Once upon a time, hiring an interior designer was a luxury afforded to only those with tens of thousands of dollars lying around. Then Homepolish came along and changed the game. Co-founded by Noa Santos and Will Nathan, Homepolish is making interior design fit any budget in 10 cities across the country. Whether you’ve got great design sense and just want some advice on how to tie it all together, or staring at paint chips makes you feel clueless, their designers will tailor their guidance and style choices to you. CEO and co-founder Noa Santos chatted with us about everything from how to define your personal style to how using an interior designer can actually save you money.

Why He Says Renting Is THE Best Time to Experiment With Interior Design

If you’re already thinking that Homepolish is a service you’ll use someday when you buy a house, stop right there. The majority of Homepolish’s clients are renters. “For us, there is no wrong time to begin thinking about your style,” says Noa. “Your style isn’t something that is stagnant — it grows as your life grows. And it’s so much better to experiment when you’re renting, because you can learn those things in small, easy, bite-sized pieces. So that when you do invest in a home and you have more money to spend, you make the right choices.”

How Homepolish is Making Beautiful and Bespoke Work on a Budget

Interior design that’s actually cheaper than shopping for yourself? Believe it. There’s no smoke and mirrors when it comes to Homepolish’s fees, because they’ve removed the commission aspect from interior design entirely. You pay an hourly rate for your designer’s time, and you can spend that time however suits you best, whether that’s buying new pieces or reorganizing your furniture. Plus, Homepolish’s Swatch program hooks you up with seriously amazing discounts at favorites like West Elm, Anthropologie and Bludot, which could save you big bucks in the long run.

Don’t expect this all to take place via the interwebs either. “It isn’t about jumping on a Skype interview or picking solutions online,” says Noa. “It’s about a designer coming to your home, spending the hour with you, showing you the potential of the space and then working with you in person, whether that’s moving things around or shopping at a flea market.”

How to Define Your Personal Style: Show, Don’t Tell

Do you find it hard to put your personal style into words? That’s because you probably shouldn’t, according to Noa. Interior design is a visual business, so get visual with Pinterest boards and Homepolish’s dashboard, and leave the adjectives out of it. “It’s much more efficient for a client to describe why they like specific items, and then let the designer worry about how to translate it into a style. A one-hour consultation with the designer is so valuable because they can see the things you’ve already collected that you love.”

His Cheap and Cheerful Hacks for Sprucing Up the Place

Noa likens your design tastes to your fashion tastes in that they evolve as you grow. It’s totally natural to want to shake things up around the home now and then — after all, don’t we do it with our wardrobes all the time? Paint is your friend, he says, even if you’re only renting for a couple of years. “In the next two years, you’ll probably spend more on new shoes than you’ll spend on painting the entire house.” He’s also all for browsing Etsy for new decorative accessories, rearranging furniture, learning to style a coffee table and hanging art.

How to Play with Color

You know we love a bright color around here, but if you’re afraid to take the pigment plunge, Noa recommends two things. First, don’t waste time browsing allllll those thousands of paint chips — use Benjamin Moore’s Williamsburg Collection, which has pared it down to 144 shades. “I hedge my bets,” he says. “The difference between two shades of purple is the difference between you having a chic, plum wall and a Barney wall.” Secondly, start by putting your bold colors in smaller spaces, like a guest bathroom. It’ll impress friends and help you decide if you can commit to color in a larger space.

When to Buy Versus DIY

Having the skills, the time and the resources to make your own furniture or accessories is half the battle, but Noa says the real way to decide if you should DIY is to ask yourself: Do you actually want to, and are you excited to share that experience with others? “It’s more about the process than it is about the end result,” he says. “Our designers don’t do DIY unless it’s with the client, because then it’s about the story.”

A Few of Noa’s Favorite Things

So what about the design expert himself?

Home Style: Monochromatic with rich, natural materials. “When I get home, I really want to walk into this clean, crisp, white, blank slate of a home. So that when I wake up the next morning and I see all these amazing colorful things at work, I can appreciate them and not feel exhausted by color or by design.”

Favorite Room: “The living room. I love it because we entertain, and it’s something I can share with everyone. It’s been a real case study for me: how do you design a chic, clean room where you don’t have to be afraid of people dropping a drink?”

Inspiring Blogs:Design*Sponge, A Cup of Jo, Todd Selby, Fashion Your Seat Belt and Brit + Co ;)

Ready to hire Homepolish? Be sure to enter our sweepstakes, where you could win 10 whole hours with a designer plus $1,500 to spend at West Elm. Then head to the comments to tell us what room you’re dying to have redesigned!

(Photos via Homepolish)