Designer, tastemaker, blogger, mom—Wit & Delight founder Kate Arends has had a transformative few years nurturing her St. Paul-based studio and global social following, not to mention two (very adorable) tots at home. We chatted with Arends about everything from designing with cozy corners in mind (she’s a fan of Interior Define x Monica + Andy’s new line of high-quality kids furniture) to her status as an ‘accidental’ influencer, and how you can find confidence in your work.
How has your design aesthetic evolved now that you have two toddlers running around?
I would say it has stayed the same but with a more practical approach to fabric choices and furniture materials. Hard corners are now replaced by rounded, sculptural pieces and there are fewer decor pieces within reach of little hands. Mostly, we make sure there is space for them to move freely without coming into contact with dangerous corners!
What have you learned about creating stylish—yet functional—kids rooms?
Kids rooms are a place to have fun with color and pattern. The key is sticking to a theme and looking at it as an opportunity to try something you’d never do in gathering spaces. And, make sure you enjoy spending time there, too. We’ve turned August’s wallpaper into a fun activity… I’ll hide little stickers on the tree motif and ask him to find them. It almost always distracts from an impending meltdown.
You’ve had a chance to experience the Interior Define x Monica + Andy kids furniture collaboration—what appeals to you the most about the sofa, chair, and chaise sectional?
I love how clean the lines are! They work with just about any decor style and the slipcover options allow you to update the look as the kids get older or as your style evolves. They are really easy to get on and off and look tailored and fitted. Honestly, you can’t tell they are slipcovers when they’re on!
Between running your studio, blog, collaborations, and keeping up with a growing family, you’ve got a full plate—what helps you find balance (or at least, something like it!) as a busy working mom?
The only reason I’m able to do so much is because we have help! So, I would say that if you are fortunate enough to have family nearby or can afford childcare, don’t be afraid to ask for the help you need. This means daycare pick up, help with meal prep, laundry… all the things you may feel like you can’t / shouldn’t delegate. I’ve talked to many mothers who lament about the time it takes to get kids out the door and to their demanding job, but are wary about bringing someone into their home to help part-time. Consider weighing all your options against your pain points and making the best choice for your family. It’s never going to be perfect but the goal is to not take on ALL stressful aspects of motherhood yourself. And, if you find yourself really wanting to spend most of your time with your family, really consider what it would take to make that dream a reality. There’s no right way to be a mother, but there is a way that works best for you. It just might not look like your friends or neighbors. And that’s OK.
You’ve blogged about working on a ‘daily creative practice’ to keep the creative juices flowing—how can others do this?
Make it a super simple activity and dedicate the same time every day to practice! Mine started with a small notebook and brush pen. I just sketched what I saw and began to enjoy the time I spent observing the world around me rather than getting lost in my phone.
You’ve built an incredible community online—what’s the greatest part about your social network?
I’m definitely an “influencer” by accident. I was really curious about the blogging world back in 2008 and when the community began to grow I worried about my ability to keep it up because I never intended to share anything but my own work and the work of other designers. Now, I share my stories because others may find it helpful in their own lives. I’ve found helping others really fills my spirit and feel like I could dedicate my life to it. So it really isn’t about me in the end, and that makes it a lot easier to decide what to share and what to keep private.
There are more than a few design-focused blogs and tastemakers building a brand online these days—what do you think has set Wit & Delight apart?
We’ve been talking about self-care and mental health in the design world for almost five years now, and really live at the intersection of life (who you are) and style (how you live). While W&D is lovely to look at, I think we have readers who have been with us for ten years now because we’re pretty down to earth. We work our content to be useful and inspiring for everyday life.
What design trends are you most excited about right now?
I am loving how wood is making a comeback in kitchens! The warmth and character of natural materials is something I’ve missed the past couple of years. I’m also liking that maximalist decor is making a return. There is so much personality in letting your stuff tell a story.
What do you wish you would have known ten, or even five, years ago about building your brand?
I wish I would have given myself more credit for what I had built. I’ve spent a lot of the past 10 years downplaying what it means to be a “blogger,” assuming that the word itself didn’t really reflect what I had hoped to do with my life. I think that thinking got in my way as I tried to figure out how to evolve Wit & Delight as it came time to pivot and make changes in our business. That confidence is something I had to earn, so I try not to dwell on how I would do things differently.