Federal Court Upholds Florida's Bizarre Interior Designer Licensing Law

interior design study.jpg
An interior designer is not a medical doctor. An interior designer is not a lawyer, or a pharmacist, or a school teacher, or someone who transports hazardous chemicals that could kill large swaths of society.

Interior designers help you decide which colors look good in a bedroom or office and where the couch should go. Reductionist, sure, but the point is, there's no reason someone should need a state-issued license to call themselves an "interior designer."

And yet, last week, the 11th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals upheld the strange Florida law that prohibits people from calling themselves "interior designers" without the government's permission. As the law stands, it takes six years and thousands of dollars to get an interior design license in Florida.

Several would-be designers in South Florida filed a civil rights lawsuit against the state (with the help of the Institute for Justice, a Virginia-based libertarian law firm), claiming the legal requirements inhibit the designers' "right to earn an honest living and communicate truthfully about interior design services they lawfully perform in Florida."

Attorneys representing the women behind the lawsuit point out that the licensing requirements -- which are about 15 years old -- block out new competition despite the fact that "there is no evidence that the unlicensed practice of interior design poses any threat to the public."

They say that their clients all went to school to study interior design and that now they just want to practice their newly chosen profession.

This ruling comes nearly two years after Federal District Judge Robert L. Hinkle signed an agreed injunction that prevented Florida's State Board of Architecture and Interior Design from enforcing the provisions of a Florida law that prevents decorators from advertising "interior design" services without state licensing, which required two years of classes, four years of apprenticeship (like Johnny Tremain, but gayer), and passing a special exam administered by a national design institute.

If it sounds silly -- because the thought of bickering interior designers can be funny -- think about this: More than 30 percent of professions now require some sort of licensing from the government. These requirements generally come from lobbyists representing the industry itself and often grandfather in already-practicing professionals. How many occupations should require six years of schooling and practicing before someone can do it for money?

Not long after the lawsuit was filed, Eva Locke, one of the petitioners, told me this: "Florida's law has been standing in the way of my ability to launch my career. It is devastating to be forbidden from using the most accurate terms to describe myself and my services when I try to reach potential clients."

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There is nothing irresponsible about this article. 

It's apparent that those here who are defending their sacred little cow and the money they wasted going to school for this are completely unaware that all the work they "approve" must go through contractors who are already licensed to perform the work.  None of you little protectionsists are going to be performing any of the work that must be in compliance with safety codes. 

The service you provide to your customer should be decided by the market, i.e. If you can't get your designs correct, then this contributes to longer completion times and increased costs resulting in lack of business.  You want to go to school for it?  Great, that should be a selling point to your potential clients.  Not a club to bludgeon consumers and taxpayers.

The more licensing requirements there are, the more regulated markets become - driving prices higher and increasing corruption with local officials.  It costs the taxpayers more money as well by adding needless administrative costs in drafting, implementing and enforcing these silly laws.

Get over yourselves.

New York City Hotel
New York City Hotel

 You need to notify yourself. Inner designers are responsible for relationship demands in expert components and for the protection of the components inhabitants. DECORATORS and RESIDENTIAL style is NOT particular.


2349cortez... Do you think that you are God now that you have your license? RELAX- You can fu*k up just as much as the next guy who doesn't have diddly, so seriously, calm the hell down!

Dental Office Design
Dental Office Design

Interior design considerations in the development of your dream house and office include the selection of colors, finishes, decorative lighting, fabrics, furnishings, art, and accessories.  All of these elements are selected to meet building code requirements,

hates bad 'journalists'
hates bad 'journalists'

Perhaps you should stick to writing about celebrities..maybe the Enquirer is hiring?  They don't care if you don't do your research.. 

Master EC.
Master EC.

FL registered designer,

Can a designer sub-contract work out to an electrical contractor?

