Tag: interior design licensing

The Wisconsin Chapter of the American Institute of Architect’s Analysis of Interior Design Legislation UPDATE

If you read my earlier post regarding Wisconsin Registered Interior Designer’s (WRID) effort to pursue permitting privileges via Wisconsin Senate Bill 303;


Then you will be interested in the AIA’s latest missive regarding WRID’s legislation efforts as well as proposed legislation to implement Sunset Reviews of Wisconsin’s licensed occupations (Wisconsin Senate Bill 541);


First and foremost the above article posits a misleading summation of WRID’s objective from the get go.  To wit;

At the same time, legislation has been introduced to revise Wisconsin’s existing ”title” law governing the registration of interior designers and expand the scope of interior design practice to include architecture – 2019 Senate Bill 303.

TO BE CRYSTAL CLEAR……Wisconsin Registered Interior Designer’s do not want to practice “architecture”.  This Trumpian stretch of reality,  should render Mr. Babcock’s argument presumptuous at best or suspicious at worst.

Previously I chose not to waste my time, or yours, by not offering a counter to the AIA’s position vis-a-vis the Wisconsin Chapter’s July 10, 2019 article.  But for those who care to consider more than one side to this issue here in red italics, is my tit for tat response to Mr. Babcock’s opinion piece.

Does the unregulated practice of interior design clearly harm or endanger the health, safety or welfare of the public and is the potential harm recognizable and not remote or speculative?

BABCOCK: The proponents of the interior design legislation have not identified any instances of harm to public health, safety or welfare caused by the unregulated practice of interior design in Wisconsin. The “sunrise” reviews of interior design proposals in Colorado and Washington failed to uncover clear evidence that the unregulated practice of interior design harms the public.

PROFESSIONALINTERIORDESIGNER: First let’s address “unregulated” interior design.  Unregulated interior design can in fact be practiced by anyone with a pulse.  Much like unregulated “architecture” that is practiced on a daily basis by all sorts of unlicensed folks (builders, developers, contractors, etc) typically under the guise of non-permitted residential work or other licensed building professionals.  Now if you want to change your original query to;

“Does the code regulated practice of interior design clearly harm or endanger the health, safety or welfare of the public and is the potential harm recognizable and not remote or speculative?”

See… the answer changes dramatically simply by adding the prefix “un” to “regulated”.  While it is true that only seven states have codified the practice of “interior design” allowing licensed/state registered interior  designers to legally practice in code regulated interior design environments there is no question that the interior designers in these states deal with numerous health, safety and welfare concerns on a daily basis.  I am not about to cite all of the slip and fall and hazardous/flammable material litigation that is clearly in the purview of the interior designer but suffice it to say that the International Building Code dedicates  several chapters ( 8, 11, & much of chapter 12) to what is commonly the work of a qualified code regulated interior designer…..many of whom work dilligently within AIA member’s firms contributing to the success and bottom line of those firms.  Why is that?

Can the public be reasonably expected to benefit from requiring interior designers to be licensed?

BABCOCK: Proponents of expanding the scope of interior design practice offer an unsubstantiated economic rationale that it could reduce the cost of certain projects by eliminating the need for an architect or professional engineer. However, the purpose of long-standing state requirements that an architect or professional engineer be involved in projects of this scope and size is to protect the health, safety and welfare of the public. The “sunrise” reviews of interior design proposals in other states have concluded that state licensing is not necessary because the public can reasonably expect that an interior designer is a competent practitioner through certification, testing and experience requirements established by related professional associations.

PROFESSIONALINTERIORDESIGNER: FACT- When an interior designer is hired by a building owner to perform interior design services, either directly, or vis-a-vis a design firm , within a jurisdiction where local codes require a registered design professional to sign and seal construction drawings in order to obtain a building permit, those interior designers must seek the services of a Registered Architect. This occurs regardless if the interior designer performed 100% of the design work and personally confirmed acceptance with local building codes.  This is a cost burden for the owner since there seems to be a legal lock on that market limiting building owners options for regulated interior scope services.  Happens day in and day out and the AIA knows it.  Unfortunately the interior designer, who may actually be more qualified to perform those interior design services, than said registered architect, must surrender the ownership of their design and somehow account for the cost of duplicated effort to obtain a building permit.  The added cost and the infringement on qualified interior designers to own their own scope of work and provide options for building owners is very real.  

