Performance Upgrade: Design

A leading NYC interior expert instructs us on the art of churching up your pad

Homepolish Founder Noa Santos

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Daniel LaRusso had Mr. Miyagi. Neo had Morpheus. Luke Skywalker had Yoda.

Long story short, never underestimate the value of a good mentor — a truly savvy gent knows that the shortest path to improvement in any aspect of his life is via someone who knows the ropes better than he does.

And thus we bring you Performance Upgrade, a handy series in which we tap battle-hardened experts in various fields to help you elevate your game.

Today’s subject: interior design, with interior wizard Noa Santos.

Read on and live stylishly.

Our Expert

In the world of interior design, there are few people more knowledgeable than our friend Noa Santos.

As the cofounder and CEO of celebrated New York-based firm Homepolish, Santos presides over an army of talented young designers who have elevated countless spaces to envy-inducing levels — including high-profile projects like the offices of supermodel Karlie Kloss and GQ Magazine.

In short, this is the guy you talk to when you want to create a home or office with not only a strong sense of taste and refinement, but a healthy dose of personality as well.

“Your space tells a story about who you are.” Santos told us, “If you decide to furnish your entire home with IKEA, that’s going to say something — not necessarily good or bad — but something. If you curate your home to look and feel like a museum, that says something as well. The biggest mistake is thinking you’re not saying anything at all.”

Makes sense, though we felt like we laymen could use a little more guidance to make sure we’re saying, you know, the right things. 

Below, Noa’s tips on doing exactly that.


Form follows function follows form. I don’t believe one happens at the expense of the other, brands are getting better and better about marrying functionality and style. I really think you can make one plus one equal three.

On things every guy should have in his home:


“If you’re someone who likes to entertain, I always start with a great bar cart. And get something that’s a conversation piece. It can be as inexpensive as a quick Target buy or as committed as an Hermes splurge.”


“Water, whiskey or wine, invest in good glassware. You use it constantly, so what better place to spend. You can find compellingly priced statement pieces from brands like Riedel or splurge a little more on Tiffany.”

On places to look for design inspiration:


“Instagram and Pinterest are still some of the easiest places to look online. But I always encourage people to think about their favorite spots regardless of if they’re residential or not. What are your favorite restaurants, bars, hotels, offices or retreats IRL. Take photos and let’s discuss.”

On designing a space with your partner:


The experience of design is more important than the final outcome — great rooms come from great partnerships. And if done well, it can be a way to grow closer together. From the very beginning, I encourage partners to listen without judgment, to create a safe space where ideas can be shared.

On products that are both
utilitarian and beautiful:

“A timeless lighter (for candles) sitting on a bar cart.”

Gadroon Motif Lighter
Cartier
$1150

Engraved Oxhorn Shoehorn
Abbeyhorn
$40

“The perfect shoe horn hanging on a bedroom wall.”

“A handsome duffel sitting casually beside the bed.”

Weekender Duffle
T. Anthony
$460

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Great advances in design don’t solve the same problems in new ways — they solve problems you never even considered. Obsess over your home and office temperature? The Lexus RC brings precise climate controls to your commute with the Enform remote,* a feature that lets you remotely start your vehicle and warm or cool the interior based on the last climate-control settings. Particular about your workspace? The seats are both heated and ventilated (with available foam-injected front sport seats), meaning you’ll be comfortable and collected no matter what’s going on around you. Other flourishes are more subtle: the perforated NuLuxe trim, the harmonious available wood accents. Your passengers may not mention them, but they will feel them, and that’s exactly the point.

The redesigned Lexus RC is an exercise in performance upgrades. To learn about the rest of them, head over to their website and take a full tour.

1. How do I want to use the space?
2. What pieces in my current home make me the happiest?
3. What do I want the space to say about who I am and who I want to grow into?

On the three questions you should ask yourself before decorating a space

On keeping small stuff in a stylish way:


“Two words: decorative boxes. If you’re going to keep things from your past (limit the ex-girlfriend or ex-boyfriend memorabilia), either find a way to curate and display them or put them in a lovely box. A piece like this one from Ralph Lauren can sit proudly on a stack of coffee table books — just make sure you don’t mind the occasional curious houseguest.”


“I keep my wedding rings in a little ring bowl next to my bed. Other than my husband, it’s the only thing I’d grab if the house caught fire. And make it a moment — find one for each other on a trip you take together (mine comes from a small coastal town in Mexico).”

On things that get better with age:


“Anything in saddle leather or sterling silver, like a barstool or a letter opener.”

Clive Bar Stool
Industry West
$575

Padova Letter Opener
Tiffany & Co.
$275

On his favorite tech-forward
products for the home:

The Frame
Samsung
$1200

“The Frame from Samsung is the most beautiful TV I’ve seen in awhile.”

“Philips Hue. The most economical way to outfit your home with smart lighting.”

Hue Smart Lighting System
Philips
Prices Vary

Beoplay A9
Bang & Olufsen
$3000

“The Bang & Olufsen Beoplay — it’s music you can put on display.”

Warm grey, white and saddle leather.

On an idiot-proof color scheme you can’t go wrong with

*Disclaimer: Use only if aware of circumstances surrounding vehicle and it is legal and safe to do so (e.g., do not remotely start engine if vehicle is in an enclosed space or vehicle is occupied by a child). Remote Connect is dependent upon an operative telematics device, a cellular connection, navigation map data and GPS satellite signal reception, and other factors outside of Lexus’ control, which can limit the ability or functionality of the system. Registration and app download are required. App and services subject to change at any time without notice. See usage precautions and service limitations in Owner’s Manual. To learn about Lexus Enform’s data collection, use, sharing and retention, please visit https://www.lexus.com/privacyvts/.