Now we can’t just casually flip on the news. On Fridays, we make pizza and have family movie night. We LOVED Spider-Man: Into the Spider-Verse. I let the kids chill with shows on Saturday, too, but I’ve noticed that even if the TV is on, they’re playing with their toys and not really watching it. And if I DON’T give them a time limit on TV, they turn it off themselves!
Hook rack: West Elm. Bench: R-Home Furniture. Lion throw pillow: Kip & Co, similar. Dark throw pillow: Teysha, similar. Basket with straps: Homemade, similar. Basket with handle: similar. Mat: Chilewich.
On a makeshift mudroom: We actually laid a trail of tile to give the kids a path from the front door to this area, where they can dump their shoes and bags. If I had a blog, it would be called Hooks & Baskets. Anything that’s ugly — bike locks, helmets, balls — I stick it in a basket and it looks pretty. It’s a very Cape-Cod thing to do, actually. I’m from the fertile crescent of preppy, I can’t help it. We invented Vineyard Vines and Nantucket Nectars, and we love a basket.
On bedtime stories: We read every night before bed, and it’s usually a reptile book. My five-year-old is completely obsessed. We go to the library every week and he gets a stack of books on reptiles. I tried to expand the repertoire with The BFG and Charlotte’s Web — but we always come back to reptiles.
On a pop of color: After we went big with floor tiles, we wanted to keep it simple everywhere else. So, most of the walls in the house are white. But my older son Calvin wanted a blue room, so we painted this accent wall. The paint is Benjamin Moore Blue Daisy.
On a kid-friendly bathroom: We had only one bathroom in our old house, and I never thought I minded not having two bathrooms. But wow, it is SO NICE to not have to share a bathroom with two little boys. For the kids’, my main goal was to make the space user-friendly and keep their pee in their bathroom! I picked the tiles to mimic the kitchen floor, and in the end, it came together more beautifully than I expected.
On a game-changing heat system: We had central air in our old home, and it was tough to keep the house warm or cool enough. This place has radiator heat — but we swapped the old radiators for these Runtals. They are small and super energy efficient. The best part is you can put them in piecemeal, so you don’t have to redo your whole heating system.
On a calm escape: Our bedroom gets lots of natural light, but my husband is a cave sleeper who needs complete darkness. I was able to find some linen blackout curtains — they slide right under the sheer ones at night. My other hot tip is getting a separate headboard. I found a fancy bed with a gorgeous headboard, but it was thousands of dollars. So, I looked around a little more and was able to find a separate headboard — it’s so much less expensive to buy that piece on its own.
Prints: Elise Mahan via Etsy.
On the magic of shower plants: Our shower window felt like it was crying out for plants! It’s easy and fun to care for them in there; I can prune them when I’m showering and talk to them. I also swear by the wall tiling. It’s a material called laminam, and it has NO GROUT, which means I never have to stand there with a toothbrush scrubbing at mold! Honestly, our shower is the most relaxing place. By the time I step out, I feel like I’ve had a spa day.
Thank you so much, Kate!
(Photos by Kate Sears.)