More on Deregulation of Interior Design in Texas

The Texas Sunset Advisory Commission October 12th Staff Report recommending deregulation of Texas’ Registered Interior Design title act is a classic example of the he said/she said contentions that haunt professional interior designers ability to establish and maintain regulatory parity with other licensed/regulated design professionals.

PROFESSIONALINTERIORDESIGNER offers the following analysis of key points on both sides of the argument.  Because I am convinced that the truth lies somewhere in the middle.  See my comments/thoughts/arguments in red.


“It is our mission to ensure a safe built environment for Texas by regulating the professions of architecture,

landscape architecture, and interior design.

TBAE’s comprehensive, multi-layered registration/continuing education/enforcement programs are

necessary to ensure the safety—and the accessibility—of the built environment in Texas.

For several decades the Legislature clearly has seen the health, safety, and welfare benefits of ensuring minimum initial and ongoing qualifications for those who design the built environment in Texas, and enforcement against those who violate the well established laws and professional standards the public has come to expect.”


ARCHITECTS. “The State’s regulation of interior designers, however, is ultimately a voluntary process that is not needed to ensure public protection. A separate national certification process ensures the competence of practitioners for those seeking it without involving the State in the transaction.

Most regulated professions have separate national certification processes to ensure competence and to establish professional status thresholds but they do not “ensure public protection”. That is the state’s responsibility. MOOT POINT.

“By affixing their seal to a design, architects ensure that their plans comply with building and accessibility codes and that the plans are ready for regulatory approval or construction. Competent design of a space is essential to the health, safety, and welfare of the public both inside and outside the structure.”

Well who better to competently design interior space than qualified/registered “Interior Designers”? This statement reeks of AIA protectionism.

LANDSCAPE ARCHITECTS. “Like architects, however, the State does have an interest in regulating the practice of landscape architecture to ensure proper design of outdoor spaces and outdoor structures that have an impact on public health, safety, and welfare. Landscape architects are often the lead or only design professional working on a project, and, like architects, when landscape architects affix their seals to designs, they are certifying that the design is ready for regulatory approval or construction.”

The absolute identical statement could be made for interior designers that practice in code regulated building design & construction environments.

“While landscape architects do focus on the aesthetics of a space, which may indicate an element of consumer choice that may argue against regulation, they also design for safety and accessibility, which regulation ensures. For example, when designing playgrounds, landscape architects will factor in the amount of padded ground covering each piece of equipment needs in order to prevent serious injury.”

This example of LA’s responsibility for HS&W is identical to any slip and fall issue for ID’ers that specify floor materials.  It is a legal stretch on both counts. Moot point.

State regulation of registered interior designers is unnecessary.

“The State does not have a clear interest in maintaining what is ultimately a voluntary registration program for interior designers, and its approach to regulating interior designers is ineffective. The Board only interacts with a subset of interior designers who have chosen to register, and has little knowledge of the many professionals practicing across Texas who have not chosen to register.

Calling this a “voluntary registration program” is a semantic reach.  No private registration/self-regulation for Interior Designers exists.  California has a quasi-private self-certification program but 49 other states are devoid of such a “registration” effort.

With this limited reach, even if potential public harm from the practice of interior design was presumed to exist, the Board could not adequately protect Texans from threats to their health, safety, or welfare. If an unregistered interior designer causes public harm, the Board cannot take any action other than for title violation if the person is unlawfully using the full title of registered interior designer.”

Isn’t that the point of the TBAE? It is not the responsibility of the TBAE to take action against non-registered interior designers.  Title violation of the term/act of Registered Interior Design(er) is sufficient and valid. What’s the argument for deregulation here?

“Grandfather provisions are not unusual in establishing regulatory programs, but they do tend to undermine the promise of competence assumed when engaging a licensed professional. This effect is especially true if the grandfathered licensees do not have to meet competency requirements imposed on new licensees. Of the 5,217 registered interior designers as of fiscal year 2011, well over half are grandfathered and do not meet standards for registration.”

Grandfathering is not unique to Interior Design and in fact was used in Texas in 2003 to provide “emeritus status” (another way to say “grandfather”) for architects and in 2007 for Landscape Architects. Texas House Bill 2284 implemented last year grandfathers in Engineers who claim to practice architecture given the clarifications in the legal distinction between those two professions.

Under the new bill (see new section 1051.607 of the occupations code), the new section authorizes the architectural examiners to create a list of engineers licensed before January 1, 2011, who can demonstrate they prepared architectural plans and specifications for three or more projects built before January 1, 2011 that were adequate and safe. That group of engineers will be authorized to engage in the practice of architecture based on their engineering license subject to certain restrictions. The bill grandfathers certain experienced engineers licensed before January 1, 2011, but makes it more difficult for those who are not grandfathered in.

Effective Date

This law is effective September 1, 2011.”

Grandfathering is common for any occupation as it transitions to regulated profession. The argument is moot.

“Recognizing the technical expertise necessary to practice the professions, the Legislature has set thresholds in statute for certain projects that can only be designed by an engineer or an architect.5 In contrast, statute does not specify any work that can only be done by a registered interior designer.

The Statute as stated above is a title act.  Registered Interior Designers in Texas are endeavoring to establish practice regulation.

