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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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Full Size Renovation? Prioritize By Location.

September 4, 2020

Start with the spaces that will have the biggest impact on your relationships! Think about all ways you want to relate within any given room to both yourself and others. Once you know your big goals, this will inform decisions about functionality and aesthetics.  

Anita, hammer in hand, about to demo a white tile bathroom

Spending more time in our homes means finding more opportunities for improvement. It’s natural to want to do all the things so your house is a better, healthier place for you and your family! But juggling multiple renovations at once can be a recipe for disaster. This is especially true during a time when we don’t really get to leave very often. 

Living in a construction zone can do more harm than good, even if your ultimate intentions are pure! That’s why it’s important to give yourself additional spaces to retreat to when the hustle & bustle of renovation starts to get under your skin. This means prioritizing renovations: take it one room at a time.

So how to prioritize your many home improvement ideas? Start with the spaces that will impact your relationships the most. My Anita Yokota Method always starts with WHY. Begin by thinking about all ways you want to relate within any given room to both yourself and others. Once you know your big goals, this will inform decisions about functionality and aesthetics.  

Stress Less! Prioritizing Renovations 

Here are some tips for identifying the Order of Operations in your own home: 

  1. Find your WHY. What are the reasons behind your renovations? Let’s say you’re waffling between revamping the bedroom to give yourself a personal retreat and updating the living room so it can do double-duty as a workspace. Which WHY is more important to you? Which will make you a better, healthier person? There’s no right answer, but understanding your intentions is crucial to making this work!    


  1. Involve your partner or family in weekly meetings where you discuss which space is most needed and helpful for the whole family. Your WHY may not coincide with your co-habitants, and everyone living in your home should feel like they have a voice in decisions that affect the household.   


  1. Look at the spaces you find yourself re-visiting over and over again. Sometimes these are not super sexy renovations—but utility spaces have a real impact on our mood. Closets, powder rooms, garages, and entry areas are all high-traffic spots where dysfunction can fester and contribute to unnecessary family feuds.

Anita and Travis at a sleek garage tool center

For example, we’ve been playing with a few spaces in our home that we want to refresh. I’ve been most fired up to take on our kitchen. I know this will make my life easier! But when I consulted the family during a weekly meeting, we found that our girls have been struggling to share a single bathroom, and the lack of space feeds frustration between them. 

I wouldn’t have normally prioritized a bathroom over the kitchen, but it turns out we NEED it.

Even if you’re living alone, listen to the negative emotions a counterproductive space can unconsciously create. Stand in each room, take a deep breath, and think about how you live within it. What comes up for you? Maybe you’re thinking, “Jeez, I am ALWAYS late cause I can’t find my keys…” or you realize you’re constantly tripping over shoes at the front door. 

Lifestyle dysfunction can influence your feelings, attitude, and overall outlook on life! I always say: if you’re not organized, you’re not happy. 

Maybe you really want to bring your Family Room into the modern age, but starting with the hall closet would mean a smoother experience for everyone. If you find yourself constantly re-organizing, then you know you have a chronic problem on your hands. Start with your top priority, otherwise you’re wasting your time. 

Let’s take a look at three spaces I’ve been dying to renovate, and how I’m prioritizing renovations in our own order of operations.

Postponing Kitchen Progress

Timing: Summer 2021 …Possibly. 

WHY: I want to be the best mom I can be, and that includes feeding my family fresh and healthy foods—and helping them make their own meals and advocate for what they want to eat. 

The kitchen is a space is the space I want to work on the most, and I have about a million reasons why. In our current kitchen, I don’t feel like I’m able to be an efficient meal prepper—and it’s harder to prioritize self-health and wellness when even stepping foot in the kitchen feels exhausting. There’s just not enough accessible storage, and what we do have is SO not aesthetically pleasing. 

Our kitchen cabinets were built in 1997: they’re older than my daughters! I think it’s finally time for our kitchen to grow up with our family. After all, pre-Y2K cabinets are typically builder-grade and were constructed to save money. They’re not exactly designed with ease-of-use in mind, and after 20 years of heavy use, the drawers are falling apart.   

An angle view of our kitchen, with island, rug, and pendant lamp

I wouldn’t mind having a little LESS space!

Space is the biggest issue here, specifically that there’s too much of it. No, really! Hear me out: a drawer or cabinet that is too deep means more stuff gets shoved in the back, out of reach. So you’re either using this inaccessible space for items that you hardly use, won’t see, and will totally forget about… or you’re struggling to reach high-touch items every time you use them.  

This is what we call Dead Space. Visually, your cabinets don’t need to be deeper than 18 inches. I tend to recommend 14-16 inches. Ours are 24 INCHES DEEP! This is valuable square footage we have, but isn’t being used efficiently. 



Meanwhile, more modern kitchen cabinets and pantries are designed to keep everything within your sight line, providing at-a-glance convenience. Added features like lazy Susans and expanding drawers maximize accessibility! 

