Judges hammerGuest commentator: Christina Birkentall, IIDA, CKD, LEED Green Associate

Cat Fight? Turf War? Evil Cartel? Or just an evolving profession seeking respect and equal opportunities?

There has been much mis-information out there about what Interior Designers are seeking when they forge ahead with registration or licensing legislation within their individual states.

Overall, the NKBA has taken a stance that Interior Design legislation is unnecessary, and harms their membership. “While NKBA members do not generally call themselves “interior designers,” the broad definition of interior design contained in these proposed laws clearly covers the services and work that our members perform on a daily basis. Our members would therefore be regulated by these laws.” Their viewpoint can be further reviewed here – NKBA Industry Legislation.

While I respect their desire to make sure that their members are not adversely impacted by laws, what they have not defined in their argument is that most of the existing and future legislation has nothing to do with residential interiors and instead mostly focuses upon those designers who compete with architects within the commercial interiors arena.

The history of the movement has clear intentions and began in the early 1990’s when Architects began enforcement of new rules (within many state statutes), which defined The Professional Design Firm and outlined ownership of these firms be by only “Licensed Professionals.” This put the non-licensed Interior Designer, mostly owners of smaller firms, into an uncompetitive environment. This, along with supervisory rules regarding construction documents, all but tried to put the commercial design firms out of business.

Understanding the players and the issues is vital if you plan to take sides.

The issues vary state by state and are often quite confusing. Issues for occupancy, egress, permitting and ownership all factor into the discussion. Almost all states who have passed or are looking to pass Interior Design legislation provide retail and residential exemptions to allow vendors (cabinet dealers) to continue to provide design services as part of the installation documentation required for a permitted project.

I urge one and all to take some time to learn what your state has done regarding the issue and also to realize that no one wants to put anyone out of business. Interior Designers are seeking credibility and respect as part of the building team. They have been forced to do this on a legal basis, just as Architects are licensed.  Perhaps they should have gone the self -certification route (like the NKBA did); but that would not allow them to keep their businesses or provide the services they had always provided.

– Christina is both a Registered Interior Designer (IL) and a Certified Kitchen Designer. She has practiced in commercial settings however her current practice concentrates on residential K&B, focusing on sustainable and universal design. She has been involved in ID legislation issues since the late 80’s.