Statute also specifies that a local public official may only accept an architectural or engineering plan or specification if it is sealed by the supervising architect or engineer; no similar provision exists for interior designers.6 While interior designers sometimes submit plans to secure commercial building permits, interviews with municipal building officials showed that cities generally do not require a seal by a registered interior designer. Instead, municipalities defer to state law and only require that plans submitted by architects and engineers be sealed.”

This is clearly a case of practice protectionism by architects. Registered Interior Designers have proven their ability and right to practice within code regulated building design environments in several states. Again the delineation and scope of this effort is evolving- much as it has done for all other regulated building design professions.

“The discussion of the need for regulation is not intended to denigrate the interior design profession. To become registered requires extensive study, experience, and passing a rigorous examination. However, an alternative means of demonstrating this competence is available without requiring state sanction of this activity.

Again, all other regulated design professions have private certification/qualification processes in place. This point could be interpreted to mean that the entire purview of the TBAE is redundant or irrelevant. What is fair for the practice of Interior Design is also fair to the practice of Architecture and Landscape Architecture.

Only 26 states regulate interior designers. In the other 24 states that do not, those wishing to hire interior designers rely on a national credential to indicate competence. A certificate issued by the National Council for Interior Design Qualification (NCIDQ) is an alternative to state registration to provide assurance to consumers that an interior designer has demonstrated competence in the field. An NCIDQ certificate indicates that an interior designer has passed the same examination that Board registration requires and has met similar minimum education and experience requirements.”

The statement is incorrect. NCIDQ is not a private regulatory agency- it is simply a testing entity. There is no private regulatory/self-certification entity for Interior Designers with nationwide reciprocity and to pass it off as such is untrue.

“By eliminating the regulation of interior designers, this recommendation would not affect the practice of architecture or require architects to do any work currently performed by interior designers.”

Entirely untrue. Architects would be required to oversee and endorse the work of any and all interior design work requiring signed and sealed permit documents. This is a clear example of regulation that infringes upon the rights of qualified interior designers to perform the work that they are educated, trained and vetted by examination to perform.

1.2 Remove the registered interior designer from the Board and replace the position with an additional landscape architect member.

Gee makes me wonder who is driving this bus.




  1. 1.       Clients will get more professional, better qualified, better educated Interior Designers to help them design their homes – which is better for those clients

That is not a factual statement. The purpose of any regulation is not to guarantee quality and is an argument that I urge the TAID to stop posing. Stick with inarguable facts  

  1. 2.       The State of Texas will continue to make $900,000 per year from RID’s registration fees – which is better for the state of Texas.

Yes the financial loss to Texas is an interesting argument against deregulation.

  1. 3.       RID’s will maintain their professional title and clients will therefore have a way of differentiating between Registered Interior Designers and people who think they have taste but who have no training in the Interior Design field and may make costly mistakes because of their lack of training

Again it is not the government’s job to regulate taste. It is the government’s job to protect us- stick with those facts.

  1. 4.       Registered Interior Designers will keep up with annual Continuing Education and therefore stay current on important topics crucial to the Interior Design field such as Sustainable Design, lighting trends, fabric durability and flammability information and Aging in Place and will be able to pass this valuable information onto their clients- which will be a benefit to those clients

This is not a compelling argument. All regulated professions must maintain CEU’s to remain current.  We must cite arguments/points that are relevant and unique to validate the public’s need to have the profession of ID regulated.

“RIDs also must meet exacting annual continuing education requirements. Thus, by definition RIDs are educated, experienced, ethical, and professional. The same cannot be said of unregistered interior designers and decorators.” This is a point that the anti-regulationists pose grandfathering as a counter so it would be wise to address that counter point as well (see above)

“Among the most important aspects of the Board’s regulation of interior design is the continuing education requirement.” Well I thought it was ensuring that interior designers do not practice as “registered” interior designers.

“…………Conversely, when a Texan hires an unregistered designer or decorator, there is simply no guarantee that the designer’s work product will be high-quality, compliant, safe or energy efficient” Again regulation has nothing to do with the quality of professional service. Stick with the facts.

“……………….if adopted, the Sunset Commission’s recommendation would harm the State demonstrably. There can be no doubt that deregulation would leave Texas’s interior designers would be less educated, less knowledgeable, and less professional — and Texans’ homes and workplaces would be less compliant, more dangerous, less energy efficient, less sustainable, and less functional” The statement does not really demonstrate much. Stick with the safety aspects first and foremost. Sustainability is not even in the mix and functionality is also not within the TBAE’s direct purview. It would be better to argue our right to practice as peers with, or independent of, other licensed design professionals. 
“The Staff Report suggests some reasons why regulation may not be necessary — and we disagree with these arguments — but, most importantly, the Report does not offer even one reason why deregulation would benefit the citizens of Texas. VERY TRUE. The above discussion provides many reasons why continued regulation will prove beneficial. Thus, the only theoretical justification for deregulation would be cost-savings. But as the Report recognizes, far from being cost-effective, deregulation will be a costly endeavor” AGAIN TRUE AND COMPELLING.

While these he said/she said reports are just that….reports- there is the chance that anti-regulationists and proponents of wholesale sunsetting of miscellaneous regulations will use the Texas Sunset Advisory Commission report as a statement of fact and need. The more we can counter their arguments now the better we will be should tomorrows election go to the conservative side of the political spectrum.

Just sayin’.

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