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How Homepolish Is Disrupting the Interior Design Industry

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An interior designed by Homepolish. Image via Homepolish.
An interior designed by Homepolish. Image via Homepolish.

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Homepolish is shaking up the world of interior design by offering home and office decorating services at strikingly reasonable prices. Founded by Noa Santos and Will Nathan, the start-up has grown to eight cities and has attended to the decor needs of some of fashion and tech's hottest businesses.

Most of Homepolish's clients are renters. The service matches users to designers online, based on their design taste and personality. The company works with more than 140 interior designers around the country, including professionals in New York, D.C., Chicago, Los Angeles, Boston and Philly, and charges by the hour. After a $50 home consultation, clients can pay for the designer's services at an hourly rate of $100 for junior designers, or $130 for senior designers.

A redone home in Southern California. Image via Homepolish.

The idea for the company came in late 2012 when Nathan, a 30-year-old New York native, moved to New York and hired Santos to decorate his apartment while he worked a coding job at Buzzfeed. Santos had left his job at a high-end design firm to start his own venture, and the two talked about creating a system that brought design to people in a way that is actually affordable.

"When I was looking to design my new place, the process was difficult and even condescending. I'd send emails to designers and wouldn't get answers or if they'd hear my budget, they'd tell me to go to Ikea," Nathan told Racked at Homepolish's New York City office earlier this week. "[We realized we're] looking for a service that no one else is doing."

"A lot of people are exposed to interior design but are overwhelmed. If you see a great chair, how are you going to find it? Google? You might see things but have no idea what they're called," Nathan added. "A lot of clients want editors: someone with access and talent to say, 'this is where you buy that, this is the best price, and this is where it should go.'"

An room inside Venmo's office that was designed by Homepolish. Image via Instagram.

In less than two years, the start-up has landed some impressive fashion industry gigs, designing spaces for Fashiontoast blogger Rumi Neely, Man Repeller's Leandra Medine, and W Magazine's Christina Caldwell. Homepolish has also worked on the spaces of over 100 tech businesses, including Venmo, Gilt and Codeacademy.

Homepolish's strategy of billing services by the hour rather than project completely alters the incentive of the designer, Santos explained.

"We're restructuring the client and designer relationship. Traditionally, the service worked in that a commission was charged, so if you'd have a $10,000 budget, you're getting charged a 30 percent commission and half your budget is going into the designer's pocket," Santos explained. "That's a problem because they are incentivized to spend more of your money, and the resources used for your home are substantially depleted."

Designers working for Homepolish certainly can't rake it in the way they would at big firms, but Santos said the start-up gives young designers the type of exposure they wouldn't get working under a big name. Junior designers working at a firm might do hundreds of projects without any credit while Homepolish provides immediate access and exposure.

The Gilt offices, designed by Homepolish. Image via Instagram.

Homepolish also runs a program called Swatch, where some 100 online vendors, including retailers like Restoration Hardware and West Elm, grant discounts to clients once they enter the design process with a Homepolish designer. The goal isn't to, "be a sales pitch. It's supposed to be a no-brainer, so that when you want interior design, you won't have to replace your crumbling Ikea with more crumbling Ikea."

Many Homepolish clients turn to social media tools like Polyvore and Pinterest to help them organize their interior aspirations, and Nathan said the company will be rolling out a new social element using those tools the coming months. The guys wouldn't divulge any specific details, but promised that the development would help clients, "communicate visually with designers so the time and money can be used efficiently."