This little slice of permit monopoly is what Mr. Babcock is arguing for.

Taking Mr. Babcock’s logic here to its fullest extent, and as he alluded, architects should also be subject to sunset scrutiny as the vast majority of code regulated building design, as far as ultimate responsibility for the safety of the users/public is concerned, is performed by licensed structural and M/E/P engineers and not said architects.  Why should states shoulder this duplication of HS&W responsibility and administrative cost?

What is the least restrictive regulation of interior designers that would effectively protect the public?

BABCOCK: In Wisconsin, anyone can offer to provide interior design services. Wisconsin’s “title” registration law only regulates who can use the specific title “Wisconsin registered interior designer.” Title protection laws represent one of the least restrictive levels of state regulation. With no evidence to the contrary, the existing state regulations for interior designers effectively protect the public. The proposed interior design legislation is not necessary. In fact, a legislative report on state occupational licensing submitted by DSPS in December 2018 recommended that Wisconsin eliminate the existing title registration for interior designers because it one of the “most burdensome licensing requirements of all occupations.”

PROFESSIONALINTERIORDESIGNER: Again the semantics here are important….yes anyone can provide interior design services.  But the second those interior design services fall within the realm of code regulated design services the laws obviously change.  This is where the WRID designation factors in.  WRID’s have proven themselves via education/experience/examination to be competent to practice code regulated interior design.  The current title law ensures that those who claim such competency are in fact registered with the state.  The current effort to add permitting privileges to the WRID title act is simply an effort to expand consumer options and their right to work to the fullest of their knowledge and abilities…much to the AIA’s chagrin.

What are the licensing requirements for interior designers in other states?

BABCOCK: Wisconsin is one of 19 states with voluntary title registration for interior designers without permitting authority. In addition, 21 other states do not regulate interior design at all. The 40 states with either title registration or no regulation for interior designers include our neighboring states of Minnesota, Iowa, Illinois and Michigan. The recent DSPS state occupational licensing study noted that only four states regulate the practice of interior design.

PROFESSIONALINTERIORDESIGNER: Well given the AIA’s formidable resistance to qualified interior designer’s right to own their work and provide a competitive cost environment for building owners we cannot claim nationwide licensure.  Suffice it to say that our little profession is working on that and Wisconsin SB 303 is just one example.  Hence the AIA’s interest in misinforming around the real reason for their concern.  Their long standing legal control over the code regulated built environment has suffered from the chipping away of their dominion by specialist trades and professionals who do in fact offer building owners safe and cost effective options.  Certified/Registered code regulated interior designers are next in line.


BABCOCK: The interior design proposal does not meet the criteria for state occupational licensing established in the “sunrise” legislation. It is unnecessary because it fails to increase consumer protection or enhance public health, safety and welfare. There is a straightforward alternative that would not involve any statutory or administrative rule changes. In Wisconsin, if interior designers want to practice architecture, they can apply for an architect license by using their qualifying interior design education and work experience and passing the required Architect Registration Examination (ARE).

PROFESSIONALINTERIORDESIGNER: Once again Mr. Babcock we do not want to practice architecture.  We simply want to practice to the fullest of our trained and vetted professional potential.  Taking your conclusion to its fullest extent should we say that licensed building contractors, you know the ones who actually build your visions, and assume liability thereof, should also be required to take the ARE?  I think you know the answer but certainly would not admit it.

Make no mistake about Mr. Babcock’s article, this is not really about public safety and which profession is best suited to master that domain in our best interest.  No it is simply a way for the AIA’s small firm members to protect their small petty piece of professional services turf.

In conclusion (mine) I urge all certified interior designers, who work within Architecture firms, to open a dialogue with their peer RA’s to consider just how petty and protectionist the AIA’s position on denouncing qualified interior designer’s right to work efforts.  In the end a licensed interior designer can only enhance the professional collaborations that both professions, and the public, can benefit from.

There is enough work out there for both of us.


If This Is Interior Design………….

and she is an “interior designer”…… then why would I want to be a “certified” version of this?


