Thursday, April 02, 2009

Should President Obama Allow An Unlicensed Interior Designer To Decorate the White House?

Should moving a throw pillow get you fined or jailed?

Natasha Lima-Younts can't see how she's putting anyone's life at risk. She's been an interior designer for more than 20 years. She started her own business, and hired dozens of employees. She has an extensive portfolio and magazine features about her work. What she doesn't have is a state license. That doesn't bother Yount's client Angie Stoeker, who loves what Younts has done with her home, but it does bother those who push for licensing laws.

Do licensing laws protect consumers from death and destruction or, as the Interior Design Protection Council argues, do they protect licensed designers from competition? Should Younts be stripped of the career it took her decades to build? Should President Obama be worried about his interior designer, the unlicensed Michael Smith? Jump into the throw-pillow fight and decide for yourself.

Watch the latest episode of here.


At 4/02/2009 1:57 PM, Blogger troyt said...

While I believe licensing serves solely to provide a revenue stream for the licensing body (usually a government agency), since there are licensing rules to regulate these things, she should be required to have a license.

Especially since the MSM made such a big deal about how "Joe the Plumber" wasn't a real plumber (in essence, a liar), because he didn't have a license.

To not require the White House decorator to have a license is a slap in the face of the millions of hardworking, law-abiding small business owners that have paid onerous licensing fees.

Does this mean that we can do away with licensing fees, etc. altogether?

At 4/02/2009 2:01 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

It depends if he is a dues paying union memeber.....

At 4/02/2009 2:16 PM, Blogger CastoCreations said...

So if I want to decorate my own house am I going to need a license? It's insane. Should I need a license to call myself a jewelry designer? Hell no. Do artists need "artist" licenses?

It's all about money.

At 4/02/2009 2:31 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Yeah! Licensing sucks! What kinda crazy communist wants licensed attorneys or physicians anyway. Ridiculous airline and automobile driver licenses. Stoopid money-making licensing.

At 4/02/2009 2:34 PM, Blogger ExtremeHobo said...

Do artists need "artist" licenses?

That statement is pretty scary!

At 4/02/2009 2:40 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

A poorly designed interior could cause health related issue ranging from stress to myocardial infarction. An unlicensed interior design nation could lead to rising medical costs and untimely deaths. Interior design is more than just matching colors and arranging furniture, it is a serious national health issue!

At 4/02/2009 3:05 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Throughout my career as a building contractor, a large majority of the "Interior Designers" that I have worked with have had a 4-year degree and credentials from ASID, et al. IMHO, anyone else should call themselves an "Interior Decorator".

At 4/02/2009 3:51 PM, Anonymous Brad said...

Licensing creates cartels, there is no getting around that. They are created not just to create revenue streams for government, but to create artifical barriers to entry, thus protecting the profits of those already among the "privileged few". If I know that my doctor went to a solid med school and I am recommended to him by a trusted friend, I don't think a govt stamp of approval will do anything to make me more likely to see him. It's bogus and anti-competition. It serves to protect and enrich sitting interests.

At 4/02/2009 5:41 PM, Blogger QT said...


There is another perspective to consider on this issue. Licensing boards in architecture, engineering, medicine, & law also ensure mandatory liability insurance, ongoing professional skills upgrading, and a tribunal to review professional conduct.

A doctor's education is by no means finished once he/she leaves school. Would you want to have an orthopaedic surgeon who used surgical techniques from the 1960s when he/she graduated? Would you want to go to an engineer who had no liability insurance coverage?

A major licensing issue surrounding interior designers relates to the growing trend for interior designers with very limited knowledge of building science and materials to design small buildings. In Canada, any structure under 2 storeys does not require an architect. A small building still requires load bearing members, air handling systems, thermal, moisture and vapour barriers, etc.

