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.