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Summer Exploring: Kenilworth Aquatic Gardens

2018 July 22
by Becky

Last summer, Finn and I journeyed over to this hidden spot along the Anacostia river, just inside the DC boarder. I’d learned about the spot from my tried and true all-things-DC-for-kids resource Kid Friendly DC, and boy was she right about this place…it’s incredible. So, since it was on the top of this year’s summer bucket list, we headed over to Kenilworth Aquatic Gardens last week—this time with Ethan in tow.

Kenilworth Aquatic Gardens Ponds

The gardens are made up of large manmade ponds with wide paths for walking between and around them, making this place totally stroller friendly. Amongst the reeds and cattails are framed views of blooms and sneak peeks of swampy creatures like giant bull frogs, tiny fish, and plenty of turtles. The boys made quite a tally of animal sightings.

This turtle was so tiny, hard to capture his miniature size on camera. Just swimming under and around the lily pads. If I was a turtle, this is where I’d want to live.

Turns out, we timed things perfectly because the lotus and water lilies were in peek bloom. We thought about waiting and going over the weekend for their annual festival, but since the forecast said “rain, rain, rain”, we opted for the Friday before. It was the most perfect day to be outside surrounded by nature.

Overall we’ve been so lucky with weather this summer. There was one week of real heat, during which we were gone (ha!), but otherwise it’s been delightful, barely hot enough to head to the pool (though we’ve been going anyway). I feel like we’re on a mission to spend as much time in all these fabulous outdoor spaces as humanly possible before the real summer weather hits.

Anyway, my personal favorite part of these ponds is the underbelly of the operation. Where the creatures hide, where tiny, perfect leaves float in clusters among the lily pads. It’s shady and kind of magical under there.


Due to the peek blooms, crowds were bigger this time than our visit last year, but still very manageable. Navigating the ponds was easy and the kids had plenty of opportunities to run around. Finn found a treasure—a seed pod from the middle of a lotus—which he carried through the whole visit.

We spent about an 2 hours looking around, people watching, and taking pictures. Our last stop was at the back of the gardens, for a walk along the boardwalk that takes visitors out to the marsh. As if this place wasn’t lovely enough, it opens up to a huge river marsh area full of birds, butterflies, and more creatures.

There is plenty of seating to do some serious bird watching, but my boys aren’t quite that patient (like not even close) so we did more of a walk-by viewing of the area. We were there at low tide so it was very muddy, but the water is up two feet at other times of the day.

I’d say this is a top choice for where to spend a lovely morning in DC, and it’s different for every season so worth making a few trips. I’d love to see the marsh in Fall color, I’ve heard it’s spectacular. Now if only it had a children’s garden with some sheep statues it would fill the gap made by leaving our beloved Botanical Gardens behind in St. Louis! I’ll be sure to make the suggestion next time I’m there.

Our Tiny Master Bathroom Renovation – Complete!

2018 June 13
by Becky

Tiny Master Bathroom Renovation Herringbone Tile Wall

It took two full months and still needs a couple small finishing touches, but our master bathroom is fully functioning. It’s beautiful. We are so happy with the result! And we’re so glad we outsourced this one…wow was it a ton of work.

And now for a little peek at the before…

Tiny Ugly Master Bath


It’s the exact same size, same layout, but looks so different, so much more open. I’d talked a bit about our high hopes to rearrange everything and how those plans were quickly scrapped since we weren’t interested in tripling our already hefty costs. For the most part, we’ve always tried to do our home improvements ourselves, only reaching out to the pros for the really serious stuff. These days our only real time to tackle projects is on the weekends, but we fill those up pretty quick, meaning the parts we could have handled in this renovation would have taken us no less than 15 months to complete.

And it’s SO much more fun to watch it all happen from the sidelines.

It’s SO pretty.

Tiny Master Bathroom Renovation Round Mirror Vanity

I think we can all agree the show stopper is the floor tile. I’ve never loved a tile more than I love this gorgeous concrete patterned hex tile. We’ve never used concrete tile before, but we’re digging the look and smooth, no-slip feel on our toes. The gorgeous blue tone in this tile assured the space wouldn’t be “too white”, as so many bathrooms are.

Tiny Master Bathroom Renovation Blue Hex Starburst Floor Tile

We chose this particular vanity for it’s warm wood tones and sleek look, originally planning to mount it to the wall. At the very last minute everyone got kind of nervous about the stability of this plan, so we ordered the very cool legs to go with it. We absolutely wanted whatever vanity we chose to be off the floor, maximizing the open feeling and view of that lovely floor tile.

Tiny Master Bathroom Renovation Vanity


Tiny Master Bathroom Renovation Exposed Brick Wall

I saw this gorgeous faucet set months ago and couldn’t wait to get it in this space. While double sinks would have been fantastic, there just wasn’t room. And for one last touch of texture, we exposed that exterior wall. My dreams of exposed brick have come true several times over in this house, so we figured why not add a bit more? Our contractor definitely thought we were nuts for this request, warning us the bricks might be in bad shape, but I assured them, we were prepared to accept whatever condition we found. It’s glorious.