Once again if we, the code regulated commercial interior designers of America, wish to establish a public image that demands understanding and respect we need to do one of two things;

  1. Establish a public messaging campaign that will overcome decades of confusion and misunderstanding of  interior design and the interior designer’s role in the design of the code regulated built environment.   OR
  2. Leave “interior design” to the innately qualified by creating our own unique professional identity* that distinguishes us from “interior designers” by default.

If anybody has a better idea please come forward.

*See Interior Architecture.

P.S. If you think the above popular media piece in the nation’s 39th largest T.V. market  is a rare one-off segment you are wrong.  It is by far the most common public face of “interior design”.  Not that there is anything wrong with that.





So this article from the Louisiana State University Reveille came across my screen yesterday;


First I commend the LSU ID students and faculty for taking on this issue.  Since I somewhat follow this topic I took a moment to understand what the students were actually considering.  Well duh!

They want respect.  Plain and simple and ‘Interior Design” does not provide that.

I get it.  BUT…………………………………………………………………………………………

  1. Yes there are many “Interior Design” programs that have adopted the title “Interior Architecture” in response to the same issues you are struggling with.  But that does NOT make it right nor will it eliminate your problem.  Stay with me here…………..
  2. Unfortunately the academic side of the profession of interior design has let the ‘interior architecture” cat out of it’s bag.  It is going to be difficult if not impossible to lure it back in so that we can present a meaningful, unified and independent “interior design” profession that can in fact earn its place among our peer licensed building design professions.  As an academic and an “interior designer” this deeply concerns me. I am glad that you share my concerns.
  3.  I am not so sure that “the terms “interior design” and “interior architecture” are interchangeable” as Professor Campbell states.  At a higher level I agree the nuances are arguable and is much like the line between interior decoration and interior design…mohair fuzzy.  But when one is on the ground actually practicing the design of code regulated interior spaces the nuances become MUCH more complicated and they have serious later career implications. As students it is easy to be short-sighted.  You just want to get a job in a career that you can be proud of….20 years down the road is way off your radar.  It shouldn’t be.
  4. I call B.S. on the justification that “Interior Architecture” is a more common descriptor for our peers in Europe.  Interior design students need to understand context in order to properly develop a design solution so these points should be clear;  North is up and this is not Europe. Prove me wrong.
  5. Be wary of any tacit or direct allegiance with “Architecture” lest you loose your independence and become simply a subset of “architecture” (AKA subservient).  A lot of effort has been expended to create a unique and independent  career path that, while it has its identity issues, still has far more potential in providing meaningful career options for students.  Turning your back on the effort has some very heavy long term implications.  Proceed with your eyes wide open.

Now my most important point for all U.S. based interior design students, who are not enrolled in a NAAB  accredited program in which you are earning a degree that will allow you to take the ARE so that you can pursue state registration as a licensed architect- you will not be able to use the title “Interior Architect”.  Despite what your diploma may state you will still be relegated to practice as an interior designer.  Again I welcome anybody to prove me wrong on that point.

Ultimately students, you can actually call yourselves, and academic programs can label themselves, whatever they want. We can debate the ethics of all of this title nonsense till the sun sets in the East.  It isn’t……ethical.   But when you are in actual practice within a code regulated and professionally licensed design environment titles matter.  Legally.

My final 2 cents to the LSU students and any other current or emerging interior design students is that changing your program name is not the solution.  Your time and enthusiasm would be better spent asking these larger questions of your current academic and professional organization leaders;

How can the “interior design” profession capture the societal respect and recognition that architecture and engineering conveys?

If interior designers are also interior architects, as many argue, then what is the profession doing to address that very thorny title dilemma?

Why is “interior design” constantly thought of as a lesser occupation than architecture and engineering?

What are you doing to resolve the title confusion so that we can be proud of our chosen career path and practice to the fullest extent of our knowledge and skills?

These are not rhetorical questions.  Have somebody tell you.  That is why they are getting paid the big bucks.

P.S. Full disclosure…I just do not want to pay to change my domain name to PROFESSIONALINTERIORARCHITECTANDDESIGNER.COM so stop with the interior architecture talk will ya?



