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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.


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Renovation Revelation: A Birthday Gift of Home Therapy

March 30, 2024

Join Anita Yokota in another captivating episode of Home Therapy as she unveils the inspiring journey of Grace and Owen, a couple on the cusp of their 50th birthdays, who embarked on a transformative home renovation adventure. Beyond mere aesthetics, Anita delves into the emotional and psychological aspects of the renovation process, highlighting the profound […]

Join Anita Yokota in another captivating episode of Home Therapy as she unveils the inspiring journey of Grace and Owen, a couple on the cusp of their 50th birthdays, who embarked on a transformative home renovation adventure. Beyond mere aesthetics, Anita delves into the emotional and psychological aspects of the renovation process, highlighting the profound impact it had on Grace, Owen, and their three teenage children. From identifying core desires to overcoming fears and embracing change, listeners will discover how a full home renovation became the ultimate birthday gift. Tune in to explore the remarkable transformation and learn valuable insights on using home therapy to cultivate resilience, confidence, and harmony within the home.

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Welcome back to another episode of home therapy session. This is Anita Yokota, your host, and we have a very special story to share today. It’s all about Grace and Owen, a couple that hired me for not only design, but therapy. They went on a remarkable home therapy journey, and I’m here to share all their ups and downs on their journey with their three teenage kids.

Grace and Owen are entering a huge milestone, a new era. They were both going to turn 50 5 -0 and they wanted to give each other the ultimate birthday gift. It wasn’t gonna be a vacation It wasn’t going to be lavish cars, but a full gut home renovation. I mean, I think that’s pretty genius, don’t you?

We tackled the kitchen first because this was a huge pain point for Grace.

She is a busy mom of three teenagers.

Her daughter is a pro ballerina. So she’s always in competitions. Her son is in baseball. Another son that comes home often from college.

She’s constantly juggling busy schedules. Not much self care. Meal prep time is always a chore. She needed help.

The kitchen is super dated. They have not touched this home since it was built in 1983.

You can imagine how dysfunctional and dilapidated the kitchen cabinets were, the flow, the pantry door was unhinged. Literally, it was a source of frustration and stress, odd layout, awkward windows.

It was clear that something needed to change. With the help of a therapist designer, yours truly, Grace and Owen started a journey of self discovery and transformation from the physical to the emotional. We first started with identifying their core desire as you know in my method the core desire is finding your why.

When you have your intention and your purpose that space increases in connection and joy. As my usual process, I have clients fill out an intake form that you can find on my website.

It gave me an insight to their pain points, their aspirations, how they wanted to interact with each other. And it educated me on how this energy was to be manifested and designed.

Also, they fully trusted me. They are one of my favorite clients because when people trust the process and support surrounding them. That’s when the most successful projects are born.

Just to give you an idea of the layout, the old kitchen had a weird vertical double oven right in the back of the kitchen that split the countertops.

And then below the upper cabinets, there was weird rectangles for windows. That supposedly I think the builder wanted to bring in more light because it was so dark. But the problem is there’s no backsplash. So when she had appliances or even just like a bread box, it was weird to put up things against a window.

It felt really odd.

In front of the kitchen, it was a peninsula with a range on the countertop, which decreased any surface for meal prep. An overhang of upper cabinets that was so low that she, who’s not very tall, would bump her forehead on.

You can imagine how dark it was, how dysfunctional. And it was just such a source of stress. On top of that, this family, I’ve never witnessed a family so obsessed with water, which is great to hydrate, but they were obsessed with water bottles.

They had water bottles all over strewn about on the countertop.

Grace told me she needed a space for the water bottles. She wanted everything to be accessible in the kitchen so there was no guesswork of where’s this, where’s that. Everything had a home.

Ultimately their core desire for their kitchen and pantry was to feel more relaxed at ease in their home while their children are with them.

So the whole family benefits from a newfound sense of harmony and togetherness.

