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  • Writer's pictureDanielle Wolfrom

Interior Design Licensing and Why You Should Give a Damn

Updated March 1, 2019

If you live in Pennsylvania, like I do, and are part of the design community, like I am, you know there is an important piece of legislation that has been the topic of conversation for quite some time. Like, longer than most new designers coming into the field have been alive. The current bill, House Bill 1102, is in front of the House. If you are not a regular in the community you are probably thinking, " That's all well and good and I hope you get what you want, but why should I care? This doesn't affect me." Oh how wrong you are!

Licensing Interior Designer affects EVERYONE and here is why.

First things first, please get clear on What Is an Interior Designer...Really. As I wrote, one of the biggest challenges we face as designers is that, well, no one knows what exactly a designer is. The lines between designer and decorator are so blurred in people's minds, and without proper accreditation and licensing, anyone can call themselves a designer whether they truly are or not. Senator John Yudichack, who introduced this legislation back in 2015, summed it up perfectly in his memo:

Anyone can hold themselves out to be an interior designer regardless of their education or background. This can be problematic as interior design is much more than just paint colors, furniture placement and material swatches. Interior design has become a critical portion of commercial and residential property development in that it directly impacts the overall health and safety of the individuals using that space.

While those of us who work our butts of in school studying for our interior design degree at an accredited university may cringe when we are confused with interior decorators, the truth is that there are important reasons to support this legislation beyond that, some of which affect us as designers, and others that are important to everyone. Below are three of the most important reasons to support the passage of the Interior Designer Registration Act in Pennsylvania.

1. Supports Small Businesses

Some of the most important business components of the proposed legislation will especially impact smaller design firms (hint hint, Nicole Elizabeth INTRS). Currently, many job opportunities are closed to designers unless they are able to work in conjunction with a licensed architect. Larger design firms typically have these architects in house and thus do not have this problem. But for those of us who operate strictly as interior designers, this law would allow us to submit permit drawings for our clients, bid on state and federal interior design contracts, certify documents for permitting, and benefit from reciprocity (allowing us to work in other states who accept PA licensing). This law would allow an appropriate and necessary distinction between accredited designers and self-styled decorators, and would allow smaller design firms to operate on more equal footing with their larger counterparts.

2. Protects Consumers

By requiring licensing for interior designers, that places us under the regulatory authority of the state. This protects our clients in two important ways. One, it allows the state to pass regulations that provide the greatest consumer protections and set the appropriate standards of safety and quality. Two, it establishes the proper channels for consumers to redress grievances. By instituting regulations that govern designers, the consumer would then have a point of reference for quality and safety standards, and a clear legal standard that the consumer can hold designers to. In addition to this, the law requires continuing education for designers, which ensures that the designer is always apprised of the latest developments in the design world.

3. Keeps Consumer Costs Down

One of the hidden costs in commercial and larger residential design projects is document processing. In the current environment, we designers can create drawings for a project, but they can only be stamped and submitted by an architect. As pointed out in the first point, many larger design firms mitigate this by having architects in-house, but for smaller design firms, this requires working with an architect for an additional fee, which the consumer will then have to pay. By allowing designers access to licensing, this cost is eliminated, which puts savings directly into the consumer’s pockets.

I hope it’s clear by now how important this legislation is, both to designers and consumers. If this argument has struck a nerve and you feel compelled to take action contact your state representative directly. If you don’t know who your representative is, you can find them here. Call and email them today and tell them that you support Senate Bill PA SB 1021, and that you want them to, too.

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