LAKEWOOD – When Margalit Lankry moved here 35 years ago, she made her apartment beautiful on a budget.
She decorated it with a set of carefully curated items that she found in the garbage or at flea markets. Back then, she didn’t have much money. She had just gotten married, her husband was a student at Beth Medrash Govoha and she was a full-time mother.
“Our finances were challenging at the beginning. I didn’t have a lot to play with, but I would go flea market shopping or find things in the garbage and then clean and spray paint them, so I could decorate our apartment and make it look beautiful,” she said.
At home, she would spend a great amount of time rearranging furniture, doing creative projects with her children and decorating for the holidays.
One day, after eight years living in Lakewood, she decided to try offering her services as a decorator to others, and Margalit Lankry Designs was born. She was very nervous, but not intimidated.
“You’ve got to give it a shot,” Lankry said. “If you never try, you never know. There was a lot of things I didn’t know. But don’t think because you haven’t done it before it means that you can’t do it. Just learn on the job and ask questions.”
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‘Space for opportunities’
After knocking on doors around Lakewood, Lankry got her first gigs decorating storefronts. It was early 2000s and the township was growing with multiple new businesses and new construction everywhere. “I saw in every construction project a space for opportunities,” Lankry said.
Word of mouth got her more clients. Besides storefronts, she started decorating venues for special events, and as she gained more experience and recognition, she started designing home interiors.
One of her clients loved her work so much that he offered her the opportunity to work on a nursing home in Cherry Hill, which Lankry revamped.
“The place was old and dark. I refreshed the whole space. We changed the lightning and we put new materials in to give the space a hospitality experience,” Lankry said.
Designing the nursing home was a turning point for Lankry’s career. She designed other commercial spaces, and multiple other health care facilities, eventually specializing in commercial interior design.
“People walk into a health care space stressed out, injured or sad. So for me is very important that the space reflects how we want patients to feel: comfortable and serene. But the place has also got to look professional, so the patient feels that the staff know what they are doing,” Lankry said.
In addition to health care facilities, Lankry has designed interiors for restaurants, lounges, coffee shops, synagogues, elementary schools and bars in New Jersey and in New York City. In Lakewood, she designed the interiors of The Cookie Corner, Mike’s Chicken, Focus Camera, Piccolino, Krug Orthodontics and The Gallery Collection.
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‘It is the thinking that takes time’
Today, her firm has four employees, but she looks forward to hiring more staff, as her workload keeps growing.
Currently she works with 10 to 15 clients at a time, with some projects taking her about three months to finish, others taking over a year.
“It is the thinking that takes time,” she said. Some ideas come to mind in 10 minutes, others take longer. “Sometimes ideas would come in the middle of the night while sleeping,” she said.
Sometimes turning those ideas into reality can be challenging.
Lankry recalled designing a children’s center in Lakewood. She had envisioned a cluster of acrylic cylinders hanging from the ceiling with animated, colored lights. The electrician, contractor and fabricator said it wasn’t possible, but Lankry pushed on.
Lankry said she consulted with every resource she knew, made calls, got in contact with multiple manufacturers, and after a year working around the technical obstacles of her idea, her color-animated light fixture came to fruition.
“Everybody told me no, but I still did it,” she said proudly.
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In her free time, Lankry interviews other fellow female interior designer for her Instagram page and loves visiting hotel lobbies.
“I always use hotel lobbies as an inspiration because a space should be hospitable and make the people who walk into that space feel it,” she said.
Lankry has never designed interiors for a hotel, but that’s next on her list. “It’s a dream now, but it is going to be a reality later because no matter how successful you have been with your career, you should always have new goals in mind,” she said.
Juan Carlos Castillo is a reporter covering everything Lakewood. He delves into politics, social issues and human-interest stories. Reach out to him at [email protected]