The Wisconsin Chapter of the American Institute of Architect’s Analysis of Interior Design Legislation

Or In Other Words; What Interior Designers Are Really Qualified To Do According To The AIA.

In response to Wisconsin Registered Interior Designer’s (WRID) effort to pursue expanded practice rights with permitting privileges via Wisconsin Senate Bill 303 , the Wisconsin chapter of the American Institute of Architects felt it necessary to inform the public just what it is we do, or what we are not supposed to do, by launching this missive to the internet;


Should I analyze their analysis?…….Hmmmmm……..No I have to attend to more important things like helping my interior design students understand that they are unable to practice their chosen profession to the fullest extent of their knowledge and expertise simply because the AIA continues to perpetuate this antiquated, erroneous, and totally unimportant protectionist good ole boy political territorial pissing match.

Can you tell how I feel about this?

NOTE TO THE AIA.  We do not want your jobs! But we do want to do ours.

Good grief don’t you have better things to do with your dues monies?

That is not a rhetorical question.  Other than telling us how we are unqualified to do our jobs, you know the ones you GUYS rely on daily to satisfy your clients and make money based on our knowledge and expertise, I have yet to see a reasonable argument that does not reek of protectionism and even sexism.  Yes I just said that.

Anybody care to answer?

It seems that the profession of code regulated interior design has learned to avoid the pitfalls of pitching interior design legislation that infringes on the rights of those who simply decorate.  Now we have to work on our Registered Architect allies, AIA dues paying members or not, to convince them that a regulated and licensed interior design profession is ultimately best for them, the code regulated interior design profession, and our paying clients….you know the ones that put dinner on your Florence Knoll dining tables.

So keeping on with the musical analogies here is a song that I think best fits the AIA’s stance on our efforts to become licensed peers;

Self-Regulation is the Answer

Umm…Okay…But what is the question? Cue the broken record-

Those of us who reside and practice within the code regulated building design realm must have the courage to recognize that much of what we call “Interior Design”, and those that practice it, does not need to be regulated.  In fact there are many who do not want to be licensed even if we could muster the collective effort to achieve it. They are just fine working in mostly non-regulated residential environments.  Call them what you will but the law says that they are interior designers regardless of their background, education, training, or talent.  I respect that.

At the other end of the interior design spectrum there is a small contingent of interior designers that want to be recognized as licensed building design professionals so that they can practice as peers with, or independent of other licensed building design professionals.  We want to be licensed.   We are also interior designers.  Therein lies the problem.

Essentially we are fighting with ourselves.  Interior design is just too wide ranging for such a small segment to demand and be granted government oversight.

So the question du jour…..How do we regulate a profession that is simply too broad to merit regulation?

We self-regulate privately first….as something other than interior designers. Then when we earn the public’s trust and respect then, and only then, can we can successfully pursue government, or public, regulation.

I know this flies in the face of 50+ years of interior designers trying to distinguish themselves from interior designers. But if you read that sentence- then you understand the dilemma.

Yes it may mean going backwards a bit.  But I am convinced that if we do it right we can then come out in the future and take the profession several leaps forward.  Yes it will take time.  Got any other ideas?  No really I am open to suggestion……


beach bottle cold daylight
Photo by Snapwire on Pexels.com

Now that we have beaten back another effort to deregulate the profession of code regulated interior design, this time in Florida, again (see previous post), it is time to ask ourselves the proverbial question….


My short answer is that interior designers do not deserve to be regulated…………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………….(pause for effect)……………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………

“BLASPHEME!”– you say.  Let me explain.

Unfortunately for us, the public perception of interior design is far different than the reality of code-regulated or commercial interior design.  So when we stand before a lawmaker or policy maker and we ask them to consider creating a law that regulates the practice of “interior design”, or we are forced to defend existing interior design laws from deregulation efforts, our message is less than cogent and convincing.  There is, unfortunately, a wide gap in perception between the message bearer and the receiver.  We often use helpful descriptors such as “we are ‘commercial’ interior designers”, or “we are ‘certified’ interior designers”, etc. to close that cognitive gap and to interject some distinction.  After all the lawmakers we are speaking to simply represent the general public and we all know what the general public thinks about interior design and interior designers.

