An illustration of a phone taking a photo of a beautifully decorated room that is slowly falling apart at the edges.
Illustrations: Joel Plosz

How a Hot $100 Million Home Design Startup Collapsed Overnight

The untold story of how Homepolish’s extremely Instagrammable house of cards came tumbling down.

Courtney Rubin
Published in
28 min readFeb 24, 2020

--

AtAt 12:54 a.m. on September 10, yet another lust-worthy image appeared on the Instagram account of the interior design startup Homepolish. The New York-based company, which had nearly 2 million followers and a $100 million valuation, had spent the past couple of years trying to seduce customers with plush budgets, and this living room photo was fitting catnip: An Alexander Calder mobile dangling above midcentury Pierre Jeanneret chairs and a low-slung copper Charlotte Perriand table, the whole room awash in natural light. “We would have tons of guests over and make sure they TOUCH NOTHING,” read the playful caption.

It was the last Instagram post the company would ever publish.

The next day, via a Zoom video call, Homepolish CEO Noa Santos announced to the company’s national network of more than 500 designers that he was shuttering the business. On the 26-minute call, the always-immaculate Santos — who had once appeared in an ad for J. Crew — was dressed in a blue button-down shirt and looked somber. “We frankly don’t have the funding left to run the business,” he told them.

It was a bruising fall for the 31-year-old CEO, who in press interviews spoke grandly about “when Homepolish is around 100 years from now.” For a while, it certainly seemed possible. The upstart had been profitable since its launch in 2012, or at least that’s what Santos proudly told nearly every interviewer early on. In 2015, when Homepolish was barely three years old, Santos was named to Forbes’ “30 Under 30” list, in part because the company was due to hit $10 million in revenue that year.

The company also landed a series of high-profile customers — Man Repeller’s Leandra Medine, model Karlie Kloss, and payments startup Venmo — as well as designers like celebrity interiors guru Orlando Soria.

Homepolish went on to attract $20 million in funding from entrepreneurs-turned-investors such as Warby Parker co-founder Andy Hunt, who…

--

--