LAKEWOOD – When Margalit Lankry moved here 35 years ago, she made her apartment beautiful on a budget.
She decorated it with an array of carefully curated items found in trash or at flea markets. She didn’t have much money then. She had just married, her husband was a student at Beth Medrash Govoha, and she was a full-time mom.
“Our finances were a challenge at the beginning. I didn’t have much to play with, but I would go shopping at flea markets or find things in the trash and then she would clean and spray them so I could decorate our apartment and make it look nice,” she said.
At home, she spent a lot of time rearranging furniture, doing creative projects with her kids, and decorating for the holidays.
One day, after living in Lakewood for eight years, she decided to offer her decorating services to others and Margalit Lankry Designs was born. She was very nervous but not intimidated.
“You have to try,” Lankry said. “If you never try, you’ll never know. There were many things I didn’t know. But don’t think that just because you haven’t done it means you can’t. Just learn on-the-job and ask questions.”
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“Space for Possibilities”
After knocking on doors in Lakewood, Lankry got her first gigs decorating shop windows. It was the early 2000s and the community was growing with several new businesses and new construction everywhere. “I’ve seen room for opportunity in every construction project,” Lankry said.
Word of mouth brought her more customers. In addition to shop fronts, she began decorating venues for special events and as she gained more experience and recognition she began designing living spaces.
One of her clients loved her work so much that he offered her the opportunity to work at a Cherry Hill nursing home that Lankry was remodeling.
“The place was old and dark. I refreshed the whole room. We changed the lighting and incorporated new materials to give the space a hospitality experience,” said Lankry.
Designing the nursing home was a turning point in Lankry’s career. She designed other commercial spaces and several other healthcare facilities, eventually specializing in commercial interior design.
“People enter a healthcare space stressed, hurt or sad. Therefore, it is very important to me that the room reflects what I want patients to feel: comfortable and calm. But the place also has to look professional so the patient feels the staff know what they’re doing,” Lankry said.
In addition to healthcare facilities, Lankry has designed interiors for restaurants, lounges, cafes, synagogues, elementary schools, and bars in New Jersey and 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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“Thinking takes time”
Today her company has four employees, but she looks forward to hiring more as her workload continues to grow.
She currently works with 10 to 15 clients at a time, with some projects lasting around three months, others more than a year.
“It’s 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 you’re sleeping,” she said.
Sometimes turning these ideas into reality can be a challenge.
Lankry recalled designing a children’s center in Lakewood. She had imagined a collection of acrylic cylinders hanging from the ceiling with animated colored lights. The electrician, contractor and fabricator said it wasn’t possible, but Lankry pressed on.
Lankry said she consulted every resource she knew, made calls, contacted several manufacturers, and after a year of working through the technical obstacles to her idea, her color-animated light came to fruition.
“Everyone said no, but I did it anyway,” she says proudly.
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In her free time, Lankry interviews fellow interior designers for her Instagram page and enjoys visiting hotel lobbies.
“I always use hotel lobbies for inspiration, because a space should be welcoming and make people feel when they enter the space,” she said.
Lankry has never designed interiors for a hotel, but this is next on her list. “It’s a dream now, but it will become a reality later because no matter how successful you have been in your career, you should always have new goals in mind,” she said.
Juan Carlos Castillo is a reporter who covers all things Lakewood. He delves into politics, social issues and stories of human interest. Contact him at JcCastillo@gannett.com