From the April/May 2014 Issue:

Healing Havens

    Writer: Robin Amster |

Lin’s Linens creates serene sanctuaries for women battling cancer


Article Photo
enlarge | Lin’s Linens redid this room for a busy mother of three young children who is dealing with an inoperable brain tumor. Like many young families, any money spent on home renovations was devoted to public areas, leaving the master bedroom “serviceable but not beautiful or functional,” Liz Balogh says. She asked this program sister what she thought of when she needed renewal; the answer was Nantucket, where the family had vacationed prior to her diagnosis. Taking that as its cue, Lin’s Linens chose colors, textures and accessories that recapture a seaside aura. Photo by Patricia Burke
Shown in photo
• A wall of custom drapery reorients the space. • Existing furniture was painted white to provide crisp contrast to the soft blue-green color palette. • Plantation shutters on the sliding glass doors and proper lighting provide a bright, airy atmosphere. • Luxurious layered bedding and a new area rug provide warmth and comfort. • Designer Liz Balogh provided a special surprise waiting in the room: A copy of the latest book by the woman’s favorite author, who lives in Nantucket. Balogh tracked the author down at a New Jersey book signing, purchased a copy of the book and asked the author to write a personal message to the woman.



Liz Balogh’s sister had been battling breast cancer for many years when, four years ago, she had a recurrence that meant this active woman who loves the outdoors would be spending more time in her bedroom during treatment.

Balogh, an interior designer and owner of Toms River-based Chrysaliz Design, wanted to do something to help her sister get through the ordeal. But what besides the obvious—providing love and support? Balogh hit upon a natural: She would apply her talents as an interior designer to transform her sister’s bedroom into a haven of peace and serenity. “I thought I’d like to turn her bedroom into someplace she wanted to go. Instead of a sick bed it would be a nurturing place, a healing sanctuary,” Balogh says.

That’s exactly what she did.

Balogh redressed the bed with luxurious new linens, comforter and pillows; brought in plants; put together a goody basket of pampering lotions and conditioners; and made the space sparkling clean.

It was all a pleasant surprise for her sister. “Seeing her reaction to the room when she returned from the hospital, we knew it couldn’t begin and end with this,” Balogh says.

That was the start of Lin’s Linens, founded in 2010 to create in-home sanctuaries for women fighting cancer. The non-profit organization is a family affair started by Balogh; her sister Lin Salerno, for whom it is named; her brothers, Tom and Tim Salerno; her daughter Kristen Lanfrank; and her aunt, Michaeline Stevens.


Article Photo
enlarge | Lin’s Linens redid this room for a busy mother of three young children who is dealing with an inoperable brain tumor. Like many young families, any money spent on home renovations was devoted to public areas, leaving the master bedroom “serviceable but not beautiful or functional,” Liz Balogh says. She asked this program sister what she thought of when she needed renewal; the answer was Nantucket, where the family had vacationed prior to her diagnosis. Taking that as its cue, Lin’s Linens chose colors, textures and accessories that recapture a seaside aura. Photo by Patricia Burke
Shown in photo
• Plants clean the air and soften the space. • Luxurious layered bedding and a new area rug provide warmth and comfort.


A Room a Month
Three years later, Lin’s Linens is remaking one room a month for women who are battling cancer. At presstime the non-profit had redone 24 rooms for “program sisters” Balogh says. “Because we started Lin’s Linens for my sister, we felt that all women should be treated like sisters.” Currently there are nine women on the organization’s waiting list for re-do’s.

Not all the projects are for bedroom renovations. Some women, in consultation with Balogh, might choose a family room, a living room or another space in their home that’s more suitable for their “healing sanctuary,” Balogh says. The renovations usually take about three days to complete. “We don’t want their lives to be in upheaval,” Balogh says, so program sisters have the option to stay at Mary’s Place while the work is being done. Mary’s Place is a Victorian home in Ocean Grove run by Michele Gannon and Maria McKeon, who offer women with cancer a peaceful sanctuary with complimentary accommodations and services (marysplacebythesea.org).

The Guidelines
Lin’s Linens has an out-of-pocket budget of $2,000 for each project and relies heavily on volunteers who donate goods and services as well as their time to do the work. The organization also operates fund-raising events to finance its projects.

“We decided early on we didn’t want to rely on nominations from the medical profession” for candidates for the program. Instead, Lin’s Linens broadened the process to include candidates suggested by neighbors, social workers, family members and others, “who are often more knowledgeable about what’s going on in a person’s life,” Balogh says. The program also allows women to nominate themselves if they have no one to do it on their behalf.

Referrals are made through linslinens.org. Balogh says candidates must be 18 years old or older, be in active treatment and have their proposed space in their primary residence.

Unique rooms
Balogh works with a team of volunteer designers who, like her, are members of the Central New Jersey chapter of the Window Coverings Association of America, a steadfast supporter of Lin’s Linens.

“Every room is unique,” Balogh says of the renovations with each design based on the program sister’s needs, interests and preferences. “It’s all about finding a healing space for that individual,” she says.

Once each room is completed, volunteers say a special prayer to “clear the room of negative energy,” Balogh adds. The room is then sealed with a ribbon across the door, awaiting a dedication ceremony when the program sister and her family and friends see the new sanctuary.

Balogh gives special credit to the many volunteers, designers and vendors who contribute to the program. “I had this great idea but it was just a spark. Without the people who can give me the right fuel, the spark dies out.”

For more information or to make a donation or volunteer, linslinens.org.

The people and businesses who make Lin’s Linen’s possible include:
Liz Balogh, Chrysaliz Design LLC in Toms River and Lin’s Linens Inc. in Island Heights; Mark Calogero, Designers Resource Corp. in Lodi; Kelli Chitty, Interiors by Kelli in Sea Girt; Cathleen Cohane Designs in Cranford; Mike Fanelli, M&M Fanelli LLC in Morris Plains; Diane Guididas, Interiors by Diane LLC in Robbinsville; Irene Hurley Designs in Spring Lake Heights; Francine Hyland, Fringe The Decorating Edge LLC in Westfield; Chris Kahler, Motorized Shading by Beach Glass Design in Brick; Claire Konig, The Drape Lady in Toms River; Evelyn LaLicata, Designs by Evelyn in Brick; Viki Lee, Masterpiece Furniture in Middlesex; Kevin Leppard, Painting by Kevin in Forked River; Darcy Litt Designs LLC in Allendale; Robin Matthews, Seams Sew Right in Kinnelon; Debi Pinelli, A&J Interiors LLC in Long Valley; Maureen Skea, Finishing Touches by Maureen in Spring Lake; The Sherwin-Williams Co. in Toms River; Tom Walsh Custom Carpentry in Barnegat; HunterDouglas; Kravet Inc.; Marcus William by the Stout Group in Colmar, Pennsylvania; Narcissus Florals in Toms River; Creative Displays in Tinton Falls; Shore Line Emporium in Beachwood; Value City Furniture in Toms River; WCAA-Central NJ Chapter.