Tag: Interior Design Practice

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 https://wordpress.com/post/professionalinteriordesigner.com/7000 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.





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.





UPDATE 5/9/2019

The effort to deregulate the practice of interior design in the State of Florida has been unsuccessful.  In other words Florida Registered Interior Designers have won their fight to remain independent of other licensed building design professionals.

Below is my original post on the subject.

I have noticed an uptick in views over the past couple of days and I hope that it is because the state of Florida is proposing to deregulate the practice of commercial interior design among many other regulated professions.

This is not the first time this movie has been shown.

If you want to see the bill as of 4/4/2019 click here http://www.flsenate.gov/Session/Bill/2019/00027

Here is the summary of the bill as it has passed through several committees- Interior Design is addressed on page #9  http://www.flsenate.gov/Session/Bill/2019/27/Analyses/h0027e.COM.PDF

As of 4/4/2019 The bill has made its way out of several committees and appears to be headed for a floor vote.  READ THAT AGAIN….THIS BILL HAS INERTIA AND COULD VERY WELL BECOME LAW.  BUH BYE LICENSED INTERIOR DESIGN IN FLORIDA!


Correct me if I am wrong.  I am happy to be proven wrong on this point.  I will update the process as soon as I know.

Here is the link to the video of the Commerce Committee Debate.  It is long but very informative not only in regard to the deregulation of Interior Design but the logic behind the deregulation effort in general. https://www.myfloridahouse.gov/VideoPlayer.aspx?eventID=2443575804_2019041079

If you by chance are a Florida policy maker and are seeking some clarity to the issue let me be brief.

An NCIDQ Certification is not the same as a “license” to practice in a highly restricted code regulated building design process.  Rep. Ingoglia is unwilling to make that clarification and in my opinion is greatly misleading Florida’s policy makers.

Rep. Ingoglia claims that ‘nothing will change” when Florida Registered Interior Designers can no longer crimp and seal their drawing in order to submit them to their respective building departments.  He states and the record shows that

The bill allows interior designers who have passed the NCIDQ examination to submit plans for interior design to a local permitting agency if such agency requires such plans. 

Sure…Mickey Mouse can submit plans for interior design to a local permitting agency but if he is not a licensed/registered design professional, as stated in the International Building Code, the local permitting agency will in no way accept those plans…Even if Mickey Mouse is a NCIDQ Certificate Holder.


Ergo if you take away the Florida’ DBPR’s ability to issue a State License to qualified code-regulate Interior Designers you will put them out of business..or at best they will have to pay an Architect or Professional Engineer to oversee their work and then assume the liability thereof by applying their own seal and signature.

How does this brilliant move expand opportunities?

This is not creating a free market.  It is increasing the Licensed Architects monopolization of the building design permit process.

Don’t even get me started on the fact that most Florida Registered Interior Design Professionals are female owned small business…………


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”;



How Do I Become An Interior Designer?

If you reached this site because you are interested in pursuing a career in interior design in the United States (or Canada- to an extent) please know this;

  1. This site is not funded or financed by anyone. I am not here to promote any particular interior design degree/certificate program or interior design organization (do you see any ads?).  I am here to help you make informed decisions without any judgement.
  2. I am an NCIDQ Certified Interior Design profession with 25 years of commercial and residential design experience.  I have also been teaching interior design for the past 14 years at a highly regarded 4 year interior design program.
  3. Interior design is a broad and somewhat ill-defined occupation.  It can be confusing and if you make the wrong decision in your journey…it can also be very expensive.
  4. This blog post is focused on getting to the point.  The internet is getting clogged up with a lot of information.  I want to help you cut through it. Even sites such as the U.S. Government’s Bureau of Labor and Statistics, while helpful, can be overwhelming at this stage of your journey.
  5. I will provide links to trusted sources so you can explore your options a bit deeper but know you should be on the right path.  Okay ready?


A) I want to design people’s homes.  I love to watch home make-over shows and videos.  I prefer the more artistic aspect of design and do not want to deal with a lot of technical, or complex, problems.  While I am confident in my innate sense of creativity I also know that some specialization, such as kitchen and bath design, does require some advanced training.


B) I want to design restaurants, nightclubs, high-end retail, and hotels.  I like the ultra creative aspect of glamorous entertainment or shopping spaces but I do not want to get too technical or bogged down with the details.  I do not want to design people’s homes….too much drama for me.


C) I want to design a variety of commercial interior spaces including hotels, retail, healthcare and offices.  I am interested in Architecture and want to help design the interior spaces of larger buildings.  I like technical challenges, working in teams, and find solving complex problems rewarding.


D) I want to design residential and commercial interior spaces that are creative and also help the client live a better quality of life.  I want to make a difference for people of all ages and social levels.  I enjoy working in dynamic and challenging environments with other like-minded professionals.

If you fall on the fence between the above options that is fine.  Read the details and that should help you focus on one path.

