“It was quintessential 1997; 12×12 yellow ceramic tiles,” says Anita Yokota of the nightmarish state of her original master bathroom. Fast forward 10 years and the bright, breezy space is completely unrecognizable.
When Yokota and her family moved into the home a decade ago, she immediately wanted to update the bathroom. But with two little kids and a budget to stick to, the kind of in-depth renovation the space demanded was unequivocally out of the question. “We waited to save up and have time with our little kids,” says the designer and blogger. “Now, every time I walk in, I feel like I’m in a dream. I can’t believe it came to fruition. I had all the details in my brain for so long, and to see it in real life is very exciting.”
First things first: Yokota confesses to being a bathtub fiend, so her number one priority was installing a freestanding tub. Her love for this spa-like accent stems from a wellness perspective: A licensed therapist for many years before diving into decor, she’s all about self-care and keeping health top of mind. “When I was a therapist and my clients would come in so stressed, I used to tell them to take a hot bath. Your body temperature spikes when you’re in the tub and drops when you get out, which increases endorphins and relaxes your body.”
Yokota also employed wellness-savvy techniques in the rest of the design. The aesthetic, which she calls California-inspired but decidedly not boho, is ethereal, light, and cheerful. A skylight allows light to stream through freely; a simple white base helps her and her husband feel calm. “Visually, white is a symbol of renewal and freshness,” explains Yokota. “I wanted white walls because I wanted to wake up and feel refreshed but also wind down in a bathroom that wasn’t dark.”
Over the course of seven weeks, Yokota and a team of contractors led by her friend and construction designer Lisa Rosman turned the dated space into the bathroom of her dreams. With matte black fixtures and sleek lines, it’s a contemporary take on traditional California design, and the whole project is a lesson in renovation 101. We asked Yokota to share her tips on all things remodeling. Even if you’re a pro, you’ll want to take note.
The one thing Yokota would change if she could go back and do the whole thing over again? Prepping to ensure she was equipped to answer any and all contracting questions. “Educate yourself on every part of the process,” she advises. “If you’ve never done a renovation before, it’s very overwhelming. Watch a few YouTube videos about tiling or construction.”
Hide your personal items from the line of fire
Here’s a part of renovating most people may not think of right away: The dust. And not just the dust in the room you are updating, but the dust that seeps past that room and into the rest of your house. “It’s this micro-fine drywall dust that can seep through walls and get into your clothes and furniture—we emptied the closets in the adjoining bedroom and tarped up the nightstands, and then moved everything else out,” says the designer. Plan to avoid the headache of having to deep-clean your favorite antiques or winter coats later.
Allow for wiggle room
“Whatever budget you have in mind, give yourself 10 percent to 15 percent more room,” says Yokota. Things come up. Maybe it’s plumbing issues, maybe it’s complications with the structure, or maybe you fall in love with a specific light fixture that happens to be way out of your price point—these things will feel less stressful if you plan for them.
“Educate yourself on every part of the process.”
Try this budget-renovation trick
If you’re on a strict budget but your space is in dire need of an update, Yokota recommends keeping the same footprint. “Don’t move anything around, and it’ll save you a lot of money,” she says. Instead, focus on cosmetic updates like a new tile backsplash or new mirrors to make a big impact with minor monetary repercussions.
Renters, think temporary
If you either don’t have the money or the leeway in your lease to renovate your bathroom, don’t despair. Before she was able to do this stunning renovation, Yokota turned to a temporary, renter-friendly solution to tide her over until the real thing: She went to Home Depot and picked up peel-and-stick laminate wood flooring. “You peel these off like a sticker and stagger them as if it’s a wood floor, and it looks amazing,” says Yokota, who has the full tutorial for this easy DIY on her blog. “It was a really easy changeup, and I felt so much better about going into that room.”
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