Our practice has helped pick up the pieces for several clients who had "designers". Often clients receive sketches rather than detailed construction documents with specifications, inadequate construction supervision, and floor plans which do not comply with building or fire codes, etc. One of our principals served as an expert witness when a client was sued by the contractor who had overbilled her substantially in excess of work completed and refused to continue unless she paid him more money. In this instance, the "designer" approved payment certificates for materials that were delivered to the site and subsequently removed, work not completed, and materials not installed correctly (ie. no vapour barrier was installed and subsequently, all of the drywall had to be removed to correct this violation of the building code).

Any member of the Ontario Association of Architects would have faced a disciplinary hearing for such conduct. Instead, the client almost went bankrupct and could not afford to sue.

Licensing boards are intended to protect the public and are mandated by law. While this technically raises barriers to entry, the members of a profession are just as much a captive audience. When the licensing board decides to raise fees, architects do not have any other option than to pay.

In the case of the Irish taxi licenses, there was a freeze on the # of licenses which seem to indicate the primary intent was to restrict new entrants (ie. protectionism).

This is not the case in professions such as architecture, accounting or engineering. An architect or engineer has to comply with various educational, work experience, additional licensing exams, etc. to become a registered architect. It's not just a degree and you can hang up your shingle.

These associations do not exist because professionals are seeking protectionism but because, the professions involve issues of public safety or areas where high professional standards are inherently in the public interest (ie. accounting standards).

At 4/02/2009 7:34 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Correct on designers vs. decorators (college).

Many interior designers arrange subcontractors (painters, window covering installers, carpet and tile installers, etc.) and some even supervise remodels. In essence, they perform the services of a general contractor, who arranges for subcontractors to build and/or modify a structure.

Both the general and subcontractor need to be licensed, and so does an interior designer if they are performing the services of a general contractor.

At 4/03/2009 1:59 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

I am from Mumbai India. Here Interior Decorators do not require licence. We had one case in mid 1990s when Interior Decorator damaged structural integrity of a office building and the building collasped. The same story was repeated last year, when a residential building collasped due to negligence & lack of skills of Interior Desiner, who again damaged the structural integrity of the building. I rest my case.

At 4/03/2009 3:23 AM, Blogger juandos said...

"Yeah! Licensing sucks! What kinda crazy communist wants licensed attorneys or physicians anyway. Ridiculous airline and automobile driver licenses. Stoopid money-making licensing"...

There's NO proof that licensing would make these jobs any more professional or safer for the public at large...

Are you having a Joe Biden moment?

We know how that all WORKED OUT for his party's patriots...

At 4/03/2009 5:47 AM, Blogger Plamen said...

QT: These are good reasons for certification (voluntary), but not licensing (compulsory). If a certification board provided a valuable service, professionals would buy its services voluntarily, and the public would not employ professionals without the certification - again, voluntarily. If I choose, however, to live in a house that YOU think is unsafe, that should be none of your business. Why not let ME weigh the higher cost of insurance and risk of injury against the cost of using a certified professional?

Anon @ 2:31: Is the part about driver licenses a joke? Your average videogame-trained 10-year old is a much better driver than your average 80-year old retired citizen with failing hearing, slow reflexes, etc. Yet the former cannot get a license, and the latter can. You seem to have proven the point you try to ridicule - rather often, licensing has little to do with skill, and much to do with secondary considerations - in this case, desire of the government to keep a tab on the populace, and revenue generation. Also, mind you, you hear (guess why?) a lot more stories about unlicensed medical practitioners injuring people, but almost none about the licensed ones doing so. Do a bit of research on infection rates in hospitals. By comparison, I feel safe consulting a fellow (not a made-up example) who graduated from Harvard top of his class in medicine, but maintains only a limited license (allowing to practice medicine only on family members - which I am not) because the full one is ridiculously expensive, and he does not make his money in medicine anymore.

May I remind you of this:
Not only is there a state Board of Cosmetology and Hairstyling in New Jersey, but also National-Interstate Council of State Boards of Cosmetology. To protect my hairstyling? I want to take my chances with the barber who has handled my grooming needs admirably for 10 years.

