Nylon Guys — November 2014
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space cases
Patty Adams Martinez


HIRING AN INTERIOR DESIGNER JUST GOT EASIER—AND MANLIER—THANKS TO HOMEPOLISH.

CHALK IT UP TO MURPHY’S LAW: Every time Will Nathan, one half of the design firm Homepolish, opens his mouth, the fire alarm goes off in his New York City office. “We just moved in, so things are still a work in progress,” he explains, as the mind-numbing siren goes off again mid-sentence. In another corner, his partner Noa Santos has to hush his rowdy staff so he can hear. “Since there are no walls in our office, you can hear everything,” he says.

It’s funny that these two should have office drama, considering designing office spaces—along with homes—is their company’s bread and butter. Their brainchild, Homepolish, is a unique business that pairs interior designers with clients who pay flat rates of between 100 and 130 dollars per hour (no matter how much you splurge on the art or how many rugs are flown in from Morocco), cutting out all of the pricey commissions decorators are known to collect.

Bringing affordable interior design to the masses sounds pretty genius, but having an idea is one thing; turning it into a moneymaking business is another. Luckily, the duo has that figured out as well: Santos, 26, is the face of the operation with the design know-how to bring the polish to Homepolish, while Nathan, 30, is the finance and operations guru, pulling the strings behind the scenes.

They first came together in 2012 when Nathan relocated from San Francisco and moved to his new 500-square-foot studio apartment in Chelsea with only two boxes and one quickly acquired black folding Ikea chair. He then set out with a $30K budget to decorate his cozy space, only to find that no designers wanted to work within his budget.

“That was my first indication that something was off in the industry,” says Nathan, originally from Albany, New York. He finally found the Hawaii-born Santos, a self-described “opinionated and direct” interior designer. Santos could see the potential in Nathan’s space and was as excited as Nathan to turn the apartment into what would eventually become a “rustic mountain chic” home.

“He made my life significantly better,” says Nathan, “and I thought, ‘We now have to do this for the rest of the country.’” Santos, who thinks highly of Nathan’s business-forecasting skills, adds, “That’s when we started Homepolish.”

It was slow going at first since they were getting started just as Hurricane Sandy had leveled parts of New York. “Our first goal was to earn enough money to afford one Chinese takeout meal a week,” recalls Santos. The two were able to achieve that relatively quickly, yet still didn’t take salaries for the first six months they were in business, falling back on their personal savings to get them through.

Now Homepolish has 150 designers spread out over eight cities (New York, L.A., San Francisco, Chicago, Boston, Seattle, Philadelphia, and Washington, D.C.), and has a staff of 22 working out of its Flatiron office. “In New York alone, we’ve had over a thousand residential clients and between 200 and 250 offices,” says Nathan. Adds Santos: “We’re not only growing in the number of clients, but also in their budgets—some are spending upwards of $500K.”

Over the past two years, the company has designed innovative components like lounges with secret doors, and even a napping wall, for companies like Venmo, Fashionista, and all three national offices for Change.org—not to mention the NYLON digital team’s space, which Homepolish updated with an eye-catching graffiti wall.

Homepolish hopes to soon expand to 20 cities, but the main goal for the company remains the same: “Whether it’s a home or office, we aim to deliver a space that everyone feels good in and is excited to come into,” says Santos. “Good design really does have a ripple effect, and can make for a better life.”
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