I'm Anita!

Interior Designer, Licensed Therapist & SoCal mama of three. Welcome to the blog!  I hope it brings you inspiration to create a life (and home) you really love.


Stay connected and inspired!


Sign up for my newsletter for weekly tips & tricks in your inbox.


Empowering DIY: Breaking Perfection And Elevating Home Creativity With DIY Designer Cara Newhart

March 12, 2024

  Home DIY often sounds like a scary thing, especially for women who were conditioned to view these things as the domain of men. But once you overcome that fear of messing up and really embrace the messiness of the process, you will eventually get to the point of using your creativity to level up […]


Home DIY often sounds like a scary thing, especially for women who were conditioned to view these things as the domain of men. But once you overcome that fear of messing up and really embrace the messiness of the process, you will eventually get to the point of using your creativity to level up your home. In this episode, DIY Queen and host of MAKE SPACE Podcast Cara Newhart sits down with Anita Yokota and discusses her DIY roots – thanks to her construction-savvy dad. Cara chats about overcoming tool fears and turning spaces into productive havens. Plus, learn how she views the seasonal changes of our home evolution. Tune in!

Watch the episode here


Listen to the podcast here


Empowering DIY: Breaking Perfection And Elevating Home Creativity With DIY Designer Cara Newhart

This home therapy session is with my lovely friend, Cara. She was gracious to have me on her podcast, and now I get her to my show. Welcome, Cara.

Thank you so much for having me. I’m excited for you in the show and to be here. I feel like it’s going to be good.

I don’t know if it’s New Year vibes or what new show vibes, but I’m excited. I’m grateful to have you on because I love amplifying women who kick ass on many levels. I’m doing some background information on your history, and I’m going to dive in because I’m still honed in therapy sessions. We always like to start from the beginning. How did our story begin? I know it was your contractor dad. I am curious. How did he, growing up, impact your vision and career that you have now or how has his role in your life propelled you into what you do?

For context, I lost my dad to cancer in 2014, but growing up, he was my best friend. We had similar personalities. We did everything together, and he was my main coach and teacher. I played a lot of sports. I was a tomboy. I was comfortable in male-dominated spaces, like on the playground with the boys instead of the girls. I don’t know how I ended up that way, but that’s what it was.

I was raised believing I could do anything. A lot of the normal conditioning that comes with being raised as a girl, but I had an antidote to that with him. My mom was like, “Pink and be a lady. We’ll put you in ballet for 90 years, so you’re not clunky.” My dad was like, “You can be whoever you want.” He set the tone for me, believing I could do anything. I went to college for business. I went into an oil and gas finance role, which is another male-dominated space. My title was Landman because it’s like old school. It’s like what I’m doing with DIY contracting and power tools. It’s always been paving my own way, an unconventional, windy path, which a lot of creative industries are. It’s all over the place.

What sign are you?

I’m a Cancer Sun Aries Rising.

This is where we align because if you’re Aries Rising, I’m Aries Sun. It resonates.

I learned we’re supposed to be reading for our rising sign, and it started resonating more. I was like, “I have always been feisty, fire, needed to come first, and competitive.” I see it.

You are Aries, which they say is an even more significant sign to observe and watch than your sun. I have tried and true Aries. If you read everything, including the temper, that’s modified, but it’s a fire sign. My rising is Aquarius, which was interesting to me. Aquarius placements are creative. Going back to your dad, I love that because my dad is an architect, and I grew up with many influences from him, but they are indirect. He and my sister were the ones who sat in front of him while he was practicing his pitches for the next day for extra meetings. That influenced us. Both my mom and he were all about girl power. I love how your dad influenced you in such a positive way, and now you are teaching women not to be afraid of finding their voice at home. 

As a therapist and designer, that’s my whole platform and passion. Let’s talk a little bit about DIY. I believe DIY not only strengthens our muscles physically but there’s an emotional or mental muscle, “I have to get through it and finish the project.” It takes such mental stamina. When I am on social media watching you do this, I have to admit. I have a mista meticulous. That’s what we call Travis. For my construction crew, when we’re on client renovations, I’ll do it. I like it and feel empowered, but I have some backup.