We tackled this kitchen and pantry. Head on. We moved the oven, closed up the awkward windows, reimagined the pantry space that met this family’s needs. And through it all, Grace and Owen’s children were by their side, really telling us their input, what works for them.

As a designer therapist, I want to empower the children in the home. The teens in the home need to know how to meal prep, if they’re going off to college, this is such an important skill to help them prepare for that. There was just a buzz and excitement of transformation as we were designing this space and renovating it.

Hold up though. It wasn’t always this positive! Grace and Owen were really scared. Even though this space didn’t work for them, they were scared of closing that back wall up. They were scared of losing two ovens.

They loved entertaining. They loved that kind of hosting vibe. It gave them so much energy to connect with people that they loved.

As we talked about their core desire, I space planned with them about what their desires were For relational connection, that meant putting back two ovens, but maybe not vertically stacked like before.

Once we space planned successfully, they had the confidence. They were like, it’s go time, let’s do this!

There’s a plot twist. After we had simplified and decluttered their kitchen and pantry, guess what happened?

Grace’s sleep quality improved. I know, it’s so weird. You wouldn’t think kitchen flow and functionality would impact your sleep. It was so interesting to me, but at the same time, it made total sense.

The kitchen flowed better and functioned better. She meal prepped more, she was less stressed about it. They ate healthier, less Chick fil A and they had this profound joy in meeting together in the kitchen.

Her relationships have improved, which definitely increases your serotonin and dopamine levels. If you’re eating right, you have good sustenance.

Another amazing transformation. Let’s talk about the pantry. When I first visited them before demo this pantry door, I am not joking. The pantry door was on its last hinge and it was a deep pantry, but dark and the organizational system, the old shelves were not working.

There are Costco things shoved in there, paper towels, toilet paper, snacks, all your dry goods. We needed to discover the perfect shelf depth for all the things that she wanted to put in the pantry for something effective, useful, and functional.

And remember they are obsessed with water bottles. Once the kitchen space planning was successful, I was able to share the idea of moving some non food items like the water bottles into the pantry.

At first she was like, wait a minute. Um, I thought food was going in pantries I didn’t know we could put non food items. I looked at her and i’m like Grace. Hello? Of course we have room for non food items This is like a perfect pantry for your overflow stuff that you still need nearby the kitchen, but it’s not necessarily Immediate daily food items.

I love using the Elfa organizational shelf system because it’s customized to what you need. We installed Elfa into the pantry these deep drawers could hold tall water bottles fat round water bottles or soup thermoses. Grace loved the idea that we could think outside of the box.

As far as the double ovens, instead of it stacked, we had a slide in oven range and for the microwave drawer, we found an air fryer convection component into the microwave.

So they had a smaller oven by the peninsula and then the stove area had a full size standard oven that checked all the boxes for them. They were able to continue to host their family and friends during the holidays, birthdays, events.

We were so happy to find this configuration for them and the window cutouts.

That was another thing they were really scared about because they didn’t want to lose light And I told them that if we make the rest of the aesthetic decisions light and airy the main picture window from a sidewall where the kitchen sink was, was going to be adequate and taking away the overhead low hanging cabinets on the other side helped too.

So those two combinations created enough light where the weird window cutouts that were supposed to be the backsplash made no impact. They didn’t miss it at all from these design lessons. They also built this muscle to take risks more in other areas of their life. And they had more confidence in trying something new.

And that’s what I love about Home Therapy is that you can use something physical. as a way to create more emotional muscle for things that make you stronger, make you more confident, make you happier, calmer, less stressed. I want you to remember about Grace and Owen and how they celebrated their milestone 50th birthday. They completely gutted their 1983 home, stepped out of their comfort zone, and created a home that worked for them.

The payoff was so amazing. To this day, they tell me about how much they love their kitchen and pantry, and how it’s improved their communication skills, their self care skills. I mean, it hits on so many different levels as far as mental health and well being.

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