space of the week

A Mighty Design Makeover

Beth Diana Smith left the corporate world to pursue her passion for design. Her home décor proves that was a great idea.

Photo: Mike Van Tassell
Photo: Mike Van Tassell

Interior designer Beth Diana Smith always has a plan. When she was finishing college, she decided that she would be a homeowner right off the bat — no renting for her. To make that possible, she “stayed with friends and saved every penny.” At the ripe old age of 23, in 2003, she bought a two-bedroom duplex in Irvington, New Jersey, and immediately moved her mother in to care for her. “While I wrapped up my bachelor’s degree, I began taking M.B.A. classes and began my very first full-time job in my actual field, which was accounting,” Smith says of the beginning of a path that led to her career in corporate America (she would go on to work at Morgan Stanley and Viacom). Along the way, Smith explored “redoing my house in a style that reflected me. That was how interior design kind of got into my bloodstream.” In 2009, Smith was trawling shelter magazines for ideas and inspiration, when, as she puts it, she “realized the interior design bug had bitten me.” She thought that she could do it as a “side hustle” and later enrolled in classes at New York School of Interior Design. For months, Smith took night and weekend classes on top of her full-time job as director of finance at MTV International and looking after her mother. “The universe has such a strange way of doing things,” Smith says. “I wrapped up classes at the beginning of May, and my mom passed at the end of May.” Soon after, Smith met Kimberly Ward, the founder of the Black Interior Designers Network, then decided that her corporate life had run its course. She decided just to make the jump — and the rest is history of the best kind. Smith has gone from strength to strength: This past spring, she was chosen as one of 20 designers in One Room Challenge, an event in which 20 design influencers are selected to transform a space. Her transformed living-kitchen-dining area, seen here, features a portrait by Chicago artist Natalie Osborne.

Smith had already partially redone her kitchen after a leak when the One Room Challenge came along. But in her typical positive, can-do spirit, she thought, “I wanted to redo my house anyway, and I am just going to embrace it. And then the One Room Challenge came around in January, which was perfect timing.” Smith’s renovated kitchen includes Caesarstone countertops, an area rug from Nourison, and a Roman shade by Fabricut, fabricated and installed by Window Works. Photo: Mike Van Tassell
Smith reupholstered the comfy sofa she found at Bungalow 5 with Trend’s violet velvet. Her art collection includes a photograph of a Paris library that initially hung in the gallery wall in her office. She framed a fragment of Kuba cloth and hung a vintage African shield she found at Chairish. “My main living space was initially navy blue” Smith says of the change in her palette, “but this time I wanted it to be about the art, so I went much lighter on the walls and let everything shine through.” Photo: Mike Van Tassell
Malene Barnett, artist and founder of the Black Artists + Designers Guild, painted the portrait, Makeda, Queen of Sheba, above the bar. Photo: Mike Van Tassell
“The one piece I had before the Challenge was that light fixture,” Smith says. “I bought it at the very end of last year, because I knew that no matter what my dining room ended up looking like, I still wanted that light fixture. I’d had my eye on it for months at the Phillips Collection showroom at the New York Design Center before I bought it.” The dining table is from Bungalow 5, and the chairs are covered in fabric from Calico Corners. The vertical Leaf wall art is from Made Goods. Photo: Mike Van Tassell
One of a pair of Fashion Faces flank the windows, and it was found at Phillips Collection. The Sloane chair is from Interior Define. Photo: Mike Van Tassell
The powder room’s walls are drenched in Elderberry Wine by Benjamin Moore with tile from The Tile Shop. The Flair faucet is from Hardware. Photo: Mike Van Tassell
Smith welcomed the transformation of her shared entrance hall. She covered the former tile floor with carpeting tiles and repainted the front door in Sherwin Williams’ Envy. “The green door used to be blue,” Smith says. “I looked at what felt like a billion colors and then I thought, Oh my God, this is so gorgeous, and I asked my neighbor if it was okay to go for it. Luckily, she always lets me do what I want,” Smith says with her infectious laugh. Photo: Mike Van Tassell

More From Design Hunting

See All
An Interior Designer’s Mighty Home Makeover