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Anita Yokota was named the Best New Design Blog in the 2017 Domino Design Blog Awards.

Two minutes into our interview, Anita Yokota had already offered to play tour guide the next time I am in Southern California. And while some people might be taken aback by this forwardness from someone they met just minutes ago, it’s clear that Yokota’s offer is genuine—and it’s this same openness and approachability that draws readers to her eponymous blog.

“I come from a family that’s very much ‘what you see is what you get,’” says Yokota. “It’s very hard for me to be fake. When I write, I feel like I’m writing to one person and that’s always been who I am.”

Before she was blogging and disseminating design advice to like-minded decor aficionados, Yokota was giving advice of a different kind. A trained marriage and family therapist, she spent years juggling a full-time job (well, two full-time jobs when you consider motherhood) and a passion project on the side. While friends would come to her for decor advice and occasionally recruit her to style their homes, it wasn’t until about a year ago that she decided to take the plunge and start a creative outlet.

Unlike some of today’s influencers who started on a blogging platform and gradually transitioned into full-time Instagrammers, Yokota actually started building her brand on the social networking app and launched her website last April, citing a desire to share more longform posts.

“Both have great features and they serve my creativity in two ways. Instagram keeps me engaged daily, and there’s the instant gratification,” she says. “But the blog to me is important because it’s truly mine—it’s like my home. I get to share more of my personality and go a little more in depth.”

Fast forward to today, and Yokota is managing both a popular Instagram page, full of beautiful and carefully curated images, and a blog whose contents run the gamut from design to DIY to entertaining to even fashion. Her days are spent writing for the blog (she posts twice a week), managing her feed, working on collaborations, and offering her design services through the styling branch of her website.

One of her most popular categories (and a personal favorite of Yokota’s) is the DIY section. Calling DIY her “passion,” she posts a fair amount of her at-home projects that range from smaller decor pieces—how cute are these pumpkin succulents?—to full-on room refreshes. Her most extensive project to date is her “DIY Kitchen Makeover Under $40” article, in which she uses

marble contact paper

to feign new countertops and give her kitchen a totally fresh, and affordable, look.

It’s projects like these that make Yokota’s approachable take on interiors so refreshing. Although she counts herself a fan of big bloggers like

emily henderson

and has a substantial social following, her projects aren’t extravagant, unrealistic-for-everyday-people undertakings. She focuses on creative ways to recycle the things she already has, often using her own home as the subject for her posts.

“I’m really good at using stuff I have and rearranging; I call it the home shuffle,” says Yokota. “I’m honest with my audience that living in California—especially with three kids—is not cheap. I’m always aware of budget, and I know there are a lot of moms with young kids who are super busy and don’t have time to do the ‘magazine refresh.’ So I do a lot of little vignette scenes that I hope will inspire people to just use what they have and change it up to make a difference.”

Given how Yokota perpetually has budget decorating tips at the ready (“Find one inspo piece and go from there. Play around with the color or layer textures and prints to build around it until you find the balance that you like”), it’s no surprise that her even real-life friends constantly text her for design advice. Her practical decor ideas mixed with a very of-the-moment aesthetic that’s somewhere between California cool and Scandinavian bohemian make for a blog full of advice and inspiration and that feels aspirational, but attainable at the same time.

This may be be in part due to her signature addition of plants to seemingly every space. According to Yokota—whose bio reads “accidental plant lady”—they’re an easy way to tie a room together with minimal effort. While her self-proclaimed plant decor addiction is now readily apparent, this wasn’t always the case.

“I actually have a dirt phobia! And I had to do cognitive behavioral therapy on myself because I love how plants give life to a space,” she says, proving that perhaps there is a correlation between therapy and interior design after all.

One year into the blogging game, Yokota is more at ease with the industry and with her place in it. Even despite the more challenging parts of being a full-time blogger (hint: it’s time), she’s in it for the long haul.

“I don’t think it’s dead,” she says when asked about the biggest misconception surrounding blogging. “I really do feel strongly that everyone needs their own creative hub and I think that blogging is so central to that. It’s a great way to democratize design, too. In the beginning I had so many doubts because I thought everything had been done already—then I realized: No one is Anita. I don’t have to completely discover something new, but by putting my spin on it and following my design heart, that’s how I can make my own thing.”

As for what to expect from Yokota in the future, growth—in terms of connecting more deeply with a community, not necessarily popularity—is high on her to-do list. We also might be seeing some exciting new video content soon.

“I’ve loved interior design since I was little,” she says. “My mom had Better Homes & Gardens magazine and I’d always read it and switch up my room… my sister and I even used to pretend our bunk beds were New York City lofts. It’s always been a passion of mine, and I want to share my passion.”

Check out more of Anita at anitayokota.com and follow her on Instagram @anitayokota.

See more of our favorite blogs:

What’s Kept Julia Marcum Blogging for 9 YearsIntroducing the Winners of the First-Ever Domino Design Blog Awards!The Best Design Blogs of 2017

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