DIYs not only strengthen our muscles physically. They also strengthen your emotional muscle. Click To Tweet

It is fine. I always say, “Do it yourself, but don’t do it alone.”

You have to know your wheelhouse, like what you’re good at and what your strengths are. There are some things we leave for the experts.

I don’t touch plumbing.

Plumbing is a huge thing. With electrical, we can learn, but plumbing, what’s touch and go. I am curious for you. What has been your DIY journey to how did you build this muscle to finally land where you’re at now?

I love that you called it a muscle because that’s absolutely the truth. I did it one tool and one project at a time. When I started out, I was terrified to use a saw. I’d grown up using a drill, working with my dad, but no saws. I would plan all my projects. I would go to Home Depot, have them cut the lumber, bring it home, screw it together, do sanding and staining. It was little by little. I was terrified at the beginning. The process of learning how to be afraid of something and push yourself to do it in a way that’s safe, where you’re getting the information and support you need, is a hard process, especially doing it on your own. I don’t know. You have to be brave. I always say, “The fear is there to keep you safe but not to hold you back.”

One tool, one project at a time. Click To Tweet

With any creative process, we’re transforming spaces, but we’re also transforming ourselves. There’s an inherent classic hero’s journey of setting out to do this and hitting the big problem, “Will we make it?” and figuring out how to fix it and have a good result. It’s that again and again. When you’re comfortable with messing up, taking risks, and not knowing that it’s going to go perfectly, but knowing that you’re going to figure it out and trusting that ability within yourself, which is a muscle you have to build, that’s how you get through it. It’s been the process. We can do this 100 times with 100 different projects because we know how the process works.

This is a general assumption, but it’s also a correct one. As women, we have to multitask. There are a lot of expectations on us, and we put a lot of pressure on ourselves. When we start on any endeavor, it’s easy for us to think in perfectionistic terms. Drawing from what you said, it feels like your expectation of a DIY project does not necessarily come from a perfectionistic mindset. Could you share for someone who’s reading? They admire what you do. They admired what I’ve done, but they’re like, “There’s no way. What mindset do I have?” Could you share an initial mindset they can start with and practice thinking?

I would say experimentation. Online does this a disservice because it’s before and after. We don’t get into the nitty-gritty of the middle, which is if we were honestly to show that process, it would take months, and no one would want to watch that content. That’s fair, but I don’t think people or everyday people see how much goes into it.

Because we’re not being shown that, that’s something you have to figure out for yourself. Once you realize how hard it is, it’s not you, and that’s how the process is, you can be more gracious with yourself but go into it with an open mind of experimentation and expecting things to go wrong. It’s not your fault. It’s the nature of doing something you haven’t done before. You don’t know what you don’t know, and that’s okay.

Learning how to pivot, I always say, “The magic is in the messy middle.” That’s when things come together. You can make the best plan in the world, but once you get into it and a material is out of stock, the tool broke, or there’s a stud in the wall where you didn’t think was going to be, and you have to pivot and adapt your plan, that is such an opportunity for things to turn out better than you could have planned because it’s a problem that you have to solve. I believe that creativity is best when it’s solving a problem instead of sitting down on a blank page to draw something. That’s the process, and I’ve learned to accept that.

You’re hitting on many amazing points. One time, I was in yoga class. The teacher mentioned this, and it was a hard pose. She said, “Instead of hiding it, lean into the pain.” I was like, “What a great analogy for everything else that’s challenging for us when it comes to DIY or learning a tool.” I can do the drill. I can do it with someone by me. I can do the saw. It would be scary to do the saw from scratch. I love cutting tile.

For you to mention the messiness in the middle because it’s in therapy, what we help people with is accepting the mess. I appreciate the words that you shared. You have your collection of DIY. Has there ever been one DIY that you felt was like, “That was a mentally challenging DIY?” I’m curious how you got through to the end.