At 4/03/2009 5:57 AM, Blogger Plamen said...

Hopefully this time the link to Brazilian bikini waxing will work.

At 4/03/2009 11:25 AM, Anonymous Laurie Slade said...

Clearly, there is a big difference between moving a wall and moving a throw-pillow. Structural, electiocal, architectural changes all need a licensed contractor. Selection of colours and positioning of pillows and pictures should not require a license. Paint and carpet selection do not require a license. Painting and carpet installation should require licensing in publicly owned buildings like the Whitehouse.

At 4/03/2009 12:20 PM, Blogger Unknown said...

practically all of the houses built by licensed contractors in my town over the past few years are crooked and falling apart. To become a general contractor, you don't even really need to know how to build anything.

'nuff said.

At 4/03/2009 4:52 PM, Blogger QT said...


There are certainly lots of casese where mandatory licensing seems a bit ludicrous like mandatory licensing for hairbraiding or exotic dancers in Detroit.

In Canada, there are lots of unlicensed architects who work for a firm with one or more registered architects and liability insurance or have a government job. Such professionals, however, are not solely responsible for the design and supervision of highly complex structures like multi-storey buildings or skyscrapers. It would be highly unethical for anyone other that a highly experienced and specialized professional to take on such work.

Litigation is often prohibitively expensive. By contrast, disciplinary panels, liability insurance, compliance regulations, standard forms of contract, and standards of professional conduct provide protection to all members of society not just the rich and well-connected.

The concern is not just for the structural stability of the building but for the customer's investment. At $200 per sq. ft., building a home is a substantial financial undertaking. Costs for corrections can be substantial and are seldom recouped by the homeowner. The homeowner usually has very little understanding of construction. The architect acts to protect the interests of the homeowner from overcharing, or shoddy work...he can tell the contractor to do it over while chances are the contractor will stonewall the homeowner.

A licensing board like the Ontario Association of Architects gives guidelines for choosing an architect and each architect has a public record that can be how many complaints, any disciplinary actions, any liability claims filed.

Our practice complies with all of the rules and regulations. We do not consider either the fees, continuing education requirements, or liability insurance to be undue burdens preventing others to enter the field. The number of small architectural firms in the province seems to contradict such a supposition.

It's certainly your business if you wish to hire an unqualified designer to design a substandard home until the building inspector arrives. Unfortunately, your home still has to meet the standards of the local bylaws, fire code, and all building codes. The building code governs the structure, the depth of the slab, the setbacks on the doors, the fire separations, etc., etc. You cannot get an occupancy permit until the building meets these standards.

This is the house government built not some imaginary anti-competitive cartel.

At 8/12/2009 5:20 PM, Anonymous Rick Balkins, Building Designer said...

First and foremost, we have building codes. Even interior designer are required by law to comply. An interior or any unlicensed designer is still liable and responsible under civil law, tort, negligence, ect. in most states. In Oregon, if I did something that although code compliant is going to cause health hazard - I can still be sued and under case law (where case studies are evaluated), I can be sued and am expected by all reason to be held to public expectation / reasonable standard of care.

In other words, it can be a $500,000 lesson that I don't want to learn the hard way. In the case od White House, that can be a big pricy lesson.

I would not require a license if the governing law does not require it BUT the person needs to be and shall be expected to hold the same standard of care as ANY prudent designer shall for the kind of work involved. Basic health conditions is not what a license nor requires a license to learn.

So my licensed friends, don't get all huffy because you don't have a monopoly. Remember, you don't go to college and take the numerous tests to pass the college degree and learning the stuff. I do however expect reasonable standard of care in the performance of the task to equal standard as would be expected for licensed professional doing the same work.

Just as I would be expected to design houses to the same standard of care by my clients, public and my licensed friends as it would be for a licensed person.


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