If you answered ‘A’

Okay your options are actually pretty wide open here.  You wish to pursue a career in interior design that utilizes your innate creative skills but does not require knowledge of building structures (math…yuk!), codes, standards or regulations.  You are more interested in furnishings and colors than wall framing or floor joists.  More commonly known as interior decoration there is a lot of cross-over into interior design.  At a minimum you will need a baseline knowledge of floor plans, construction and materials.  Obviously the more you know in this regard the more valuable your skill-set becomes.  You may not need to know any advanced computer design programs but, as with any profession, a general knowledge of basic office programs is essential.  Again the more you can offer a prospective employer in the area of technical skills the broader your options.  Ultimately this aspect of interior design requires no formal design education but if you wish to pursue advanced education or certification to elevate your opportunities in this rather competitive aspect of interior design here are several legitimate organizations that can provide much more detail for your consideration.

The Interior Design Society

The National Kitchen & Bath Association

Certified Interior Decorators International

The Home Furnishings Association

A note of caution here.  Since this is the lest restrictive aspect of interior design there is a lot of misleading info on the internet in this regard.  Buyer beware.

If you answered ‘B’

If you wish to pursue a design career that deals with public commercial spaces such as restaurants, hotels or chic retail stores you have two sub-options to consider.

  1. I prefer to be involved with the furnishings and color choices for these spaces and not so much the details or technical aspects.   OR……..
  2. I would like to be involved in the planning and construction of these types of spaces. I am technically inclined and understand that there are many codes, regulations and standards that must be dealt with.

If #1 above describes you then your choice aligns with career path ‘A’ above.  It is possible to find a rewarding career decorating and furnishing these types of commercial spaces without any advanced education or certification.  But your involvement will be limited to those aspects of the project that do not involve building codes  which are typically performed by other licensed or registered design professionals.  Again if you do pursue some advanced education or certification, or demonstrate an affinity for technical skills your options will be greater.  See the links under path ‘A’ above for more detail.

If you answered #2 above then you are beginning to head down career path ‘C’ described below.  In order to practice in any form of commercial architecture or interior design, which must abide by building codes and life safety standards, you will typically need an advanced/accredited education.  Most likely you will also need to validate your baseline knowledge and competency to work in these regulated environments by earning your NCIDQ Examination certificate.  See the links under path ‘C’ below for more details but there is one professional membership organization that will have good information for those who may straddle the professional fence between residential/unregulated design and commercial/code regulated interior design;

American Society of Interior Designers

If you answered ‘C’

Interior designers that practice in commercial spaces that are typically regulated by building codes (does it need a building permit?), life safety regulations, accessibility requirements, and other contractual obligations will need an advanced education, monitored apprenticeship, and a certification via examination.  While innate talent is helpful one must also be able to work on complex problems in a team environment that is driven by time sensitive deadlines.  If this is not your ideal environment then consider career path ‘A’ or ‘B’ above.  One can expect to invest at least 6 years in order to practice at this level of the profession.  Here are some important links to review and consider;

The Council for Interior Design Accreditation (accrediting body for interior design college degree programs) I am not in the business of ranking ID programs- you are on your own there.

The National Council for Interior Design Qualification (oversees work experience programs and administers the accepted industry standard examination)

The following professional membership organizations also have good “how to become” interior designer information;

International Interior Design Association (commercial interior design focus)

American Society of Interior Designers (residential and commercial interior design members)

Canadians wishing to pursue a career in code regulated interior design here you go;


If you answered ‘D’

Congratulations!  You are here for the right reasons. I commend you.  That said your career path options are a bit more open.  I am going to show my bias here but if you truly want to help people lead better lives or livelihoods, apart from a career in medicine, I am not sure of a better option.  In order to achieve some level of influence in this regard you will want to practice at a level that it is overseen by federal, state and local regulations.  An awareness of various public policies and socio-economic trends will be helpful.  Research, information gathering and problem seeking skills play an increasingly important role.  Hence an accredited education will be important to have any influence. If these topics scare you do not get discouraged.  Again your objective is noble and the profession needs you.  With that you should explore career paths as described by the links under career path ‘C’ above.  In addition you should explore the following human health, and design for social justice links;

Well Buildings (oversees programs promoting building design that promotes human health and wellbeing)

Institute for Human Centered Design


So there you have it.  I hope this has been of some help to someone.

If you are still confused or uncertain please let feel free to ask me a question.

Clarifying Interior Design Titles and Labels.

If you attended an educational program that granted you a certificate upon completion- that does NOT mean you are “certified” interior designer.

If you passed the NCIDQ Examination- that does NOT mean you are a “licensed” interior designer.

If you received an interior architecture degree from a CIDA accredited school- that does NOT mean you are an “interior architect”.

If you want to be a “certified interior designer” learn what that means.

If you want to be a “licensed interior designer” learn what that entails.

If you want to be an “interior architect” take the ARE exam.

I do not know how much clearer this can be.   This is not my opinion folks…the above are legally and ethically demonstrable titles and labels that are often applied inappropriately and even illegally.  It is easy to get confused.  If this helps one person figure out who they are, or what they do, then I am good.

You are welcome to ignore the above…but now you do so knowing the difference.

Confused? Feel free to ask.  Disagree? Tell me why.

Thanks for reading on.