So most policy and law-makers, when confronted with the issue of licensing interior design are left to ponder “why should we regulate a profession that has no impact on the health, safety or well-being of the public”?  While we (the code regulated) all know the truth and reality of our social obligations toward public safety and welfare we have not been able to frame and promote that important distinction in the realm of interior design.

My mission (nay obsession) has always been to compel those educated, apprenticed, and NCIDQ certifed code regulated interior designers to rethink their message.  This “message” includes what we call ourselves, how we define ourselves, how we promote our value to society, and ultimately how we parlay that message into serious consideration as peers with our allied licensed building design professions.

I am well aware that the profession hangs it’s hat on the official definition of “interior design”  which clearly describes, in great detail, a vision of “interior design” that we all wish was commonly understood.  Many of my peers maintain that with time, persistence and patience we can realize a paradigmatic shift in the public perception of our true value to society by promoting our version of interior design.  On the other hand many of my peers have acknowledged their doubt in our ability to define our way out of this identity conflict by adopting “interior architect” as their go to title.

Frankly I do not blame them.  While many see this as simply a way to engender a modicum of respect it is hard for me to see this title transgression as nothing but a vote of no confidence in “Interior Design”.

When will we ask our collective selves……“Why do we feel obligated to defend our domain from those who do not fit squarely into our vision?”   When will we stop trying to convince the public what we are not decorators as explained in the ever present “difference” argument?

The Professional Difference Between”Interior Designer” and “Interior Decorator”


Many people use the terms “interior design” and “interior decorating” interchangeably, but these professions differ in critical ways.  Interior design is the art and science of understanding people’s behavior to create functional spaces within a building. 

Decoration is the furnishing or adorning of a space with fashionable or beautiful things.

In short, interior designers may decorate, but decorators do not design.Interior designers apply creative and technical solutions within a structure that are functional, attractive and beneficial to the occupants’ quality of life and culture.  Designs respond to and coordinate with the building shell and acknowledge the physical location and social context of the project.  Designs must adhere to code and regulatory requirements and encourage the principles of environmental sustainability.  The interior design process follows a systematic and coordinated methodology — including research, analysis and integration of knowledge into the creative process — to satisfy the client’s needs and resources. 

U.S. states and Canadian provinces have passed laws requiring interior designers to be licensed or registered and to document their formal education and training.  Many states and provinces also specifically require all practicing interior designers to earn the NCIDQ Certification to demonstrate their experience and qualifications.   By contrast, interior decorators require no formal training or licensure. 


Those pesky interior decorators, who have every right to call themselves “interior designers”, simply will not cease confusing our public image.   Hence the ongoing battle for the title of “interior designer” and its incumbent, albeit intangible, professional identity and societal respect.   

And for those emerging interior design professionals who think this identity crisis is simply the result of us being a young, still emerging  profession, I offer this proclamation from the late great interior design progenitor Florence Knoll;

                 “I Am Not A Decorator!                   

Sound familiar?  This is essentially, albeit using other descriptors, what our policy makers and family members hear when we stand before them to defend “interior design”.

So you are thinking Ms. Knoll said that in her later years…..say 2014? No.

Given her lengthy career maybe she uttered those words say in…..1994? No.

1984?  No.

1974?  Well okay you are getting warm.

Try 1964.   Think about that dear readers…..both of you.  Since Ms. Knoll uttered that defense we are now onto our 3rd generation of interior design professional.  Yet we face the same perceptual confusion and right to practice road blocks.  Yes it just keeps “HAPPENING”.

So as you can see this has been going on awhile.  Have I made my point….again (see previous 350 posts on the subject)?

When will we recognize that we do not own “interior design” and we cannot define, or legislate, our way to respect?

When will we realize that we have to change the message in order to shift the paradigm?

Unfortunately PROFESSIONALINTERIORDESIGNER is an outlier.  I accept that.  I will never be asked to sit at the grown-ups table while they continue to ignore the 800 pound pink tutu wearing gorilla sitting in the corner of the profession.  What keeps me going is the hope that in 55+ years some poor interior design academic or professional will be neural blogging the same message via BCI telepathy…..

…..And did you know that PROFESSIONALINTERIORDESIGNER proclaimed on his old school internet blog;


And do you know when that was? 

