Beth Diana Smith’s full-service eponymous firm focuses on creating stellar experiences and tailoring each design to each particular personality. Besides her bold, incredibly alluring interiors, Smith is known for devising curated spaces with customized design elements that propel her clients into living in the manner they’ve only previously dreamed of. At this year’s Housing Works’ Design on a Dime event, Smith created one of the most showstopping vignettes around. We were so taken with her fearless use of color, unapologetic style, and incredible eye, that we convinced her to sit down with us and share some insight into her design process and Design on a Dime in general.
Downtown: What made you decide to take part in Design on a Dime (DOAD)? Was this your first time?
Beth Diana Smith: Luckily for me, another designer who was doing DOAD in Miami last year referred me for 2018’s DOAD in NYC. As a Greater-NYC area based designer, I was largely aware of the annual fundraising event and jumped at the opportunity to do something to give back and to have creative freedom. This year was my second year and it was even better than the last!
Downtown: What was the process like from start to finish? When did you first begin to prepare for it?
BDS: The process started with the design concept and I had that relatively mapped out in December/January. I knew I wanted jewel tones, a lot of brass, funky art, beautiful things, and cultural influences. From then on, it was about asking (and really hustling) for donations from vendors whose product I loved, relationships that I valued, or items that would fit in with my vignette. It really boiled down to tracking donations, evolving the design, and prepping for the whirlwind days of putting together the actual installation.
Downtown: Our readers only see the finished booths…what was the set up like? How long did you have and what was that experience like?
BDS: Set up is chaotic in general! We have from 5:00 to 10:00 PM one night (day 1) and then from 8:00 AM to 4:00 PM the next day (day 2)—and we really do have to be done by 4:00 pm. I planned in advance by securing a team of helpers for day 1 and one amazing helper (who happens to be a winning female bodybuilder, so she was all the muscle I needed). For day 2, I sent each of them a checklist and what their main jobs would be in advance, and I had elevations for each wall prepared for logistics.
I had a major water leak in my home the night before the first day of install, so while my neighbor was trying to turn off the water to my home, I was in my garage throwing all of the DOAD fragile items into the trunk of my SUV before they got damaged. The fragile items were the items I planned to bring directly to the venue myself to ensure nothing got damaged (ha!). So this year was an elevated level of chaos, however, I was prepared and thankful that I had planned so much in advance.
Downtown: Where there any favorite bonding moments between designers?
BDS: Yes, the helping moments. When you can lend another designer your drill or ladder, help them set something up, or help them solve a problem. A little help goes a long way and you remember those moments.
Downtown: You had one of the most vibrant, eye-catching booths. Tell us about your theme and how it came out?
BDS: Well thank you! My theme was called Cultural Oasis: a nod to my own home that is filled with various cultural influences and is relatively eclectic. I wanted to have a heavy Black influence, which is seen in my art selections, and really unique and unexpected pieces like the Fashion Faces from the Phillips Collection. I really love how everything came out.
Downtown: Tell us about the designs you chose. We loved everything, but that lighting was quite spectacular!
BDS: The lighting I think truly put things over the top. I used the Ndebele Necklace Pendant from 54kibo that is designed and handmade in Cape Town, South Africa and I paired it with 10 Voodoo Pendants from Currey & Company. The Voodoo Pendants are perforated brass with a Moroccan style where as the Ndebele Pendant is a mix of wooden rings and yarns that is inspired by African jewelry. The mix of the two designs gave this beautiful juxtaposition and tons of visual interest.
I was lucky to gather some amazing furniture donations such as the bar cart and chairs from Made Goods which are art in their own right, end tables from Oly Studio, and a custom white Macauba quartzite coffee table—the latter thanks to Peter Brooks Stone Works and Basemeant Wrx for bringing that vision to life.
Accessories, art, and décor are what really elevate a space and makes it feel complete, so I went heavy on those details. I used planters, pillows, art, and books from the Jungalow; artwork from Brooklyn Dolly and Natalie O Décor that became my main art selections and the inspiration for everything else; decorative pieces from Tuft and Kravet whose large red ginger jar surrounded by elephants was one of my favorite pieces; pillows from Eva Sonaike all the way from London, Reflektion Design, and Knotty Scarves who has these really beautiful embroidered pillows etc. And to top it all off Blooming New York, a floral designer who I met the week before Design On A Dime, blessed my vignette with beautiful floral arrangements.
Downtown: How did your design concept stay true and change over time?
BDS: Everything stayed true to the original concept, minus the fact that I wanted more cultural variety, such as Buddha and Ganesh representing Buddhism and Hinduism. I wasn’t able to secure those donations so I had to pivot.
Downtown: What designs in your own both were you dying to take home yourself? In other booths?
BDS: I really, really wanted the Sunday Girl print from Brooklyn Dolly that I had custom framed, the sofa, and the set of the Fashion Faces. There were so many amazing vignettes so it’s hard to say, but…I would have loved to take Saudah Saleem’s wallpaper, books, and the large textured white vases. Halden Interiors’ beaded necklaces and the mirror with the fringed bottom, Bailey Li’s silver console, Eneia White’s hardwood wall as my floor, Rayman Boozer’s orange Smeg refrigerator for outdoor entertaining, and Francis Interior had some great accessories so I would like to take another spin in there.
Downtown: What were some of your favorite booths this year and why?
BDS: My favorite booths were Saudah Saleem, Halden Interiors, and Eneia White all for different reasons. Saudah’s was just beautiful and filled with so much color (and I love color), art, and texture. And I cannot stop thinking about her wallpaper. Halden Interiors, owned by Kesha Franklin, made me want to work in her vignette as if it was a home office made for a designer. And Eneia White’s made me want to entertain my girlfriends in skirts and heels with bottles of champagne.
Downtown: What was the experience like in participating in Design on a Dime? Would you do it again?
BDS: The experience is a mix of being insanely busy and huge fun. I definitely plan on doing it again next year.
Downtown: What advice would you offer an incoming designer to Design on a Dime?
BDS: Read all the emails, attend the DOAD Kick Off party so you can meet the other designers, hustle for your donations, and don’t be afraid to ask questions to the designers who have already done it.
Downtown: Do you have ideas for what your booth will look like next year? What is on the horizon for you?
BDS: I am planning on doing it again next year, but I’m not sure what I want it to look like just yet. However, I do have a list of vendors who I plan on tapping again because they were great to work with and their product is amazing. Currently I’m working on a few client projects and I’m also in the process of redesigning my own home.