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    Noa Santos

    Noa Santos

    Born and raised in Hawaii, Noa Santos began his design career at Stanford University and then at one of Manhattan’s premier design firms. After working exclusively with private clients, he launched an interior design agency representing over 1,000 designers across the country which he sold in 2018. In 2019, he created NAINOA, an international architecture and interior design firm design firm specializing in luxury residential and commercial spaces. NAINOA has offices in New York City, Los Angeles, and London with projects across the globe.

    1. How did you begin designing interiors ?

    I studied Architecture and Business at Stanford and moved to NYC shortly after graduating to work in a renowned NYC firm. It was really during my time there that I fell in love with interiors and the profound effect they can have on people. In our work, we marry architecture and interiors in a way that I hope feels completely symbiotic.

    2. Has there been a defining moment in your career ?

    I don’t know that I’ve had a single defining moment professionally – I’ve been lucky enough to have what feels like quite a few of them. While it might seem unrelated, if I had to pick one moment, it would be meeting my husband, now almost thirteen years ago. He’s a true artist and has been a champion of my drive, passion and aspirations and, in that way, has given me the confidence to keep pushing the boundaries of our work.

    3. What is your favorite type of client/project ?

    I love clients that have a strong perspective. I want opinions, preferences and eccentricities. Those individual qualities are truly what make each project unique.

    4. How do you create a sense of “home” in your luxurious and elegant interior designs?

    Home is a very personal affair – everyone defines it differently. So for us, creating a “home” is first and foremost about listening. The aesthetics follow a very intimate understanding of what home means to someone.

    5. What do you think is the deciding factor in a successful interior design project?

    Client happiness. That, above all else – above how something looks or if it photographs well or if it represents our “brand” – that happiness is what drives us.

    6. What is the most challenging aspect of your work?

    Construction timelines. No surprises there I’m sure hah.

    7. How would you describe your creative process and its influences? Or how do you get inspired?

    We are lucky enough to live in a time where inspiration is everywhere – seems like you can’t miss it. So I don’t spend much time looking for it, I just let it surprise me. Our process on the other hand is quite defined. We have a pretty linear and logical process whether we are working on a 2,000 sf home or one that is the size of a hotel. All clients more or less follow the same steps that we are, of course, constantly tweaking and improving.

    8. What would be the ideal place to design for you?

    I don’t have one fortunately. We are working on homes, hotels and commercial spaces all over the world and each one is my favorite in some way or another. Sometimes the project is ideal simply because I adore the clients and can’t wait for them to step through the front door.

    9. Could you describe a typical day of your work?

    I spend most of my days in meetings with my team or with our clients. We are working on roughly 80 projects around the world so that tends to require most of my time.

    10. What was one of the hardest-learned lessons in your job?

    We are constantly learning how to toe the line between following a process we know works very well while managing the details of projects and clients that are all unique in their own ways. I don’t expect we will ever stop.

    11. How do you think the interior design industry has changed over the past few years?

    Clients are becoming more and more involved in the design process – as they should be. Design is now more than ever a conversation and a dialogue. For some creatives I imagine that’s challenging – it means more constraints, opinions and preferences – but for us it’s a worthwhile price to pay for each project feeling incredibly unique.

    12. What artists/creatives have influenced you?

    I follow so many creatives on Instagram I don’t know where to start. I am continually amazed by the work they produce and so grateful we get to participate in the conversation.

    13. What advice would you give to beginner designers?

    Gain technical knowledge – learn to draw, draft and detail. You may only use it day-to-day for the first part of your career, but having that foundation is imperative.

    14. If you had to summarize your creations in one word or sentence, what would it be?


    15. Do you have any books/programs/podcasts to recommend to our readers?

    I’m ashamed to say I get most of my information online these days. We are (hopefully) having a baby soon so unless anyone is interested in parenting books, I’ve got nothing.

    16. Anything you would like to add?

    We are always hiring talented people from around the world – so reach out if you’re interested 🙂

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