By re-thinking these storage spaces, we can prioritize wellness with some new harder-working areas, like a smoothie bar, snack bin, or a vitamin drawer! These kinds of power zones group all the needed ingredients and tools in one place, so staying healthy is easy and top-of-mind. 

Natalie & Emily with Mom at the Kitchen Island

Naturally, our kitchen is not just a place where we make food. It is the heart of our home! The whole family gathers around the kitchen island, and I want this to become a hub for communication, with the full family schedule, plus pens, pencils, and post-its to write intentional notes about what is on our plates—and what we WANT on our actual plates! 

Even though 4 out of 5 family members carry smartphones, there’s something important about writing stuff down, almost as if it makes things real. This is how each girl tells me what I need from the grocery store, weekly. They should be empowered to ask for the foods they like, and having all this information in one spot keeps me from sorting through text chains to find their requests.


At the core of every redesign, there’s a relational reason. Re-thinking kitchen communication cuts down time feeling emotionally frustrated, and when I’m calm I’m a better person! Of course, this is true for everyone, including Travis and our daughters. Which brings me to the Bathroom. 

The Desert Den’s Built-In Bathroom

Timing: This Month! 

WHY: We have 3 girls and 2 bathrooms upstairs. You do the math. 

Anita in the demo'd bathroom, under the new skylight!

Let there be light!

We recently changed our guest room into a multi-purpose space for the girls to hang out, host friends, and share family movie nights. We call it the Desert Den, because it’s styled after our family’s favorite place: the desert! It’s like the whole family gets to breathe during the warm evenings that stretch across open landscapes, and we wanted to bring that feeling into our home.  

Our Desert Den, a bright room with multiple seating options and lots of cactuses!

Our Desert Den is a breath of fresh air in our home.

The Desert Den has an on-suite bathroom, and recently our 14 year old has started using this space to escape her younger sisters. Up until now, all three of them have shared a bathroom—and as Rachel gets older, the more crowded it feels. It’s important for teens to find independence and autonomy, and this benefits everyone else in the house, too! 

The dawn of COVID 19 definitely moved up the time frame for this renovation, since we’re all constantly inside together, and private spaces are more necessary than ever. Expanding the Desert Den’s warm vibes into the attached bathroom will provide some much-needed breathing room… just like the biome we named it after! 

The Desert Den's pre-demo bathroom, single sink with step stool, separate water closet

You can see how dark the bathroom’s WC is!

This will be our first DIY our first bathroom by ourselves, and we’re awfully glad we advanced the timeline. When we demo’d, we discovered the pipes were corroded! While this is an unexpected bummer, truthfully we were so happy to see the damage so we could get ahead of it. It would have been a lot worse to have sprung a leak. 

Once we deal with the plumbing, our main goal will be to make this an inspiring space. Everyone starts the day in the bathroom, and this room really sets tone for the day ahead! We’ll be bringing in natural light and earthy, organic colors that mimic the Arizona color palettes we love, and some details from Joshua Tree! 

Living Where We Dine 

Timing: Fall 2020, After the Bathroom! 

WHY: After 10 years, we finally found the key to unlocking a useful Living Room/Dining Room. We’re expanding the concept with a little more light. 

Travis hangs a pendant light in our in-progress Dining Room

We’re going to need more light than that, Travis!

We’re still at the early point in our Living Room/Dining Room renovation, and we have only touched the tip of the iceberg! Later this year, we’ll continue to make progress by adding windows, a wet bar, and open shelving to transform the whole room into a space we’ll actually hang out. And we’ve already started it!

Earlier this summer, we started a major transformation of our Living Room/Dining Room. It’s an awkward, extra-long room that has taken us 10 years to master, but this time, we mean business. Travis and I DIY’d a custom Shaker-style bench for a more casual take on the “formal dining room.” My kids are complaining that the TV is gone, but we feel so better getting some quiet time to connect as a family. 

Our new, Shaker style bench with Sunbrella cushions!

This bench was our biggest wood working DIY to date.

In fact, updating this room so TOTALLY confirmed my Anita Yokota Method that it gave me goosebumps! 

In early August, we were all feeling the stress about registering for High School. This is our family’s first Freshman experience, and 2020 is an extra-weird year. Usually, we’ll get down-to-brass-tacks in our open concept kitchen, which borders the family room for a cacophony of TV and playtime antics. 

Our finished bench, complete with casual dining table

Our new casual dining space is really working for us.

Having the new Dining Room gave us a new space to chat as a team away from all the distractions. It can be hard to have focused conversations with the younger girls’ noise. It completely paid off, and we came to a calm and cool solution. I was a HUGE advocate for open-concept living, but it seems like these days we need some more boundaries and privacy. 

I plan on experimenting with this theory more in the coming months as we work on our renovation list. You know I’ll keep you posted! 




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