5 Questions with Award-winning Interior Designer Lori Margolis
Five Questions with Lori Margolis, Award-winning Interior Designer
By Chloe Cornell
Lori Margolis is an award winning interior designer whose work has been celebrated everywhere from Architectural Digest, The New York Times, 1stDibs and Elle Decor to the TV show I Am Cait, as she was the designer who transformed Caitlyn Jenner’s Malibu home to reflect the celebrity’s new phase in life. Caitlyn loved Lori’s makeover of her beach house and proclaimed that she finally had a home that let her “express myself.”
Although she is renowned for her sophisticated eye and design savvy, Lori wasn’t always an interior designer, despite the fact that growing up she was surrounded by design, fashion and art from around the world as her mother was an interior designer. After first pursuing degrees in business and law at Tulane University, Lori’s passion for vintage glamour and beautiful things led her to create a successful business curating vintage couture fashion and accessories for high-end clients. Lori’s talent in constructing eclectic glamour for New York’s elite led her to open her own boutique off of Madison Avenue called JBM Vintage, which specialized in only the finest vintage fashion. Her impeccable taste garnered press in Vogue, Harpers Bazaar, Gotham Magazine, The New York Times, Hamptons Magazine, and more. She also worked with some of Hollywood’s most prominent stylists: creating vintage glamour for the Sex and the City movie, and contributed to styling on television shows, such as Confession of a Shopaholic and Ugly Betty.
Once Lori began curating vintage furnishings and home accessories in her boutique and clients began asking for interior design advice, Lori Margolis Interiors was born. Almost immediately, Lori has become known as one of the most creative residential and commercial designers. She was a finalist in the 2015 HC&G Innovation in Design Winners for Kitchen Design, and was named in the first 10 names of the top 100 USA designers in Deco NY.
Fashion and design are in Lori’s blood and I was excited to hear how she merged her aesthetic skills with her education background to create a successful career.
Chloe: Your mom was an interior designer and you grew up learning about design, furniture, fashion and art. But you studied and got degrees in business and law and then began a career in vintage couture fashion. It is refreshing to hear about someone who takes a somewhat circuitous route to discover their calling – in light of the pressure nowadays to have a clear path and identity before applying to college. Also, there are probably aspects from your education and prior work that influence your current career. Can you tell us about any overlap from these different experiences?
Lori: As a young adult, I didn’t have a clear vision of what I wanted to do. I was certainly creative (I loved interior design and fashion) and expressed my individuality through fashion. I would definitely say my family urged me to pursue professional avenues that were “safe” and would enable me to prosper financially. After law school and a short career practicing law, it became very clear that I desired more excitement. I pursued a career on Wall Street raising money for young and exciting companies. The skills that I gained were invaluable. I truly believe these skills (ability to network and connect with others and sell ideas) were pivotal in developing an interior design business. A large part of my interior design business is dedicated to the “business side of the business”! Reviewing contracts, negotiating and simply appealing and dealing with clients and vendors. This is where the overlap exists.
Chloe: It seems to me that designing someone’s home requires a lot of different skills – part psychology, part business, part creative to create a space specific to the client’s taste and lifestyle needs. What do you think are the most important skills, personality traits and experiences to be a successful interior designer? What advice would you give our readers who want to pursue a career in interior design?
Lori: It is extremely important to listen to your clients. To observe them and analyze who they are and how they live. A very important skill set for a designer is to really pay attention to the client as an individual and take their individual lifestyle into account and appreciate who they are. Once this is acknowledged, as a designer it is about matchmaking. Finding the design that speaks to that individual client and inserting your creative signature as a designer and making the client feel acknowledged and a part of the creative decision making process.
Chloe: You have an amazing background in fashion with style experiences in films and TV. Do you incorporate your love of fashion into your design work? What are some of the sources that you get your inspiration from?
Lori: I absolutely incorporate my love for fashion in my design. I relate to design in genres from specific time periods in fashion. I love vintage fashion and my love and passion spurred on a love for furnishings from those time periods and then we layer it all with modern touches!
Chloe: One of your more high profile projects was the redesign of Caitlin Jenner’s Malibu home which was the first home that she decorated by herself after she transitioned. Can you tell us about that process and unique experience?
Lori: Designing Caitlyn’s home was a fabulous experience. She was transitioning at the exact time we were redoing her home. It was an amazing opportunity to help her openly express her femininity through her home decor. Caitlyn jumped right in and was so open to learning and growing through the design process. It was a very gratifying experience for our team to be able to create a beautiful home that reflected who Caitlyn really was as a person.
Chloe: Instagram has brought about a heightened awareness in imaging, and has encouraged a boon for the design world – from the rise of instagrammable restaurants, pop up experiences, dorm room decor, office design, and more. What do you think are the biggest changes that you have experienced (ie. savvier clients?) and how does that impact your work?
Lori: This has been wonderful for my business. The learning curve for clients has expanded tremendously. Social media has enabled anyone and everyone to become a sophisticated creative viewer for fashion and design. We can share ideas swiftly and effortlessly with our clients.