HomePolish: Design for the Masses

HomePolish: Design for the Masses

Professional designers at rates even those with a modest budget can afford—sounds too good to be true. Yet that is exactly what young New York startup HomePolish has been doing across the city for the last year. Demand for their services is high (there is currently a waitlist for future clients) and with over 500 projects under their belt, it’s not hard to see why.

We sat down with founder Noa Santos recently to learn more about HomePolish and how they’re able to lock in great design at such manageable prices. A former designer himself, Santos now works on HomePolish business development full-time and has big plans for its future.

Noa Santos, founder of HomePolish. Photo by Chellise Michael Photography.

How would you describe the typical HomePolish client?

One of the best parts about having a designer is having the courage to take the leap into a bold statement. A patterned entry wallpaper let's you say "...it's perfectly alright to be jealous" - without actually having to say it. Photo by Chellise Michael Photography.

Savvy. Fashion or finance, a girl in her twenties or a couple in their forties, the one characteristic that unites our hundreds of clients is that they're savvy—and they want a designer who understands that. They don't want strange fees or secret commissions, HomePolish clients get good design and appreciate the value of good business. They work with us because we believe in and deliver on both.

Just because you're working from home in your pajamas doesn't mean you can't look good. Vintage pieces bring a sense of richness and sophistication into a room making you feel productive even if you're just on Facebook. Photo by Chellise Michael Photography.

It's easy to see the draw for clients, but what are some of the benefits that attract designers to HomePolish (versus striking out on their own)?

Mixing mid-century modern with the iconic brick of downtown Manhattan is a sure fire way to live "bachelor-chic". Photo by Chellise Michael Photography.

Besides the opportunity to run their own design business without the worries of acquiring new clients, billing them, managing insurance and liability, and dealing with legal work? Nothing really.

"Having a seat" in the reception area of Codeacademy’s New York office isn't like having a seat at your dentist's. Worn leather coupled with local art and a splash of green gives you the sense that this startup has arrived. Photo by Chellise Michael Photography.

How do you scout new designers?

The best way to make a small space work is to find the hidden gems. The high ceilings, exposed brick and ridiculous skylight in this Chelsea one-bedroom gave us a pretty good foundation to go mountain-man modern. Photo by Chellise Michael Photography.

Will (my cofounder) and I are maniacs when it comes to the quality of our design team. In the beginning it started with designers I specifically sought out, hypnotized, and coerced into joining. Now as buzz is growing, we get a lot of talent from top tier firms applying. So I only hypnotize for fun.

A bedroom is the best place to be moody. Use a saturated color (put down the off-white!) and a satin finish (preserves the light) on the walls—we promise you won't regret it. Photo by Chellise Michael Photography.

Last we spoke, you said "interior design is a lifestyle, not a luxury." (Love that!) How does this translate to HomePolish's MO?

When this client said she'd impulse bought a 12-foot, reclaimed bookcase from across the street, we chuckled. Photo by Chellise Michael Photography.

Rather than barging in and telling a client how to live, the design process for us begins with first understanding how a client wants to live. Maybe you don't need a dining table if you have frequent cocktail parties. Maybe extra seating is more important if you love to organize movie nights with friends. What's most exciting about this industry is the potential it has to positively impact a life in so many ways—that's a responsibility we don't take lightly.

You don't like to wake up surrounded by your favorite things? Photo by Francisco Aguila.

You also said you hope to change the environment of the interior design industry. How would you describe it in its current state and how would you like to see it transform?

If the shade is ugly, throw it away. Sometimes bending the rules a little allows for a creative surprise—and that's what good design is all about. Photo by Francisco Aguila

What's wrong with the industry? How much time do you have?

Maybe we just like being dramatic but creating vignettes throughout a home is a great way to introduce a variety of living environments. Photo by Chellise Michael Photography.

The short of it is that people deserve homes they don't just like, but ones they love, are obsessed with, can't wait to drag their new friends into and force into admiring their collection of vintage horticultural prints. And that kind of happiness shouldn't be about money. That's where we come in.

Walls are overrated. Instead we mounted a ceiling track and suspended a 13-foot piece of art that slides to become the bedroom wall. Viola—instant privacy! Photo by Chellise Michael Photography.

The second short of it is that talented designers deserve a voice and a community. A voice they are free to develop and a design community that is there to excite, engage and support. That's where we come in.

You've been fortunate to grow at a rapid clip. What's coming up next for the HomePolish team?

Well we're obviously working on world domination but, in the meantime, we're opening a DC office and recruiting in other cities. I heard recently that there are quite a few homes across the country so we have our work cut out for us.

Click through the slideshow for more from Noa on some of his favorite HomePolish projects and some takeaway design tips.


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