Continuing my assessment of the new ID regulation objective it is clear that the effort to license interior design mandates a legal distinction between residential and non-residential, or commercial only, interior design services. In order to avoid potential freedom of speech infringement of ID legislation every existing, and proposed piece of ID legislation distinguishes between those who practice single family residential interior design, which is typically unregulated at any level, and those who practice in commercial settings, typically requiring a building permit. This distinction is critical to allowing interior designers who practice in the residential realm, or non-codes based environment, to continue such practice free of regulatory infringement.  For the first 35+/- years of the ID regulation effort this was not the case and the pushback by disenfranchised interior decorators, innately qualified interior designers, kitchen and bath designers, and furniture retailers created a force against ID regulation that will take years to overcome. The voluntary focus of the new ASID/IIDA regulation objective is a step in the right direction.

In the commercial realm a building permit can only be obtained if applied for by a licensed designer, or in some cases a licensed construction, professional. This means that many qualified interior design professionals must engage the services of a registered architect or professional engineer in order to realize their design. Many qualified interior designers see this as frustrating at best, an added cost to the client in general, and potentially unethical at worst. Instances of architects being paid for superficial reviews and endorsement of limited scope interior design permit documents, simply because local jurisdictions require the seal and signature of a design professional, are common. Not only does this increase cost to the client at the expense of the designer but the architect then assumes ownership of the design.  Obviously if an architect assumes liability for a project they should be compensated accordingly but if an interior designer is qualified to perform the work and to assume liability as well why would it not benefit the consumer to provide this option? The new ASID/IIDA regulation objective positions qualified interior designers to assume full responsibility for their work without the oversight of other licensed professionals. This appears to be a good thing for both the consumer and those licensed interior designers wishing to practice independent of other registered professionals

Essentially qualified interior designers who practice in the public/commercial realm should have the right to sign and seal construction drawings in order to obtain a building permit. Until recently this has been the realm of the licensed/registered architect. ASID/IIDA legislative advocates are framing this as a right to work professional parity issue. The American Institute of Architects is none too happy about this evolution of our profession.  In response to recent efforts by the Florida House to deregulate the practice of interior design in Florida AIA president Robert Ivy, FAIA in a letter to a Florida state senator implied that the practice of interior design simply does not affect the health, safety and welfare of the public;

“We believe state regulatory bodies have established that licensing of professionals should be limited to those professions that significantly affect the public health, safety and welfare. We are not in favor of any legislation that would fragment the building design process, which endangers and misleads the public as to the respective areas of competence and expertise. We applaud you for the proposed elimination of unnecessary bureaucracy. “

So with that missive and past declarations by the AIA in opposition to ID licensure the battle lines have been redrawn.  Any design profession that claims competence to practice design services in commercial/code based construction must prove that their work significantly affects the public health safety and welfare which typically is only an issue in the commercial construction realm. Consequently those who practice in the single family/non-permit residential realm are being cleaved away from the professional domain.

Is this inclination to distinguish between commercial and non-commercial interior design healthy for the profession of interior design? Should it be accepted as a normal evolution of the profession? Can it be the basis of a new paradigm that distinguishes us axiomatically from the innately qualified, i.e. Commercial vs. Residential Interior Designers? How will this affect the education, experience and examination foundation of our professional domain?

PROFESSIONALINTERIORDESIGNER has expressed serious concerns with the increasing chasm between residential and commercial interior design. But maybe it is time to accept the inevitable. More on this later.


  1. Chris Birkentall Avatar
    Chris Birkentall

    I believe that although the separation of the realms may not what the academics want, but it is the reality of our law suit happy society. Already the community colleges are negated by the entire CIDA process. When this happened, that is when the division began. While the goal was to raise the bar of professionalism for those who wish to work within the residential arena, it also pushed them out, thereby opening up space for groups like the IDPC and specialized tests of the CQRID and the CKD/CBD tests.
    I have advocated for this split for years, so have no problem with it legally. Academia is slow to respond to market conditions and this will now force their hand. Foundations aside, it actually expands opportunities for education to bring forward specializations within a fifth year of study. Of course, given today’s economic job gaps, trying to get our students jobs anywhere is a challenge.


  2. I agree but… your point of jobs- residential interior design poses a larger opportunity for qualified interior designers than “non-residential” interior design. If we truly want to prove our worth to society what better place to start than the home. I have posted on Sarah Susanka (Not So Big House) and the NHBA (Certified Aging in Place Specialist) beating us to the punch in that regard. I would hate to scuttle that opportunity to focus on one aspect of our professional domain. Thanks for your comment.


  3. I have read on this topic til the words are nearly bluring all together and I just see one – EGO. Your disrespect for people unlike yourself is disgusting. I am quite certain you will now Be my guest.


  4. No please you are my guest.
    Thanks for stopping by and offering your insight.


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