All of them for different reasons, but early on, I had this bar cart I made where I planned everything out. I had all these measurements and went to put them together. It was crooked and wonky. It was on wheels. It was hobbling along. It was horrible. I ended up scrapping it completely because it didn’t work out. What I realized is there were tools I didn’t know I could use, like clamps, speed squares, and things to hold things straight while I was drilling. I took it personally that my plan was bad. I later realized I didn’t know the things that could have made it easier. It is realizing that it’s not your skill that may be lacking. It can also be tools or knowledge you need to gain.

A larger DIY project is this house. It keeps getting wet. There are pipes that burst, and the roof is leaking. There are all these unexpected things where, as you go on, the projects get bigger, the stakes get higher or your skill level expands. The scale increases, but it’s the same dynamic of, “What am I getting into? I don’t think I’m ready for this.”

It’s learning to be comfortable. It’s like, “It’s a dumpster fire, but I will figure it out because I always have, and I know I can do that.” I view it as a natural growth cycle. In our society, we always think of this linear growth where it’s like 1, 2, 3, and next. If you look at nature, there’s a whole process of fall and decay and things being destroyed. Within DIY, there’s a demo. There’s a part of creation that’s destruction. Getting yourself to a blank slate or in the middle of a mess where you can make something is normal.

That’s something you help us go through in your journal. It highlights the seasons and mimics our evolution at home. It’s fantastic. What’s your advice on what we can do in our home now?

A lot of people go into January with New Year’s resolutions and a blank slate. If you look around, winter is still sleeping. Everything is still resting. If you don’t feel that fire to fix your whole house and organize everything, that’s normal. That might come in spring. There’s spring cleaning and new beginnings. I would say use this time to observe.

As the weather is cold, we’re inside more. You can observe how you’re existing in your house and bring to your attention problem areas. What rooms aren’t working? Where are things piling up or building up? Also, noticing so when you do feel inspired for spring to start new things, you have that context. You’re like, “I see this space that could use something. It’s a go time. Let’s do it.” Taking time to be restful and observe is underrated. It can help you make an aligned plan where you know what you want versus being rushed, “I need to change. Let’s go to Pinterest, find a photo, and start now.” That’s what I’m doing over here.

For personalities like mine who want to take rest, and I do take rest, I have seasonal affective disorder. The next few months are always a struggle. I’m doing something with my hands. I’m tactile. It’s my outlet and release. What’s your take on observing our home and being with our home? I’m on board with it, but are there any small, quick, easy design projects you think will hold us over into bigger, larger projects in the spring or summer? What are your favorite go-to design small projects that we can tackle now?

I was the kid that was rearranging my room every other week. There’s so much power in reworking what you have to experiment and be like, “If I move this lamp over here, how does that change the room?” Getting tangible, rearranging things, and living with it for a second to see if you like it can help inform the big decision and the big makeover later so that you know what you want and like how it looks.

There's so much power in reworking what you have to experiment. Click To Tweet

I love art. I love doing little frames. I always use drop cloths for painting and make my own canvases, which is amazing for big-scale art because it’s cheap to do with some lumber and a canvas or a shower curtain if you don’t want to do your own painting. Art is always good because I feel like everyone always has a blank wall that you’re looking to feel. It is doing a project where you’re like, “I made that.” It’s more small-scale and simple. Practicing tools can be fun. I always add lighting or a mirror to every single corner.

What’s your favorite type of light? What’s your repertoire?

I like floor lamps and sconces that are dimmable. I like the lamps that go over photos for gallery walls. They make everything look elevated. There are those rechargeable ones, which is amazing.

Do you see those ones from Amazon? That’s amazing.

They look like hardwired, expensive gallery lights. It’s $30. You can recharge it and hang it anywhere.

That’s a 2024 design element. I want to add those lighting. 

With no wiring, that’s approachable for people who don’t want to do electrical work or don’t know how. 

When it comes to color, lighting and color go hand in hand. What is your favorite color?

It changes every day, but it is brown, which is random. I love the earthy. deep, moody brown, which is weird.

It’s not weird because it is on trend. It’s a huge trend towards dark and moody. Instead of white cream neutrals, it is now to the dark, moody brown neutrals and an undertone of burgundy into the brown. I have seen your backdrop. I don’t know if you struggle with this, but what we grew up with sometimes will counteract what’s on trend now. There are things that are like, “Why? I grew up with that.” I don’t know if it triggers a lot of core memories that are not bad, but it feels out of date because you grew up.