Tiny Master Bathroom Renovation Exposed Pipes

We also exposed all the pipes along the floor. Before, the pipes had these wonky soffits built around them and once removed, we loved the look. So open and industrial, just exactly what we wanted. It runs under then vanity too (see photo above) and in this dark grey color it’s just barely noticeable in the best way. Luckily we were able to move the vanity legs out a bit to avoid the pipe.

Tiny Master Bathroom Renovation Sconce

In addition to some recessed lighting, we replaced those god-awful vanity lights with some lovely new fixtures. I’m so glad my first choice was massively backordered because these second choice brass sconces are perfect for this space. We like that the globes are frosted—no blazing glare in your face while flossing—and they can be installed up or down. Good thing, because I chose the height before seeing how they worked. If we’d put them in the “up” position at this height, it would have been impossible to take off the globes to replace the bulbs.

Now let’s turn around in this tiny space and talk shower.

Tiny Master Bathroom Renovation Glass Shower Herringbone Tile

This is, hands down, the best shower I’ve ever owned.

I think our hygiene habits have increased since this puppy was installed. I even enjoy cleaning this shower, it’s just so pretty. Those little shelves are very convenient and functional! No more hanging of the wire caddy on the shower head necessary.

While the space is still tight, we gained a few inches in front of the vanity by making the new shower a few inches narrower, but we gained that space back by extending the half wall side out a few inches.

Here’s a before.

So. Gross.

The old shower door never opened all the way and the new one still doesn’t. The glass installers agreed with our plan to use a little rubber stopper on the vanity top, which you can barely see in the picture below. We don’t usually need to open the door this far, but like knowing the marble is protected if we do.

Tiny Master Bathroom Renovation Glass Shower Door

We’re new to this glass shower situation, everything right there on “display” (we even had a chat with the boys about boundaries since finishing this room), so we made sure to include a hidden nook in the half wall. It perfectly conceals our giant shampoo bottles, Stu’s loofah (yep, not mine), and our shiny new squeegee.

Tiny Master Bathroom Renovation Shower Nook

The nook ended up a tad bigger than we’d wanted, but it works!

Our incredible rain shower was Stu’s only “demand”, one I had no problem fulfilling. The fixture had to be pieced together with Kohler parts—they don’t sell one exactly like what we wanted.

And it’s life-changing.

Tiny Master Bathroom Renovation Rain Shower Head

Taking a shower under this is like a mini-vacation. It’s the best. We heard really mixed reviews about rain shower heads, but agree it was a most excellent decision. Plus there’s the hand held option for quick spray-downs of the kids or any tropcial-jungle-style-shower haters.

Tiny Master Bathroom Renovation Towel Bars

There was even some wall space left empty for towel bars…whew. They fit perfectly behind the door and are easily reached from the shower.

The last piece of this puzzle is the little “dressing room” area, located right outside the bathroom. It has a window, letting in plenty of light, plus a linen closet and another large closet where Stu keeps his clothes. He has SO many clothes and needs more space than me. Plus, he gets up SO EARLY and likes not having to go in and out of the bedroom where I’m still sound asleep. It’s a great little spot! So we included it in the renovation because it needed a little love in the form of fresh paint, a new sconce, and a pretty plant friend.

Tiny Master Bathroom Renovation Cozy Corner Sconce

Tiny Master Bathroom Renovation Dressing Area

Here’s the view from the top of the stairs looking into the dressing area and bathroom beyond that. All the storage in this house still shocks me…these old houses are notorious for offering very little if any and here we have cabinet space to burn.

Something else we did, which might seem super small, was replace all the hinges on the cabinet doors. After years and years of being painted over and over, they were in really bad shape. It’s amazing the difference such a little update can make.

I mentioned there were still a couple finishing touches to be made, so here is one of them.

Tiny Master Bathroom Renovation Wall Heater

That lovely wall heater seemed like an easy thing to fix. We were going to replace it, but then decided to just get new caps for the ends—the old ones were in bad shape. Here’s where I offer a tip: Don’t throw any old parts away until the new ones are IN your hands. Ours were tossed in the demo mess and new ones don’t exist. Right now our contractor is planning to have a wood cover made, but we shall see how that goes. We may just repair that gap at the top and leave it. It’s crooked and off center but it is what it is.

So there it is! I’m posting sources below and may have updated shots soon, this was a tricky space to photograph. Let me know what you think! Anyone have ideas to fix that wall heater?

Wall color: Benjamin Moore Simply White
Floor Tile: Cle Tile
Door/Drawer Pulls: Kohler
Shower Fixture: Kohler
Mirror: Target
Vanity Wall Sconces: Cedar & Moss
Hand towel bar: Kohler
Dressing Room Wall Sconce: Restoration Hardware
Plant Pot: Target
Vanity Faucet Handles: Kohler
Vanity: Kohler
Toilet Tissue Holder: Kohler
Towel Bars: Kohler