Life after Homepolish.
On the one hand, as a Homepolish designer that has received lots of wonderful projects from the platform, I’m sad that Homepolish has gone under. They were clever at marketing, demystifying pricing and process and connecting designers with great clients. On the other hand, I am relieved that a company that placed profits over their customers’ best interests—a company that owes its designers thousands of dollars— has failed.
Last week, Homepolish informed us, its community of interior designers, that it has run out of money. Hundreds of designers will not be paid for overdue earnings.
So where did they go wrong?
When I signed up with Homepolish about two years ago, it was pitched as a sort of CAA-style talent agency for the interior design community. It would operate as savvy middleman to bring us clients while taking a percentage of the project’s overall design fee in return. I thought this was a match made in heaven. Homepolish matched us with clients so that we could focus on our specialty: bringing spaces to life.
Homepolish seemed like a dream, really—but it wasn’t a reality.
Like many for-profit companies, whether it be ego or stakeholder pressure, money took precedence. As founder, Noa Santos, explained in a recent Business of Home article, there was a mad dash to expand the business through a series of profit-driven tactics. However, each development was at the expense of the designers they represented (not to mention their clients). At no point, as the designers and experts, were we brought in and asked about if these changes to the business model would work. When money became the only factor that influenced Homepolish’s decisions and practices, they lost sight of their mission: to make the entire process clear and stress-free for clients while giving talented designer ample business.
In short, they lost their integrity.
I understand that democratizing and digitizing interior design can deliver professional design to a broader market thanks to a lower price point. But it’s truly at the expense of the interior designer. Sure, lower cost options can be good—great, even—for interior designers that are just starting out, and for clients who want to be more hands-on. But it limits the full value of the work for seasoned designers, especially for clients who want to be hands-off and receive VIP, top of the line service.
The answer, in my opinion, is not to digitize and commodify the interior design process with cut-rate plans (ones that make it impossible for interior designers to make a living). Instead, I would love to see an actual CAA model for interior designers, one that’s invested in finding top talent and expertly matching them with clients and marketing the service; they can take a percentage of the overall fee without overstepping on the design process and allowing designers to utilize their long-term relationships with contractors and suppliers to make projects go smoother and ultimately ensure success. A smarter Homepolish would stick to making connections and marketing—it would bring clients directly to vetted talent so that designers can do what they do best: designing and managing each project from start to finish.
As a holistic interior designer who believes in beautiful and functional spaces for all, I would rather improve lives—creating healthy spaces for clients—for an honest fee that allows us to truly take ownership of the entire project once the connection is made. These lower cost, smoke and mirrors, looks-great-on-Instagram start-ups shouldn’t cut into every step of our process: at most, they should give designers the wherewithal to handle the project on their own terms.
So if anyone out there is looking to start up this type of business model where ethics, transparency, quality, good design, great designers and exceptional high quality client service is the mission, please reach out – firstname.lastname@example.org.