Noa Santos doesn’t think he’s famous. Yet, over lunch, he relayed how a woman from the Philippines stopped him in his tracks, fawning over him, his company and its Instagram account (which boasts a staggering 1.8 millions followers). He is the co-founder and CEO of Homepolish, a six-year-old interior design company that is much more than that descriptor suggests. Essentially, it is the middleman, a platform that connects clients with designers through a streamlined process on its website and manages projects from start to finish.
How then does a woman from across the globe know about him, especially when there are many others in the space? Well, it would appear that Santos and Homepolish is a cut above the rest, evidenced by the considerable coverage. Clients include Karlie Kloss and influencers such as Leandra Medine and Hannah Bronfman, along with corporate firms like Goop, Soludos and Barclays. It also represents, so to speak, notable interior designers like Alec Holland, Ariel Okin and Tali Roth, who are among a network of 800 others.
Indeed, according to Santos, the list to join that roster has become sizable. This is because Homepolish does all the legwork, allowing the designers to stretch their creative muscles. It acts as a management service, handling all the logistics, payments and any problems that may arise. More recently, it has simplified the process further by introducing Collection, a tool on its website that sources and tracks a range of furnishings and objects from brand partners.
As with so many light bulb moments, Homepolish was born out of frustration. To rehash what others have said before, Santos graduated from Stanford University, where he studied business and architecture. He then made his way to New York City and joined an interior design firm before starting his own practice soon after. It was during this period, at the tender age of 24, when he saw how there was a lack of transparency and accessibility within the industry. (The commission model, which is standard, causes many to inflate budgets.) Santos also noticed how there were so many emerging designers who were experiencing the same perils: garnering a client, formulating budgets and dealing with planning and organization. So, he partnered with his co-founder, Will Nathan, and thought of a solution. And now, six years later, in the eyes of at least one woman, it has made him famous.
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Here, Santos elaborates on Homepolish, the new Collection tool and how he is looking to expand the company even more.
What did you learn from your past experiences that made you start Homepolish?
As I was working with clients, both in my first job and then within my own practice, I noticed the sheer demand for a transparent, accessible design service. Simultaneously, I found an overwhelming number of emerging designers who were interested in joining a design firm that promised a new way of doing business. Obviously, Homepolish has evolved considerably over the past six years but initially, we set out to create that connection between emerging clients and emerging designers.
How would you describe the ethos of the company? How does it benefit consumers?
The Homepolish team brings the right level of professionalism to the experience of designing a home—or office—without losing the energy and fun that make the design process what it is. On the one hand, we understand how complex, emotional and intimate the design experience is and it’s important we respect that. That said, we believe the sum of the design experience is not simply the beautiful space you end up with; rather it’s a process during which you learn about yourself, what matters to you and how you choose to live. Design evolves as you do. A room should feel finished, but never complete.
How does this service benefit an already established designer?
Designers are artists, craftsmen and creatives. Unfortunately, they’ve also had to step up and become business operators as well. Designers are now HR managers, bookkeepers, account managers, purchasing agents and marketers—responsibilities that are all important in running a business, but not ultimately what designers should be doing. Homepolish aims to provide a strong foundation and layer of support and tools to minimize the time designers spend on non-design tasks, freeing them up to do what they were meant to do.
Briefly, how does the platform work?
Potential clients find Homepolish in various ways. Whether it’s from our 1.8M followers on Instagram, our network of over 800 designers across the country or our in-house team of business development managers, prospective clients come to Homepolish and share information about themselves, their projects, style and budget. We then broker the right designer match—or general contractor or architect. It’s almost like dating. Once the match is right and the terms of the project are agreed upon, the designer and client start working together, with the support of our procurement team that facilitates the purchasing—and best prices—for the items going into a client’s home. Clients and designers use Collection, a sourcing and purchasing management tool built by Homepolish, to keep tabs on furniture and decor options, order confirmations, costs and tracking information. If a client has a renovation or construction project, we also facilitate working with one of our approved general contractors or architects and similarly help manage the process to successful completion.
What is this point of the Collection tool, and how does it simplify the process?
Collection is a tool we built specifically to streamline the collaboration process as designers and clients source, vet, order and track the furniture and decor items that go into a successful project. It eliminates the need for complicated spreadsheets, as well as all the other interfaces designers have to cobble together to communicate their designs, and then plugs directly into our procurement team. From there, we’re able to order trade and retail items on behalf of a designer and bill the client—all with a simple checkout. Finally, all of the details that go into a purchase, from final dimensions to tracking information, is then automatically updated and made visible to clients, allowing for a whole new level of transparency and eliminating the need for designers to have to constantly follow up with vendors and clients.
Who would you say are your biggest competitors in the market, and how are you looking to stand out?
There have been a lot of fascinating developments within the interior design space over the last several years. From e-decorating companies that operate solely online to resource directories that offer 100,000 designer options and even more product SKUs, clients now have access to an unprecedented amount of information that would have seemed unfathomable only a decade ago. All of these solutions, however, give a client an assisted DIY experience. Homepolish clients are not interested in doing things themselves. Of course, they want to be involved in the process and have fun picking out furniture, fabrics or accessories, all the while learning about their aesthetic preferences. When it comes to execution, however, they understand the need for professional help and want to get it right the first time around. Homepolish is truly the only platform providing clients with that premium end-to-end design experience, marrying clients with the right professionals and tools.
What are you biggest successes thus far?
We are entering into a new age of Homepolish. When we began, we felt very much like a services business with some level of technology helping streamline the process. With Collection and the next generation of product in the works, we are becoming a true technology platform with a premium, differentiated service and a singular brand. Our greatest success thus far has been in creating a voice and establishing an offering that is so compelling that thousands upon thousands of people value and trust Homepolish enough to invite us into their homes.
What other ways are you looking to expand the company?
While we’re heavily investing in the right, scalable product and processes for our own designers and clients, we see a massive opportunity in being able to help the other 100,000 designers—and their clients—across the country. With years of experience and thousands of projects, we’ve come to understand the nuances of what makes a design experience great. We intend to make that information, our tools and support available to all those who hope to walk through their front doors every day and smile at what they call their homes.