Akemi Kanazaki

A suburban mom with a distinctly city vibe tackles the challenges of new motherhood with style

Amy Baier and Abeer Al Otaiba are co-chairs of the Children's Ball for Children’s National 
Medical Center on April 11. Photograph by Greg Powers. Photograph by Kate Warren. Photograph by Kate Warren. Photograph by Kip Dawkins. Photograph by Kate Warren. The Inn at Perry Cabin in St. Michaels, Maryland. Illustration by Koren Shadmi. Photograph by Kate Warren. Photograph by Kip Dawkins. Photograph courtesy of Shutterstock. Photograph by Cade Martin. Photograph of King by Kyung Jung. Photograph of Dixon by Naiffer Romero. Photograph by Kate Warren.

Akemi Kanazaki has some sage advice about surviving new motherhood. “When I’m awake at 3 am and walking the baby around the room in circles like a crazy person, I try to tell myself there are only going to be so many nights of this, and then I’m going to miss it forever,” she says.

Kanazaki, 36, grew up knowing how to survive thanks to her mother, who split from Kanazaki’s dad when Kanazaki was just three years old. “Watching her keep it all together, physically, financially, and emotionally, taught me everything about strength, hard work, and self-preservation,” she says. As for how she balances two kids, a side career doing makeup, and acting as the unofficial poster child for the hipster-mom set, the former painter cites learning to lean on her husband, Chaos Salon owner Mike Cao. “When I walked into his Bethesda salon, which he designed, I was so impressed. And when he first walked into my apartment his jaw dropped, because we have the exact same style,” she says. The pair blend high- and low-end pieces in their Silver Spring home. “I decorate our house like I dress myself—trying to mix pieces you wouldn’t normally see together,” Kanazaki says. A pricey Design Within Reach bubble chandelier hangs next to a cabinet she scored for $10 at a yard sale; an old locker set from the 1950s completes the room.

As for clothes, “I’m a thrift store junkie,” she says. “I was always into fashion and art. In high school I kept a diary of everything I wore so I wouldn’t repeat an outfit too soon.” These days she’s wisely spending her time with her young kids, developing their future relationship. “I don’t want them to grow up and expect the world will cater to them. But I also want them to feel like I’m always their number-one supporter.” Kanazaki is focusing on being at home. “It’s a sacrifice, but I wouldn’t change it for a second. I love the quality time we have together; it’s been the best and happiest time of my life.”

Baby Elvis settles in with a good book. Photograph by Kate Warren.
These cap-toe high-tops are current favorites. Photograph by Kate Warren.
Mika jumps on the bed in her parents’ bedroom. Photograph by Kate Warren.
Kanazaki collects thrift store finds, from vintage watches and eyeglasses to accessories for the house. Photograph by Kate Warren.

Akemi’s Mom Code

Favorite Date-Night restaurant
Sushi Taro. They don’t even have 
highchairs, so it has to be a 
date-night place.

Favorite restaurant with the kids
2Amys. I could eat there every day.

Dream vacation

Hawaii. Enough said.

Signature scent
Anything with vanilla notes. My best friend always says I smell like cake, but I think, “What’s wrong with that?” My current fave is Tocca Colette.

Most-worn pair 
of shoes

Black high-top Chuck Taylors.

Favorite iTunes Song

“Wildest Moments” by Jessie Ware. 
I could listen to it a hundred times 
in a row.

Favorite Family tradition

Every summer we go to the beach and take black-and-white pictures in a photo booth on the boardwalk. We do the same poses every time. 

When all else fails

Stay positive. Nothing like a smile and good attitude to bring it back around.