New Jersey-based designer Beth Diana Smith is an “eclectic maximalist” whose home is featured in publications such as The Washington Post and House Beautiful. Smith is well-versed in the business side of design, having worked as an accountant for over a decade prior to launching her firm. As part of our series, My Design Journey, we spoke with Smith about discovering her passion for decorating, her advice for those looking to transition out of a traditional corporate job, and her work to increase diversity and representation in the design industry.
On Her Background and Prior Career Path
Unlike most children, Beth Diana Smith dreamed of being an accountant. She certainly didn’t shy away from pursuing that path, as she ultimately worked in finance and accounting for 15 years before starting her own design firm.
Challenging family circumstances prompted Smith to purchase a home immediately after completing her Bachelor’s degree—and with hard work, she was able to do so at the young age of 22.
“I was in a position where I had to take care of my mother because I was the only one that was willing to take on that type of responsibility,” Smith reflects in a video posted on her website. She crashed on her friends’ sofas for several months before eventually saving up enough money for a down payment on a home.
It was years later—while working in a well-paying yet unsatisfying job—that Smith, who was in the process of redoing parts of her own home, began to consider taking a risk and making a career change. Smith was still toying with this idea at age 31 when she returned from a business trip to learn that her mother passed away.
Remain open-minded, constantly learn and seek knowledge, and network.
In the period following, Smith, who was in design school at the time, felt propelled to transform the home in which her mother had died. Smith spent the next two years repainting, renovating, and redesigning her space. She began to learn how key design is to creating an environment and boosting your well-being, and so she was able to develop her own aesthetic further.
“What’s funny is that sometimes, I wish I had discovered my creativity and interior design much earlier in life because I would be so much further in my career,” Smith reflects. “But, having a business degree and understanding how to run a business and financials is priceless, so I’m thankful my journey took me to finance first.”
On Her Misconceptions About the Field
As Smith began working as a designer, she assumed that her work would be 80 percent creative and 20 percent business, but she quickly found it to be the opposite.
“The business of design is a heavy lift with a lot of moving pieces, variables, management of various personality types, and details,” Smith says. “My advice for those entering the field would be to remember that you have a superpower—a natural talent or thing that you did extraordinarily well in your last career—that you can bring into your interior design life. It will set you apart from everyone else.”
But, there are always more ways in which to learn and grow. Smith adds, “Remain open-minded, constantly learn and seek knowledge, and network.”
On Her Career Highlights Thus Far
Over the course of her career, Smith has greatly enjoyed connecting with fellow creatives and seeing her work published in a variety of national outlets.
“A huge highlight is the relationships that I built with so many amazingly talented people—genuine friendships and sisterships,” she says. “And I have been really blessed with opportunities from appearing on TV multiple times to press coverage that I was blown away by because of the love received for my work.”
On Her Own Design Style
Smith’s own space is full of bold prints, eye-catching artwork, and a variety of textures.
I’m relatively obsessed with color, pattern, and texture—I love so much about design that I want to incorporate more rather than less.
“I am an eclectic maximalist,” she says. “I love mixing various design styles and cultures, curating them for maximum impact. And I’m relatively obsessed with color, pattern, and texture, so you will usually see that in my work. I love so much about design that I want to incorporate more rather than less.”
On Her Work to Increase Diverse Representation Within the Design Field
Smith is a founding member of the Black Artists and Designers Guild (BADG) and a member of the New York School of Interior Design’s Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion Committee.
“I think it’s important to be actively involved in the change that I want to see,” Smith says. “I have witnessed so much positive change that BADG has created—both within the industry and for the Black creative community—in regard to opportunities and diversity in spaces that were clearly lacking.”
I do not shrink to fit myself into someone else’s box, and I let my work speak for itself. I do not allow the racism or ignorance of anyone dictate how I feel about myself or my value.
But, she notes, “Being a Black woman in this industry is honestly no different than being a Black woman in any other industry: there is the same inequality, inequity, and lack of representation, especially with what we see in the mainstream.”
For Smith, remaining confident in her abilities and worth has been key. “I try to handle myself the same way that I did in corporate," she notes. "I do not shrink to fit myself into someone else’s box, and I let my work speak for itself. I demand the same respect that I give, and I do not allow the racism or ignorance of anyone dictate how I feel about myself or my value.”
On the Future of Beth Diana Smith Interiors and the Design Industry as a Whole
What lies ahead for Smith? We’ll have to stay tuned.
“Right now, I am focused on process improvement and growth in order to scale my business for larger design projects and revenue diversification,” she says. “There’s a lot brewing in 2021, and I’m excited to share more in the coming months.”
Within the industry as a whole, Smith believes an ongoing emphasis on residential design due to the pandemic will prevail. “With that, there is more creativity on what can be done at home without having to go out.”
And what’s next on the commerce end? “It will be interesting to see what and how brands are diversifying their products to feature a diverse group of people and aesthetics,” Smith shares.