Young Leader Spotlight Featuring Ambar Margarida
What does your main role at Spacesmith entail?
As a leader of Spacesmith’s interiors practice, I’m responsible for overseeing project design and management for a diverse range of project types within the retail, academic, workplace, non-profit and civic sectors. I also spearhead resilient, sustainable, adaptive design strategy work with a focus on the evolution of technology, the experience and shared economies and innovation within the interior environment. I am one of the firm’s primary resources on sustainability standards like LEED v4 and the WELL Building Standard, as well as furniture, fixtures and equipment (FF&E) specifications. Internal operational initiatives are also something I engage in, including staff training, the setting and tracking of annual financial goals, the review and analysis of employee benefits, and self-auditing to improve the firm’s function as both a design studio and a business entity. Additionally I work closely with firm founder Jane Smith, FAIA, on business development, and have spearheaded the creation and implementation of strategic direction, marketing and public relations initiatives. Outside of Spacesmith, I have also served as an instructor in the Bachelor of Interior Design program at New York’s School for Visual Arts, and as a guest and senior thesis professor at The New School.
What is your CoreNet Young Leaders Membership Role?
I’ve been a CoreNet member for eight years and enjoy the community it provides. I first got involved on the Sustainability committee when Husain Ali Khan and Geraldine Walsh were launching that initiative. Then when Alison Kwiatkowski became the Co-Chair of the Young Leaders she asked me to join the committee. I helped start the YL Community Service initiative with Sara Hakes and Sarah Brown. I’m glad I did, as I am awestruck by the talent and ambition of the group and have made great friends. Now I am a part of our membership team and particularly in charge of welcoming new YL members on a regular basis and making sure they know about our events, greeting them there, and introducing them to people so they feel welcome. We’ve collaborated on great ideas for our tours and events and I participate on panel discussions including, most recently, the panel at NYU Schack Institute of Real Estate.
How did you make your start in this industry?
I knew I wanted to be an interior designer from the time I was 12 years old, but didn’t know it was a profession or what it entailed until my cousin married an architect (who patiently answered my endless, probing questions about the profession). Ambitiously, I decided to finish high school in Puerto Rico 18 months early and move to NYC where my siblings lived, in order to build a portfolio to get into the most competitive interior design programs. At the time, I took perspective drawing and other continuing education classes with adults and worked as a waitress to build my college fund. I was one of 20 students accepted into the interior design program at SVA, from which I graduated Cum Laude. At SVA I met Jane Smith who is the founding Partner at Spacesmith and she offered me one of the many internships I had during college. After graduation I thought Spacesmith was the best firm I’d worked with so I came back to work full time. I’m so glad I did, I love it here. The work is challenging and endlessly rewarding, and my colleagues inspire and support me every day.
Do you have any hobbies?
I am really into botany and landscape architecture. During my free time, I study horticulture at the Brooklyn Botanic Gardens continuing education department. I also love reading a good book. I’m currently reading Michelle Obama’s, “Becoming” and “The Aesthetics of Joy” by Ingrid Fetell Lee, and both are phenomenal. However, I feel happiest surrounded by good people, riding my bike and dancing so I have a whole Zumba posse at the Dodge YMCA in Brooklyn. I also get together often with friends to make a nice meal and play board games with their kids; our current favorite is Machi Koro, a fast paced game where each player has to develop their own city and compete to build all the landmarks faster than their opponents.