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When marriage and family therapist Anita Yokota pivoted to interior design, she brought her mental health expertise to her new career by infusing projects with a personal sense of why.

“I design from wellness pain points, not just aesthetics and functionality,” Yokota explains. That means she identifies the psychological incentives for home updates, from low spirits brought on by dark decor to intimacy troubles due to an uncomfortable bedroom, and uses her discerning eye to help confront them.

So when Yokota and her husband finally saved up the money, time, and energy to rehaul the shabby, late ‘90s kitchen in their Orange County, CA house, they sought to address issues deeper than the peeling laminate doors and inconvenient island. “It was not a happy environment for me to fulfill my nutritional goals and I didn’t feel motivated to meal prep for my family,” she expresses. 

By thoughtfully engineering a smart layout and choosing finishes that are contemporary yet classic, Yokota built a kitchen that inspires her in all the right ways. Here’s how she did it.

White island peninsula

Focusing on Function

Though Yokota was excited to have an island when she first moved in, she quickly learned that the sought-after feature doesn’t actually work in all instances. “It blocked the flow of the kitchen,” she remembers. “When I opened up the refrigerator door, my back was up against it.”

She cleverly replaced the island with a lengthy, porcelain-topped peninsula that offers double the counter space and provides a lovely spot to eat breakfast. Without the bulky mass in the middle of the room, Yokota is able to move around seamlessly. “It’s really life-changing,” she raves.

Lazy Susan corner storage

Lazy Susan corner storage cabinet closed

Maximizing Storage

The functional floor plan is complemented by BOXI by Semihandmade cabinetry that takes Yokota’s culinary experience to the next level. Before the renovation, she carefully evaluated her cookware collection and decided to keep only the essentials. Then, she chose cupboard configurations and white oak floating shelves that would suit her belongings. 

The result is a brilliantly tidy storage system where everything is easily accessible. A bevy of drawers allow for quick grabbing, while lazy Susans make the most of once-wasted corners. Beloved pieces and frequently-used dishes remain exposed. Plus, the items are arranged in a circular path to mimic how Yokota typically journeys through the kitchen while cooking. “I’m really pleased that I took the time to think about what I really do in here and the usual steps I take,” Yokota reveals. “Now it feels so natural.” 

Open shelving against pink tile backsplash

Spice rack pull out cabinet in a boxi kitchen

Cementing the Look

Though the Salt Slab cabinet fronts create a fresh, bright look, the dusty pink, counter-to-ceiling backsplash is the visual star. Laid in a vertical, subway-like pattern, the blush-hued Fire Clay tiles add a tremendous amount of texture and variation to the space. “With the staggering, there’s a little more of a whimsy and relaxed feel,” says Yokota.

The warm, neutral wall is enhanced by brass lighting and hardware throughout, as well as Café Appliances that blend right in. With rattan bar stools for an organic note, Yokota’s dream modern California vibe is complete.

Wall of white kitchen cabinet storage

Photography: Molly Rose Photography; Design: Anita Yokota

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