Even fashion, all the ‘90s stuff is coming back. If I have already worn all this, I don’t know if I could do it again. I want something else.

Do you remember the whitewash or stone-wash jeans? When my daughter’s wearing it, I’m like, “That’s outdated.” There are a lot of Nancy Meyer Kitchens coming back. I remember going to friends’ homes. We grew up in an Asian American home. It was more of a mishmash of Asian and Western cultures. I remember going to my school friend’s homes and their kitchens. When I see it, I have wonderful memories, but at the same time, it feels like, “Am I back in time?” 

What I always laugh about is if you wait several years, it’ll be back. I’m hoping these popcorn ceilings come back. I don’t have to scrape them because that’s the worst project. I’m like, “Anyone, it’s time to spend years.”

It’s funny, which leads to my question. Brown is your favorite color. What is your hugest design? I’m curious. It’s something that gets your skin crawling.

It’s chunky wood. We didn’t stain it because we didn’t put wood conditioner and sand it. I know it is just a look. It’s rustic. Oddly enough, it’s like my mom’s design style. She was farmhouse before farmhouse was cool. She always had all these antiques and old things around. I hated it growing up. I wanted it modern and clean in a 2000s vibe, sleek and stainless steel. It’s funny because that’s a personal thing. It’s a valid design style that I’m like, “That looks like my mom. It looks old.”

Lived-in style and lived-in homes are completely trending. I love it because there’s less pressure on us living in the mess. That’s amazing. It can veer into certain avenues where I do get a little cringe. I don’t know if I can relive that rustic accent wood wall anymore. It was beautiful in its time and it still is beautiful for people who love it. You have always been cleaner, modern, and light-bright. I love venturing into the moody room aesthetics. I’m excited to try that out.

I don’t usually do that, but looking back, I had a whole era where I did everything dark brown and maroon. My whole room in high school was a coffee theme. I stole some paint out of the garage. It was dark and moody and, like a coffee shop vibe. I’m like, “I have done this before. I’m ready to go back. Let’s run it back.”

We’ve evolved as people. It’s fun to see how we put our take on it now. It’s like a different twist. Talking about how we’ve evolved as individuals, you and I both have partners and families. Has your family evolved with you in the home? I have three girls. Two in high school. I do get some pushback sometimes about ever-changing our house, especially since my oldest is an introvert. They tend not to change as much.

As we are always trying to inspire others outside our homes, it’s a balance of having some consistency and stability for our own family. For a friend, how do you balance all these wonderful inspirational projects? I assume the majority of your work is at home. How do you balance that with your family? Does your partner like the change? Does he resist some change? How is your communication process?

Initially, I did it the wrong way, and I was like, “I’m going to do what I want. You all are lucky I am making it nice.” It worked for a while. My partner is relaxed. He doesn’t have a strong taste in design in any direction. He’s a person who would consider himself not creative even though I’m like, “Yes, you are. You just haven’t practiced.” He gave me free rein to do whatever I wanted. He’s also colorblind. I can get away with a lot.

My daughter thrives in chaos. It’s the funniest thing. She likes things to be chaotic, active, fun, and changing. As long as she has all her people, the environment can be whatever. She needs the people around her. She’ll miss her grandparents, but when they’re not there, the house can be ripped apart. I’m lucky that I have a dream set up for being ever-evolving.

Learning to design for everyone and consider everyone in those joint spaces was a lot of hiding things in baskets and making sure it was functional, but it looked cute. It’s a balance. It’s like an ebb and flow. It’s like where you’re constantly evolving because the second the room is done, everybody is older, and we’re not playing with those baby toys anymore. We need to change it up. We need the iPad charging station. It is being comfortable with I’m never going to be done. I initially used to think, “We’ll eventually finish this house.” No, you will not. I always end up moving before I get close to being done, and that constant state of flux and letting it be that.