FL Registered Designer
FL Registered Designer like.author.displayName 1 Like

Michael Mooney - You write this article without knowing the difference between an interior decorator and an interior designer..  If interior decorators could legally design commercial spaces, imagine this: After construction is completed, and hotel hires a decorator to come in.  a decorator selects a massive chandalier for the grand ballroom.. this ballroom is set up for a convention and a major speaker and is therefore packed to capacity.. the floor slab above cannot withstand the weight of the crystal chandalier and therefore the chandalier falls and kills and injures many beneath it.  Who is then liable?  Clearly not the decorator since he/she is not licensed and there was no law governing him or his practice.  Clearly that's just one example, and designers have a much broader spectrum than decorators do, but perhaps you should do some research and understand a subject before writing about it.  If there is a threat to lives involved, there should be a license behind that person's credentials, which proves that they have education and practice and are going to protect health, safety, and welfare.. and if they don't they are liable for their actions.  

Guest like.author.displayName 1 Like

Ignorance by the writer and a few who have responded here is fascinating. No one has restricted anyone's right to design and decorate homes, the law was written for COMMERCIAL DESIGN only. As a commercial designer who designs primarily healthcare interiors including but not limited to cancer centers, medical offices, outpatient surgery centers, operating rooms, emergency rooms and patient wings, yes I would think the individuals who design and select finishes should meet a higher criteria of education and proven expertise in areas that lend themselves to the general health and welfare of the public. So Mr. Mooney if anyone is standing in anyone's way, it is themselves, if that is what they really want to do is design commercial buildings they need to know what they are talking about. As a journalist ( and I use that term loosely at the moment) you should do your homework.


This article is blatantly biased and a glaring example of irresposible journalism. Who paid and/or influenced Michael J. Mooney to write this?

Interior Designer
Interior Designer like.author.displayName 1 Like

Mr. Mooney,

You are ignorant. Interior Designers are responsible for the health, safety, and welfare of users. Without the knowledge and implementation of important codes that support this, there would be many unfortunate circumstances, many that often get overlooked by architects, even the best ones. We are important to this industry, not just pillow fluffers and color selectors. When buildings start burning down with innocent people in them, then maybe you will wake up and smell the coffee.

Beth Kunkel
Beth Kunkel like.author.displayName 1 Like

You need to educate yourself. Interior designers are responsible for fire codes in commercial buildings and for the safety of the buildings inhabitants. DECORATORS and RESIDENTIAL interior design is NOT regulated.

guest like.author.displayName 1 Like

First of all I am currently taking my NCIDQ and have no problems telling any person that it is a difficult test and I have my Masters in Interior Design. By the way not one question covers what colors look best in a room. An interior designer deals with more than just colors and furniture. Interior designs can be involved in the construction of features in a space. We are an integral part of the construction process. As for the "strange" licensing: the Florida Interior Design Licensing is actually modeled after Architectural licensing. So if the interior design licensing is "strange" so is the licensing for architects. The licensing is a good way to help the average person be more aware when hiring an interior designer. It would be similar to looking for a general contractor or roofer. The license lets you know that they have the knowledge to do the job correctly and safely.

Deborah L Ramos
Deborah L Ramos like.author.displayName 1 Like

This is irresponsible journalism.

The reason Interior Design became a regulated profession across the country was to establish standards of safety. Aside from that, our formal education, continuing education, required apprenticeship, and examination process provides the knowledge base required to do this job. We are required to complete extensive training in ethics and business practices as well. Many decorators give us a bad name through improper billing and inappropriate material selections.

If there are no standards, anyone who has ever matched a pillow to a curtain will be qualified to design hospitals, restaurants, hotels, amusement parks - public spaces that YOU take for granted will be safe and meet your use requirements.

No one has tried to take the residential market from the decorators. They are welcome to it.

The next time you enter a commercial space and appreciate that it was designed properly, understand the amount of work required to create it. Shame on you, Mooney.

Teri D
Teri D like.author.displayName 1 Like

An interior designer is require to have a license for designing public spaces, they study for 4 years and take a exam on fire codes, lighting and ADA, etc... We work along side architects and engineers. Next time you sit in a restaurant, look around and see how many fabrics and finishes there are, all of these materials have to be specified so they meet fire codes, if they are not, you and your family are taking a chance if a fire would start in the kitchen you might not get alive. We don't just pick colors, Mr. Mooney, as a journalist you are as lazy as those interior designer not wanting to take the exam, you are one sided and did not do your research.

