Response to Interior Design Deregulation


Response to Interior Design Deregulation in the State of Florida

During Governor DeSantis’ recent State of the State, he raised the issue of occupational license reform and specifically, whether or not licensed interior design deserves government oversight in the state of Florida. Like 28 other states and jurisdictions, Florida regulates the profession of commercial interior design and when one understands the true nature of interior design work and how it impacts the safety and well-being of all Floridians and visitors, it is not difficult to justify the Florida interior design license.

Government-issued licenses are meant to protect the health, safety and welfare of the public. Florida registered interior designers draft interior construction documents for hospitals, hotels, houses of worship, convention centers, assisted living facilities, nursing homes and countless other public and commercial spaces where significant numbers of the public meet. These licensed interior designers affect several construction and design elements that impact the health, safety, and welfare of the public including:

  • Designing for the aged;
  • Accessibility for the physically disabled in conformance with the Americans with Disabilities Act and other federal, state, and local laws;
  • Means of egress, space planning, and safe wayfinding;
  • Occupancy calculations;
  • Identification, movement, removal, and/or construction of non-loadbearing interior walls and partitions;
  • the selection of finishes, fixtures, building equipment, and materials that contribute to good health, healing, and well-being;
  • and many more.

Licensed interior designers in Florida undergo education, training, and examination to ensure compliance with codes, standards, and laws related to these important activities and licensure is the government’s recognition of this crucial knowledge and skill. In a state with a booming economy heavily reliant on tourism with more than 422,997 hotel and motel rooms over 4,518 properties, and home to a growing number of retirees and seniors with 685 nursing homes and more than 3,089 licensed assisted living facilities, having licensed interior designers who are qualified by the state to design these commercial interior environments is critical for Florida’s economic infrastructure.

A common misconception that interior designers only pick furniture and choose fabrics and paint colors, like the decorators seen on television. While it is true that an interior designer can create a space that looks aesthetically pleasing, Florida licensed commercial interior designers do much more than the general public realizes. Local building codes as well as safety codes and other laws and regulations, such as the American with Disabilities Act, are part of the knowledge base of the licensed commercial interior designer. Using this knowledge, these professionals safeguard the wellbeing of the public in high-volume, high-occupancy public spaces. Florida interior decorators, who design home interiors and choose fabrics and paint colors among other artistic activities, are not impacted or governed by the interior design license.  Anyone may conduct interior decoration in a residential space.

Governor DeSantis has made clear that a goal of his Administration is to remove barriers to occupational access. This is a laudable goal and one that licensed interior designers support. However, the interior design profession has already been largely deregulated over the last twenty years. First, the term “interior designer” is unrestricted due to the landmark 2011 federal court case, Locke v. Shore. While only those with the requisite education and training may become “registered interior designers” who are licensed to work in commercial settings, any person in Florida may hold themselves out to be an interior designer. Again, interior decoration in a residential space (placing furniture, choosing wall colors, etc.) is unregulated and may be done by anyone.

Interior design is one of only three licensed design professions in the interior built environment in Florida, along with architects and engineers. It is a profession that is composed of approximately 75 percent women and 82 percent small businesses of four or fewer practitioners. This year, the Florida Legislature is proposing to deregulate only one of those three professions: interior design. Consumers look to licensed professionals, like licensed contractors, because those professionals have the government’s “stamp of approval” and the possibility of recourse for negligent or substandard work through complaints to a regulatory Board or other agency. Without this license, consumers will likely gravitate towards architects or engineers, the still-licensed design professionals, thereby decimating interior design small businesses and leaving consumers with fewer choices.

Finally, there have been few, if any, significant complaints against the interior design license since its inception in 1994. Eliminating this license will only harm consumers, practitioners, government and commercial clients, and the health, safety, and welfare of the public at large.