2039?  No.   


Carry on.




Code Regulated Interior Design Forecast: Dim With A Chance Of Deregulation

Here I go again…….being a stick in the proverbial mud regarding our collective efforts to advance the profession of certified/commercial/code-regulated interior design via regulation.  AKA, pursuing our right to practice to the fullest of our abilities as peers with, or independent of, other licensed building design professionals.

It has been awhile since the profession of code-regulated, certified, or commercial interior design has scored a win in the legislation/licensure column.  I really cannot recall the last practice related win for the profession…maybe it was Utah SB 116 in 2016?  Two going on three years….correct me if I am wrong….seems like an eon ago in this day and age.

Why is that?  Is this a positive development or a troubling trend?  Does it really matter?

If you are still here welcome to yet another year (2019) and another blog post in which I ponder answers to the above imponderables.  I really wish I could be more optimistic but……..


No I am not on the front lines of any effort to advance the profession on the regulatory level but I do know that the pursuit of licensure is currently our only mode of advancing our professional identity.  Since it is our only form of public messaging we all have a stake in the success of this effort…..even if it is not in our particular state.  I respect those who do invest copious amounts of time and effort to advocate for the profession in the regulatory arena.  This post is dedicated to those volunteers, and those that will follow them, in the hope that they can scratch and claw a modicum of respect and parity for the profession.   Over the past 20 years I have witnessed innumerable attempts by state coalitions, and our professional membership organizations, to both introduce interior design legislation and defend existing laws from deregulation.   Call me crazy but analyzing this process is what I like to do. While I am not directly involved in the battle I still want us to succeed.  Again I acknowledge the effort but also maintain that we can do better.

I  understand that far more bills never see their respective governor’s pen than actually become law and interior design legislation suffers a much maligned history in the legal/political arena.

But that does not mean we should ignore the many ID bills that are tabled, sent to committee, or otherwise scuttled.  We have to learn from these set-backs.

I also acknowledge that each state is different and it is nearly impossible to create a one size fits all approach to regulating Interior Design.

But that does not mean we should not try to at least try to be consistent in our language.

I maintain that we can learn a lot from each of our attempts to advance the profession on the regulatory front. Both successful and not.

As humans, we’re going to make mistakes. It’s what makes us human, and most of the time, the most effective way of learning is from a mistake.
Nash Grier

Ohio, the nation’s 7th most populous state, is the latest example of a state that has pursued legislation to regulate the practice of “certified” interior design .  Ohio HB 504 was introduced in February of this year (2018), sponsored by Rep. Dorothy Pelanda, it actually made its way through the Ohio House to the Senate in November where it was referred to committee on November 28th.  Which is not a good sign.  I don’t know if this bill is dead or not. Hopefully Rep. Pelanda can resurrect it in 2019.  Stay tuned here;  https://www.legislature.ohio.gov/legislation/legislation-status?id=GA132-HB-504.  It is unclear to me if this is a title act with permitting privileges, a practice act or a hybrid of both.  What is clear is that the bill proposes an “Interior Examiners Board” whose purpose seems to be regulating “certified” interior designers.  This seems to be more of a title move to me.

Thanks to the State of Ohio’s thorough and transparent website we can easily monitor and access all activity related to this bill.  There is a lot to learn here since formal opposition to this bill is documented and readily available.

Ohio’s ID bill, like many others, continues to confuse Interior Design and Certified or Commercial Interior Design.  If you are not already aware- semantics are everything with me….or to me….  Unfortunately we as profession continue to flounder with conflicting and confusing terms and titles with which to describe ourselves and our work.  Keep in mind that the Ohio ID bill proposes to regulate “certified interior designers” not “interior designers” so the bill starts out on the wrong foot;


To amend sections 3791.04, 4703.50, 4703.52, and 4703.53 and to enact sections 4703.60, 4703.61, 4703.62, 4703.63, 4703.64, 4703.65, 4703.66, 4703.67, 4703.68, 4703.69, 4703.70, 4703.71, and 4703.72 of the Revised Code to create the Ohio Interior Design Examiners Board to certify and regulate interior designers.