Fxef79 like.author.displayName 1 Like

Mr. Mooney exposes his inability to perform solid journalistic research. If he had done so he would have discovered the difference between Interior Design and Interior Decorating. I won't waste my time defining the difference... however I'll suggest that perhaps Journalists should be subject to professional regulation and required to obtain licenses to prove their capability to perform solid research and accurately portray facts to the public. Not doing so certainly exposes to public to intellectual danger - the same purpose for requiring licensing for Designers (not Decorators).

decoratealluwant like.author.displayName 1 Like

By the way Mr. Mooney, why didn't you try to at least contact someone from ASID or IIDA who supports Interior Design licensing before you posted such an irresponsible article? I am all for opinion pieces if that is what this is supposed to be but at least spend 15 minutes researching the other side and do a little fact checking before shooting off at the mouth.

None of us feel sympathy for these women who don't want to make the sacrifice to accomplish their goals.

Registered Interior Designer
Registered Interior Designer like.author.displayName 1 Like

You, OBVIOUSLY, have NO idea about what a real interior designer does!!!It only took me 4 years at university, knowledge of: building codes, fire and safety regulations, ADA, flamabillity classifications, and many other areas of building and construction to protect those who use hospitals, offices, airports, libraries, stores, and any other public spaces. You are welcome to pick colors and pillows, if that's what you want to do, but Registered Interior Designers have the education, experience, and licensing to go beyond!

Guest like.author.displayName 1 Like

Your hairdresser must be licensed but a person who creates and signs and seals construction drawings for building permits shouldn't be licensed? I think people are confusing decorating with Interior Design. The Interior Design programs at most universities are an offshoot of the Architecture Department. It is a rigorous program that requires a lot of knowledge about interior building construction and codes. Among other things, Interior designers construct/demolish interior walls, specify finishes in areas that might catch fire and replace doors that if the width or latching isn't correct could kill people in a fire. Every so often we hear of deaths because people can't escape a burning building because of errors in interior construction. There are many other health and safety concerns involved when you start altering interior spaces.

The Institute of Justice and the women funding this frivolous suit are more interested in wasting tax dollars and lining their pockets than doing what is right for the public. They need to stop misinforming people. For more information here is a link regarding what Interior Designers do in practice: http://www.ncidq.org/AboutUs/A...

Aeqzl like.author.displayName 1 Like

If you want to decorate a space go ahead and do so. If you want to be able to sign and seal drawings, get a degree and take the test. That is the real issue. Unlocking the handcuffs that are placed on us by the architects. An interior designer has proven that they have the knowledge of the codes and laws enough to accept the liability in the case that something horrible happens.

2349cortez like.author.displayName 1 Like

If anyone has a problem with the law why don't they just take the exams and get licensed? They can call them selves a decorator if they have not passed the requirements for licensing. Those of us who have fulfilled the education requirements, the work experience requirements, jumped through the hoops, taken the exams, paid the fees, followed through with the continuing education and the fees for the CEU's to keep the title deserve the distinction from those who have not. What is wrong with making a title that makes the distinction between those who have prepared and those who have not.

Member ASID
Member ASID

The reason this ruling is ridiculous because the people who manufacture do not have interior design licensing restrictions; ie. the carpet manufacturer, the carpet installer, the furniture manufacturers, the painters, etc. I think you get the drift. BTW, why do I need to go back to school to take the Exam? I am all in favor of taking the exam, but, NCIDQ requires your classes to be college courses. I have been designing for 18 years and I should be able to take classes to understand codes, etc. and then be allowed to sit for the exam. This is rubbish!

2349cortez like.author.displayName 1 Like

Wrong...you have been DECORATINGThe issue has absolutely nothing to do with manufacturers. Manufacturers have their own restrictions and license requirements. Carpet manufacturers have to pass burn and flame retardant guidelines and strict testing requirements among just to mention a few. Painters have to be licensed contractors with insurance and workmans comp. All of which you would know IF you were a licensed interior designer.

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