A lot of people would see chaos and messiness or in between as something negative. It can be seen as exciting and another opportunity to be creative in our own home. Our home is going to be our home for a while because my girls love their schools and neighborhood. Southern California is more expensive than other areas in the country. I have the luxury to move, and I’ve had to change my mindset.

Thankfully, I finally reached a point where I’m at peace and happy. My home is going to be influxed for I don’t know where we’re going to land later, but it gave me a brand new set of eyes as far as projects at home. I’m excited about that. One of the things I want to do is help each person in the family maximize their self-care moments. Your job is physically demanding. I can imagine you need a lot of downtime to rest and pause. I’m a tub-time girl. I love taking baths. What is your go-to self-care at home?

It should be something better, but it’s scrolling on TikTok and being in a quiet space. My house can be chaotic, but my bedroom needs to be relaxing. I have a little air filter like a sound machine, a cozy blanket, the right temperature, tea, and TikTok, which I feel like I’m interacting with. I have many friends there. Interacting with friends, exploring new ideas, or getting new inspiration is my downtime. I’m still mentally active, but my body is lying down and not moving for hours.

I’ve found that as long as I have a place to go where I feel like I can completely unwind, the whole house can be chaos. If I can shut the door and have one room that’s put together, it’s all I need. Before, I felt like I was trying to have the whole house put together to create that feeling. Realize that sometimes it’s less than you think it takes to give you that feeling of being secure, relaxed, safe, and where you can unwind.

It takes less than you think to give you that feeling of being secure or relaxed in your home. Click To Tweet

I love that because it gives people permission not to follow what we traditionally hear over and over again. The setup is the same, but as a therapist, I generally say, “Don’t go onto your devices. It’s too overstimulating.” For you, it’s creatively stimulating. You find it a positive thing. This is where your self-care is up to you. Don’t judge yourself based on what should be or could be, but base it on what makes you feel good, and for you, it’s doing what you described.

It’s not the activity itself but your relationship with it and how healthy that is because I’ve had an unhealthy relationship with social media in the past. I get the advice of locking your device away and having a device-free space. Once you can have healthy boundaries around how you’re using it and that it’s doing good in your life instead of distracting or being a negative influence, that’s what it is.

That’s inspiring because I’m still on the journey of finding the balance and boundaries of social media in my personal life. I’ve come a long way, but I’d love to get even more peaceful.

I feel that. It’s such an ebb and flow. When you think you’re okay, something else happens, and now there’s an influx of people who are intense and have comments. There’s a place where I’m like, “I don’t have a great relationship now.” People are all coming for me for how I built these stairs. It’s affecting me. Sometimes, I’m like, “I don’t care what you think.” Some days, I’m like, “I did do that wrong.”

At the end of the day, we are all human. I’m grateful that we have found our homes as a home therapeutic setting to be creative. It’s safe to say for both of us and many reading that it’s that urging and craving to share our voice through creativity. I wanted to thank you for coming on and sharing your thoughts and your amazing abilities and helping us understand that there’s permission to not be perfect.

Thank you so much for having me. I’m excited for your show. Your work is beautiful. I feel like it is such a needed space to help take people deep into what their home could be. I’m inspired every day by what you do, and I’m glad to be here.

It’s all about energy. I always say the universe connects people who are energetically aligned. I used to have a therapist as my mentor. I was trying to build up a private practice for the first time when I graduated. He was like, “Anita, good people know good people.”

I feel like I’ve seen it in action, people being brought into my circle where I’m like, “Everybody is going to win.” These are people I can encourage and build up. They do the same for me. It’s special.

Thank you for coming.

Thanks for having me.


Important Links


+ show Comments

- Hide Comments

add a comment

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

Featured on:

 Anita's Top Picks

Get All the Extras Direct to Your Inbox

Are you as obsessed with Interior Design as I am? Does the smell of a fresh can of paint make your heart skip a beat? Sign up for my newsletter to stay up to date on the latest and greatest from Anita Yokota.


Email Address

Some posts on the Anita Yokota website and associated social media accounts contain affiliate links. An affiliate link means that a small commission is received on sales of the product(s) that are linked in a post. At no additional cost to you, your purchase through these links helps support Anita and keeps this site running. Thank you!



let 's be