Here is what it should have said;


To amend sections 3791.04, 4703.50, 4703.52, and 4703.53 and to enact sections 4703.60, 4703.61, 4703.62, 4703.63, 4703.64, 4703.65, 4703.66, 4703.67, 4703.68, 4703.69, 4703.70, 4703.71, and 4703.72 of the Revised Code to create the Ohio Certified Interior Design Examiners Board to certify and regulate certified interior designers.

We should not be proposing any legislation that regulates “Interior Design” in any shape form or fashion.  Regardless of the clarifications included in recent interior design bills that try to define “interior design and “certified interior design” the nuance is hard to grasp and it certainly opens the door to those who oppose any regulation of “interior design”.  This bill, like many before it, is full of confusing and conflicting title descriptors that further cloud the subtle nuances between an “interior designer” and a “certified interior designer”.  Referring back to Utah’s ID legislation the inclusion of the descriptor “commercial” to add clarity to the distinction between interior design and certified interior design seems to have helped in their effort to pursue ID licensure.

For whatever reason the Ohio ID coalition chose not to pursue this title strategy.  Which leads me to our first look at the opposition.


Feel free to read the letters on record here….or just jump ahead to my summary;

Louise Budde, CMKBD

Mark Kresge, CKD, MCR, CRPM

Bill Darcy, CEO NKBA

As pointed out previously whenever legislation proposes to regulate “interior design” the Kitchen and Bath crowd is front and center in voicing their opposition.  In this case it seems that Rep. Pelanda tried to assuage their concerns but of course not to their liking as Louise Budde, CMKBD states;

“While my colleagues and I recognize and appreciate that this legislation regulating interior designers is voluntary, kitchen and bath designers have been harmed in other states where such legislation has passed. Therefore, we request explicit assurance that we are not required to register as certified interior designers and that our current work practices will not be limited by this bill.”

Bill Darcy, CEO of the National Kitchen & Bath Association, long time opponents to any ID legislation, actually offers a point of conciliation;

“NKBA requests the Committee adopt a simple clarifying amendment to the legislation, consistent with the Sponsor’s stated intent, that would satisfy our Ohio members’ concern about the negative impact the bill will have on their businesses and profession. We propose the amendment create the following definition of “kitchen and bath designer” for the purposes of this act, and that the term “other design professional” be replaced with “kitchen and bath designer.”

“Kitchen and bath designer” means a person engaged in the design of safe and
functional kitchen and bath spaces and in the specification of products for kitchen and bath areas.

With this amendment, NKBA is prepared to move from a position of opposition to a position of neutral on the legislation.”

The take away here is that these concerns from the K&B community point out the importance of ID bill language and how others see it.  Despite the effort to exclude them they clearly feel infringed upon by HB 504.  However, what Mr. Darcy and his influential constituents fail to acknowledge is that the vast majority of kitchen and bath work is done in single family homes, a scope of design work that is rarely regulated.  Let me repeat!  The vast majority of K&B work is not regulated. However, if local codes and ordinances do require a permit for such work, generally a licensed contractor can pull a permit that covers the scope of the K&B designers work.  In other words, regardless of the words used, they simply do not have a dog in this hunt.  If a NKBA member wishes to pull permits for their design work they can contract with a licensed Architect…but they will have to get in line behind Ohio’s certified interior designers.

Point being…if we choose our words carefully we can eliminate this aspect of the opposition.  Properly defining code-regulated interior design service and being consistent with “certified” or “commercial” interior design is a start.

Now on the other opposition front is the American Institute of Architects who do have a large dog in our hunt for practice rights.  A really big dog.



Here are the letters of record from the architecture side of the equation;

Karen Planet, AIA

Timothy Hawk, FAIA

Laurie Gunzelman, AIA

Robert Loversidge, AIA

This is the best representation of AIA opposition I have seen in a while. There is a lot to process here but fortunately for you, I have distilled their opposition down to 3 points of contention.

Karen Planet touches on two points here ;

“I would like to respectfully ask this Committee whether the proponents have met the burden of showing the direct harm the unregulated practice of interior design poses to the citizens of Ohio.  Have you been provided actual evidence of present, significant, and substantiated harm to consumers in Ohio? This is the only basis for the regulation of an occupation. When regulation is deemed necessary, great lengths should be taken to ensure that the licensing board created to govern the occupation focuses on consumer protection, not economic protectionism. The state of Ohio should not be enacting new occupational regulations and expending state resources in order to help create and expand the opportunities of a small group of individuals to help elevate their status.”

