Who owns the rights to the term Interior Designer? Does anybody or does everybody? Can interior decorators call themselves “interior designers” and their work “interior design”? Can home-stagers (people who help amp your homes curb appeal) lay claim to the term when they arrange furniture? Can a furniture sales person who recommends new office furniture for your office call themselves an “interior designer”?

Well in my biased opinion the definition has been clearly established.


If you, or your efforts, match the above definition then you are an interior designer.

If you merely have a flair for color, can arrange furniture in a creative fashion and aesthetics (or profit) is your motivation then I question your claim to the term. But that’s just me.

While on the outside the tug-o-war over “interior design” may appear to be a petty semantic dispute, there is in fact a lot at stake. Since 1973, when Puerto Rico was the first territory/state to enact interior design legislation, there has been a protracted struggle for the professional domain of “Interior Design”. There are those who claim that in order to establish baseline professional status an interior designer must have the proper education, experience and validation of that experience via an examination. While the interior decorators claim that Interior Design is nothing more than an innate talent. No special training or government oversight is required.  Architects on the other hand claim default status as professional interior designers because…well because they are architects. While those of us who have chosen to hold ourselves to the higher standard of advanced (and continuing) education, years of experience and self inflicted examination angst find this ludicrous, I maintain that most of the general public really could care less.  In fact, thanks to the recent anti-legislation campaign by the Institute for Justice,



they may actually find it amusing, much to our collective chagrin. Unfortunately however, since we demand government regulation for our knowledge and skills, we desperately need them to care, to understand, to respect our abilities and to value our contribution to the built environment. To me this is more of a failure of our brand promotion than a legal issue- more on that later.

Let’s face it- John Q. Public’s idea of interior design is in fact someone with a flair for color and a touch of drama (Thank You HGTV!).  The decorator stereotype has haunted our profession (as NCIDQ defines it) since it’s inception  (not that there is anything wrong with interior decorators). So back in the early 1970’s the profession, or a segment thereof, decided to have Uncle Sam sort out the decorators from the qualified interior designers. I am sure, at the time, this made sense. I was not there (I am not that old) but I will venture that the idea of soliciting government regulation for the title or “interior designer” was nothing more than a sure fire way to protect those of us who have chosen to hold ourselves to a higher professional standard from those who merely claim a birthright to the profession.  I seriously doubt that it was a purely altruistic effort to protect the health safety and welfare of the public. If anybody knows otherwise please correct me. More on this point later.

So fast forward 36 years and where are we? Only 4 states can claim interior design practice regulation and one of those states (Alabama) has been successfully sued for anti-competitive legislation and a second (Florida) is currently being sued . 36 years and just  three states………If we considered this effort our primary business plan for advancing our value to society I wonder how many people would consider it worth the investment? Not me. It ain’t workin’.

It is incumbant on the profession, as we have established it, to get it’s collective act together and figure out why and how we are going to correct our path to legitimacy. If we truly believe that we have a right to the term “interior design” then we have a hell of a lot work ahead of us.

Wouldn’t it be easier to consider another title?

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