Since 2012, Noa Santos has been bringing homeowners and designers together as the co-founder and CEO of Homepolish, a platform built to streamline and democratize the interior decorating process. But since launching Homepolish’s home remodeling arm, Build, Santos has been not only offering consumers a full-spectrum design concierge—he’s been repairing the notoriously fraught relationship between clients and contractors.
Like many dysfunctional relationships, Santos says the main flaw in the home owner-designer-contractor triumvirate is a lack of communication. “Put 10 people in a room who have undergone a design or renovation project, and nine of them had a terrible experience,” he says. “It turns into this nightmare that has to do with poor communication back and forth.”
The Build platform, which offers Homepolish users access to a database of general contractors, is designed to both meet the needs of more complex design projects and break down the lack of transparency between clients, designers and builders. While the latter may get a bad rap for blowing budgets, Santos says clients are often also at fault. “A lot of clients use GCs [general contractors] on renovation projects without actually having the proper instructions to give a GC,” explains Santos. “So when the GCs give them a number, they have no idea what stone what floors are being picked.”
That’s where Homepolish’s sprawling network of decorators comes in. “GCs and designers work really well together when there’s someone playing mother hen. Our build and design department are very much collaborators” Santos says. This model, he explains, mimics that of design firms like Gensler or Diller Scofidio + Renfro, but without the skyscraping overhead. “We don’t employ a single designer or a single general contractor,” Santos says. “From a client’s perspective, we really give them an end-to-end experience for a fraction of what the traditional industry cost.”
And while the Build service puts a chip in the consumer’s hand, it also offers service providers a professional edge. “One challenge for contractors is that they are usually out of the space before it’s finished. But because we take it all the way to completion, we have amazing content that can actually help you build out your business,” explains Santos, who has executed projects for everyone from Karlie Kloss to Hannah Bronfman.
If Homepolish’s new model sounds something like a movie studio for home renovation, Santos says that’s by design. “In the same way a movie director casts actors and screenwriters, we say, ‘Okay lets cast for the right designer and the right general contractor,” says Santos of the end-to-end model—one he notes is pioneering for the trade. “Designers are one of the last creative professionals who don’t have access to management; Meryl Streep isn’t going home at night invoicing clients,” he says. (That said, don’t mistake it for HGTV: “I don’t watch any of the design shows anymore because they’re so not realistic. It’s a huge problem actually that clients think homes get decorated in 3 days!” Santos adds.)
Launched in December, the Build service is well underway with everything from Upper East Side jewel boxes to upstate New York ski resorts. And with prices generally starting at six figures and climbing into the millions, consider Santos’s emotional labor part of the deal. “What [clients] ultimately want is someone who can say, we know this is going to be really expensive. We know this is going to take six months,” says Santos. “’It’s going to be an emotional journey for you, but we’re here to take care of you.”
Main image: Noa Santos (photo: courtesy of Homepolish)