It’s just an egg sandwich. But it’s so pretty.
Kate Arends Peters tossed it together in 10 minutes — some sliced avocado, delicate pieces of pancetta, pretzel bread, an egg — and quickly snapped a dozen iPhone photos for Instagram before sitting down to take a big, satisfying bite. Then she wiped her mouth with an artfully rumpled blue-and-white tea towel.
The Martha Stewart of social media doesn’t use paper napkins.
Arends Peters, known online as Wit & Delight, may not have the name recognition of the country’s most famous domestic diva, but she is at the forefront of taste, especially on Pinterest.
On that photo-filled social network favored by women seeking inspiration for stylish living, Arends Peters has racked up 2.6 million followers. Martha Stewart Living magazine has 619,000.
From her home in the Twin Cities, Arends Peters, 30, shares her clean, modern, effortless-looking aesthetic worldwide. Big names, including more traditional arbiters of fine living, have taken notice. She was the featured “tastemaker” in the July/August issue of Stewart’s magazine. This month, she’s launching a line of party supplies at Target stores nationwide.
Arends Peters is so in demand on Pinterest that she even has an agent.
“She can style a room, she can style an outfit, she can do this line of products for Target,” said Kyla Brennan, CEO of HelloSociety, a Pinterest-focused marketing agency in Los Angeles that represents Arends Peters. “Her followers love it.”
If it seems too good to be true, it is — sort of.
Arends Peters’ struggle isn’t making things look good. Her home actually looks like her Instagrams. She dresses like she walked off one of her tomboyish yet classically fashionable Pinterest boards — her wavy brown hair perfectly tousled. She is a gracious hostess, quick to offer a glass of wine and make introductions with a smile.
Yes, she reached social media stardom through a love of beautiful things. But instead of tucking her personal details away, she’s opening up about her struggles — anxiety and depression among them.
A styled life isn’t necessarily a perfect life.
“I’m not Wit and Delight,” said Arends Peters, who’s quieter than you’d expect a social media star to be, but often wears a playful expression. “As a person, I’m much more complex and complicated.”
Rise to social media royalty
Pinterest, for many users, is the digital destination for gathering ideas about beautiful homes, delicious food and stylish clothes. Users collect images, which serve as bookmarks to related Web pages, to paint a picture of their ideal lives.
Arends Peters, who studied graphic design, was one of the first to master it, pinning images to boards with titles like “For the Home,” “Currently Coveted” and “Ladies With Style.” Her picks, often repinned hundreds of times, are catnip to those who share her modern, clean-lined aesthetic, which oozes easy elegance.
Further upping the ante, she proves it’s doable, documenting her own styled life on her blog, Wit & Delight, and Instagramming the details of each day. Breakfast included. Followers have seen her living room from a dozen angles.
“If the light is perfect, it takes two seconds,” she said.
While the Wit & Delight blog had gained some traction on its own, Arends Peters skyrocketed to social media fame when Pinterest featured her account as a good one to follow.
Today, in addition to her millions of followers on Pinterest, her Wit & Delight account on Instagram has more than 80,000 followers. Arends Peters has hired contributors to write some Wit & Delight blog posts, so that the site, which garners more than 150,000 monthly views, stays fresh.
“She makes it all feel like a complete lifestyle,” said Katie Miller, who works in social media for Olson, a Minneapolis ad agency. Miller doesn’t know Arends Peters personally, but has long followed Wit & Delight.
Companies will pay lifestyle bloggers of Arends Peters’ caliber a few thousand dollars for a single product endorsement — say, a blog post, a few tweets and a video, Miller said. Arends Peters, who says she blogs only about products she would truly recommend to a friend, declined to say how much she makes through her social media ventures.
But there’s no doubt her online success has helped her launch her freelance design and brand consulting business, Wit & Delight Studio. Growing that business is her goal — and her family and friends are certain she’ll succeed.
That’s because she’s always wanted to be the best at what she did, even as a toddler. Her father, John Arends, said he remembers her hopping on a tricycle and pedaling with abandon to win a race in preschool. As a teenager, she was one of the top-ranked Irish dancers of her age worldwide.
Combine that drive with a creative bent — she used to doodle cartoon characters on the pillows and furniture of her suburban Chicago bedroom — and the career as a design star seems natural. When Arends Peters wants something to look elegant, whether it’s a bookcase or a bouquet of flowers, she dives in.
“I tend to be a little bit of a tornado,” she said. “It’s control in chaos.”
More than pretty pictures
Over the years, however, there have been times when the chaos won out.
Arends Peters’ first marriage ended in divorce, when, she admits, she “was the person becoming a little bit undone” with an undiagnosed mental disorder.
Other times, the temptation to seek affirmation down the digital rabbit hole of “likes” can be hard to resist. A tongue-in-cheek blog post about her “wild, lustful, and boundary-less relationship” with her iPhone explains that the gadget is now banned from her bedroom.
This summer, she opened up about her anxiety, depression and ADHD on the Wit & Delight blog:
“Living with a mental disorder is to live with stigma and secrets. It means you are expected to withhold a significant part of who you are from almost everyone. You wonder, ‘Do I tell him after six months of dating? Six years? Will he still look at me the same way?’ When do I become honest with the important people in my life and say, ‘Hey, this is me. I’m a little sensitive, a little spacey and a little anxious sometimes, but that’s what makes me awesome.’ ”
That was no small revelation for someone who’s built a business on an image of perfection.
Melissa Oholendt, a photographer who often collaborates with Arends Peters, is glad to see her friend opening up on the blog. “If there’s no substance, it feels one-dimensional, and that’s something Kate’s not,” she said.
The more personal posts have impressed another friend, Eric Dayton, no stranger to the public eye. Arends Peters worked for the Dayton brothers’ North Corp (which includes hit Minneapolis restaurant Bachelor Farmer) before launching her own design firm this year.
“I admire her for how open she is,” Dayton said. “She is a fairly private person, even a little bit introverted.”
The increasing candidness also includes sharing life outside the styled snapshot.
Her husband, Joe Peters, started the Twitter account @witinreallife to gently poke fun at his wife’s online image, posting pictures of the life outside her Instagram frame. It’s a Wit & Delight blooper reel, a peek behind the scenes — a photo of a homemade stew that “looks like puke,” a text message about getting mosquito bites while trying to Instagram, a Taco Bell run to cure a hangover.
“She has an eye for curation, but at the same time, we have dirty dishes in the sink,” Peters said.
Arends Peters has started a more personal Instagram account, @kateapeters. If Wit & Delight is Arends Peters’ life as a design project, her new one is more relaxed, meant for sharing laughter between friends and family members.
But the beautiful, curated Wit & Delight isn’t going away. There’s more to Instagram, more to pin.
The gorgeous interiors and graphic design come naturally to Arends Peters, even if being in the spotlight can sometimes be uncomfortable. The abnormally good looking toast, eaten at a table with vase of fresh flowers, is a beautiful moment she’s happy to share — and followers are eager to “like” — but it’s not what defines Arends Peters.
“You have to stay grounded,” she said. “The reality is: It’s just a picture of your breakfast.”