As the cofounder and CEO of Homepolish, an interior design service that uses tech to connect interior designers with clients all over the U.S., Noa Santos spends a lot of time helping people spruce up their homes (and perhaps not enough time at his own).
Here the executive reveals his tips and tools for getting the most out of every day.
What’s your “On Switch”?
It might sound corny, but I have a mantra. It’s pretty specific and quite detailed, as I’ve spent a long time developing it to feel just right. Every morning, as I walk to the office through the park, I say it three times, and 10 minutes later when I get to work, my head is clear and I’m ready to go.
What’s your “Off Switch”?
Headspace is how I end my day. The meditation app recently launched “Sleep by Headspace” and I’ve become rather fond of falling asleep next to a campfire while, importantly, not falling asleep in the actual wilderness.
What books are on your nightstand?
- The Hard Thing About Hard Things by Ben Horowitz. Being a founder can be a lonely job, and sometimes you just want to know there are others out there facing the tough-to-answer challenges along with you.
- Competing Against Luck by Clayton Christensen. Turning luck into innovation over and over is the name of the game and Christensen offers a fantastic framework for at least improving the odds.
- The Last Word on Power by Tracy Goss. We each have a “winning strategy,” formulated when we were only kids, that we’ve deployed day in and day out to get to where we are today. That strategy is what’s preventing us from getting to where we could go.
- The Untethered Soul by Michael Singer. An exploration of the fundamental question, “Who am I?” this book has personally helped me explore not only that question, but another one I hold of equal importance: “Why am I here?”
- The Art of Learning by Josh Waitzkin. I’m a purpose-driven person, meaning I need to first understand why I am doing something before I can do it well. This book has gotten me that much closer to the greater “why” I’m searching for.
Where do you go to relax and recharge?
I’m biased because I like to eat (everything) when I’m in relaxation mode, but I think the Arashiyama district of Kyoto is one of the most phenomenal places to unplug. Situated in a valley surrounded by maple trees, time melts away and every season is a unique canvas of color. It’s a bit risky with the weather, but going in the rainy season (summer) as opposed to high season (fall or spring) means you can get a reservation at all the best restaurants and even save a little on accommodations.
What tool can you not live without?
I don’t know what my life would be like without Google SketchUp. The software allows me to quickly mock up interiors for clients and take them all the way through to final, photorealistic renderings.
What song do you listen to…
When you’re waking up? “Escape from Gravity” by Deuter
When you’re driving? “Chasing Marrakech” by Zhu
When you’re working out? “Sweet but Psycho” by Ava Max
When you’re hard at work on a big project? “Matadora” by Sofi Tukker
To get psyched for a big presentation? “Head Above Water” by Avril Lavigne
To mellow out at the end of the day? “Somewhere Over the Rainbow” by Israel Kamakawiwo’ole (I’m from Hawaii)
What’s your favorite thing to eat when…
You’re in the middle of work and need a quick burst of energy? Trader Joe’s Just Mango
When you need a quick takeout lunch? A salad from Sweetgreen
When you have plenty of time to go out and eat? Korean barbecue at Cote
What product are you currently in love with?
It’s no secret that lighting is one of the most important elements of a space. Philips makes a collection of Bluetooth bulbs called “Hue” that allows you to seamlessly adjust light settings from your phone and to create presets for different rooms or times of day. I installed their Hue White Ambiance bulbs in my home a few months ago and can’t imagine living without them.
What classic product do you still use because nobody’s ever improved on it?
A Grey Goose dirty martini up with two olives. There never has been or will be a better cocktail.
What’s have you recently splurged on?
My Tumi 1975 Collection saddle leather suitcase. I use it every chance I get and if my bag is ever searched, the agent’s reaction is always the same: “Wow, what a bag.”
What travel tips do you swear by?
- Whenever I travel somewhere special, I always purchase something to bring back. My favorite items come from the markets or bazaars specific to an area where being a good negotiator is critical. So when I’m traveling with friends, rather than making a bunch of singular purchases, I find that if the best negotiator of the group purchases everything, he or she is able to truly get a bargain. Then we just Venmo afterwards.
- Music is an important element to my daily routine, but when traveling, you never know what kind of system (if any) is waiting for you in your hotel room. So I always pack a Bluetooth speaker with me wherever I go.
- I mentioned how much I like to eat when I travel. One mistake I see travelers making is to presume that they know a menu better than their server. I almost always ask the opinion of one or more people at the restaurant and nine out of 10 times, order the special.
- This is going to make me sound like I’m 80 years old, but when you’re traveling, your diet is bound to go through major mood swings. I always pack fiber (not fiber bars but legitimate psyllium husk) and start taking it a few days before. Then, when I’m full-throttle exploring the local cuisine as if every meal were my last, as long as I stick to my daily routine, I’m good to go!
- Alternate on and off days. Too frequently people cram a ton of activity into each day of their trip, which makes a trip feel shorter and doesn’t allow for reflection or the wonderful discoveries that come from getting lost. If I’m traveling for leisure, I almost always follow each “on” day with a day of rest and alternate on-off-on-off.
What do you do with the time when you have…
A free five minutes? Meditate with “Everyday Headspace”
A free hour? Watch Sex in the City reruns
A whole free day? Take a trip upstate to Hudson, south to Chadds Ford, or out east to the Hamptons
What do you find yourself doing when you should be working?
Binge (re)watching The Crown, scouring the deep web for obscure furniture makers or pieces, or working out at Equinox.
What’s your necessary vice?
Tomoe Brand Mix Arare crackers. I eat it by the bag and thankfully our parents (my husband and I are both from Hawaii) send it to us all the time.
Which app do you look at…
Once a day? Robinhood to see what’s happening with the market and my portfolio
Once an hour? Instagram, no explanation necessary
Far too often? Gmail