Design Tips

Q&A with Interior Designer Anita Yokota

In this Q&A, we hear from therapist turned interior designer Anita Yokota, best known for her creative, yet functional designs on Instagram.

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Anita, tell us about yourself!

I’m a licensed therapist turned interior designer. Pretty unusual, right? I’m obsessed with intentional designs that emphasize wellness from the inside out. My holistic approach incorporates both aesthetic principles and the relational interactions of the individual and family to create thoughtful spaces that empower residents to live their best lives. It’s my absolute passion in life to share idea through plant design!

My primary focus is to help clients and design enthusiasts to find their “why” for their home updates and renovations, so I share projects and design inspiration through that perspective. I truly believe that if you start from within yourself and narrow down the relational reason, then the function and aesthetics fall into place easily. I call my style Modern California; it has California Casual vibes with Mid-Century Modern structure and Scandinvaian touches that you find throughout in the Pacific Northwest, where I was born and raised.

How did you get into interior design?

As a child of an architect and real estate broker, home interiors were always a priority at home. I can recall early childhood memories of perusing design books with my dad. And my sister and I were his “audience” whenever he prepped for his proposals.

I loved moving furniture around in my room during high school and that continued to my first apartment. My friends noticed my design eye and I became the go-to friend for interior design advice. After having my third daughter Natalie, I wanted to pursue this passion in a more serious way so I started an Instagram account and blog. The rest is history!

Tell us about your website and Instagram:

My primary focus is to help clients and interior design enthusiasts to find their “why” for their home updates and renovations, so I share projects and design inspiration through that perspective.

It turns out that this approach really resonates: Domino named my website the Best New Design Blog of 2017, HGTV chose me to lead design production for its 2019 Dream Home and Hidden Potential show, and REAL SIMPLE chose me to design their 2019 Idea Home.

Do you incorporate live or faux plants into the spaces you design? Why?

Growing up my mom and grandmother loved plants! I, on the other hand, wasn’t too keen because I was the designated person of the house to water them weekly! Then with my first apartment, my mom gave me a tiny plant. I can’t even remember what it was anymore. But it sparked something in me. Years later in my current home, I re-visited plants and since then I call myself the the accidental plant lady! Now I’m obsessed because they INSTANTLY add life and depth to interiors.

To be transparent, I have dabbled in faux plants before but I used to get a visceral reaction about the thought of faux. It’s because they appeared SO FAUX. Perhaps I worked in too many therapy offices where there was a large oversized faux Ficus in the corner collecting dust. Ha! So I’m the first to admit that I am uber picky about faux. However places like my garage laundry space calls for faux. I’m ecstatic I can now incorporate The Sill’s faux plants into windowless or hard-to-reach places in my design projects. It definitely meets my high standards for using faux plants.

What's your favorite live or faux plant to decorate with?

For live plants, my go to plants are the easy ones like the Snake Plant and ZZ Plant. And all things cactus! They offer lots of great height when I need it for styling. Another favorite is the Pleomele Anita. And it's not just because of the name! It’s super easy to maintain. Of course the Fiddle Leaf Fig is a big favorite, but it’s finicky. Recently my biggest success has been placing my FLF in the bathroom. I’m convinced the steam from the daily showers offers just the right amount of moisture. The faux Rex Begonia is easily my favorite because the variations of colors on the leaves adds the perfect visual interest and contrast to a room. It brightens up the room without it being too bold.

Where do you look for design inspiration?

My dad taught me to take pictures of everything that catches my eye. He told me to just take a picture of it, even if it’s a wood grain on a bench at a park you love. Needless to say my phone has tons of random pictures but I like going to it for ideas! Also, I love Pinterest and design magazines. Design blogs are fun too!

Any top design tips that you can share?

If we are talking about plants, my biggest advice is USE VERTICAL space as much as you can! It’s as easy as going to Home Depot and getting ceiling hooks and a hanging planter, picking your favorite plant and voila! You dressed up the space from the couch or bed to the ceiling. Another favorite of mine is layering rugs. I have been quite known for this. There is an art form to this though. Balance neutral and pattern and bold prints and smaller print. I never layer print rugs together. One rug always has to be solid or textured but monotone. And lastly, experiment! Don't be afraid to put the nail in the wall or move the furniture in a spot you never thought of before. What is the worst can happen?

What is your favorite room to decorate and why?

I love the bedroom because I covet deep sleep and rest. It’s always a design goal of mine to make the room as dreamy and zen as possible. With plants it's easy because they literally breath fresh air in there!

What are common interior design mistakes that you see people make?

I see a lot of clients and people feeling pressure to “fill” their new apartment or home. So they go into a store and buy a whole bunch of stuff in one swoop. Then later they ALWAYS experience buyer’s remorse. Be ok with taking the time to live in your space and slowly invest in things that are thoughtfully designed and chosen. We change and evolve in our home. So what we think we need or like can be starkly differently later once you have lived in space for awhile. Functionality comes into play too. You need to live in the space for a bit to know what functional solutions are realistic.

Do you have a secret skill?

Believe it or not, I’m a ninja fly swatter! I can swat a fly in one accurate swoop every. time.

What's the best present you've given or received?

A friend gave me a book that I mentioned I wanted to read but for a variety of reasons, I didn’t buy. I didn’t even realize she remembered what I said. It was a self-help book that really transformed my mindset. I feel like I owe it to her.

If your space was on fire, what's the first thing you'd grab?

Natalie’s art work that she has taped up ALL OVER the walls in our home.

Favorite current trend?

White oak on flooring, mantels and vanities

Favorite movie?

Star Wars coming up!

Favorite weekend activity?

Hiking with the family

Favorite home decor store?

West Elm

Favorite Instagram account?

Hilton Carter

Anita Yokota's Top 5 Picks from The Sill:
  1. Faux Rex Begonia: It looks SO real even if its leaves are variegated. That is hard to do! Contrasts a space with the depth of varying colors.
  2. Live Pilea Peperomioides: Very cute and so far hardy!
  3. Monstera Deliciosa: One of my most loved plants. The cheese holes in the leaves make me happy and mesmerized at nature. And I like how The Sill offers them in a manageable size.
  4. ZZ x Hyde Planter: These two together are perfection to me! On a window sill, shelf or coffee table is amazing!
  5. Faux Angel Begonia: This one is intimidating to maintain as a live plant, so I welcome the faux one!

Words By The Sill

Empowering all people to be plant people—a collection of articles from The Sill’s team of plant experts across a variety of plant care topics to inspire confidence in the next generation of plant parents. Welcome to Plant Parenthood™.

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