Ahhh yes the old burden of proof argument.  Note she did clarify that we are obligated to provide legal precedent that the UNregulated practice of interior design is rife with safety related lawsuits.  Unfortunately for Ms. Planet it is the regulated practice of interior design that we are talking about here…..and it is regulated for a reason. Tricky semantics me thinks.

She also urges the Ohio legislature not to expand opportunities for qualified and certified interior designers who are well qualified to legally own their limited scope of interior design work.  The implication being that only licensed architects and contractors can own this work.  Seems like the ultimate example of “economic protectionism” to me.  Careful what you argue for Ms. Planet.

Finally it is Timothy Hawk who reiterates the national AIA’s position that Architects are the only profession so qualified to legally own the design of code regulated interior space regardless of scope, newly built or renovation of existing space.

“All of the many, complex systems that exist in a building are interwoven, and the architect is the responsible professional who takes comprehensive responsibility. It is simply not possible to isolate a portion of a building as if one aspect doesn’t impact everything else and can be safely considered independent of all other elements.”

Good grief.  This continent (yeah that’s right- the entire freaking continent) is chock full of speculative office, retail and hospitality space in which certified interior designers whose expertise lies in the design of code compliant space while closely coordinating its interface with building systems create construction documents entirely independent of an architect.  That is until those drawings must be signed and sealed by a licensed design professional in order to get constructed.  What that means is that a highly qualified interior design professional, unless working in one of the few jurisdictions that grants permits to licensed ID’ers, must surrender his, or her, work to a registered design professional…typically an architect.   I will let you in on a dirty little secret…many of these licensed architects did not participate in the creation of these construction documents which is technically required.  At best they give them a cursory review to make sure the occupants will not be doomed. Yes I understand that is ultimately the firm that is liable and many architects are happy to keep certified interior designers under their umbrella….or thumb depending on your perspective…I digress.   This is just one example of this professional charade that I know occurs regularly across the U.S.  Of course we cannot frame our argument in this manner but you get my point.  Most certified interior designers have resigned themselves to this fact and really do not consider how this limits their career potential.  Obviously the interior designers in Mr. Hawk’s firm have not fully consider the career limits he has tacitly placed on them in his letter.

Getting back on point.  The AIA is clearly taking a protectionist stance here.  It is time to call their hand.  Apart from consistent language regarding “code-regulated”, “certified” or “commercial” interior design we also have to present a consistent depiction of our scope of work which will help dispel the architects argument, concisely stated by Mr. Hawk that;

“………….the language in this bill is problematic because it is nearly impossible to carve out the interior of the building and separate it from the rest of the building.”

Well the cynic in me responds;

“How hard is to understand that the interior of the building is on the inside of the architecture?”

But I do agree with him to a point.  While the line between interior space and base building structure and life safety systems is challenging to define it is not impossible.  We just have to be mindful of how we present this demarcation and we need to be consistent when including it in all ID legislation.

So we are down to the 3rd arm of our opposition triumvirate.  Unfortunately it is us.   Whaaaaat? you say.


Many of us think the U.S. is over-regulated and those of us who invest time and energy into pursuing certified interior design legislation have an increasingly hard sell in this regard.  The press is full of anti-regulation sentiment and I have addressed this hurdle many times in previous posts.   The following letter of interest sums up the anti-regulation contingent’s concerns- quite succinctly I must add;

Greg Lawson, The Buckeye Institute

Unfortunately I do not have a pithy response or recommended work around for this larger political concern. We just have to focus this licensure thing into a right to work effort that will expand opportunity and consumer choice. Work which we are well qualified to perform.

Suffice it to say that if we are going to overcome these points of opposition we have to be much more strategic, painfully consistent, and unified in how we describe our abilities and our rightful scope of work.

P.S. Just in case you do not agree with me that “interior design” does not apply to what we do, and how we do it, I offer this tidbit of societal perception.  This is why we need to stop trying to regulate “interior design”;