With the economy such a priority, why would lawmakers resist seemingly sensible legislation? Likewise for remodelers. In Pennsylvania, Joe Schwartz, of J. Schwartz Fine Home Building, “thought it was probably a good thing” that a proposal was afoot to require the licensing of interior designers. “I believe in licensing, especially when dealing with safety,” he says.

Recently, Schwartz learned that the proposal — his state’s version of a 30-year-old effort by the American Society of Interior Designers — would make it illegal for him or his staff to talk with clients about design decisions as nonstructural as lighting, fixtures, or even paint colors or fabrics. Instead, they would need to defer those discussions to a “licensed interior designer” who had graduated from a certain program, passed a certain exam, and interned under the supervision or sponsorship of another licensed designer.

Red states and D.C. have interior design practice acts. Blue states have I.D. title regulators.
National Kitchen & Bath Association Red states and D.C. have interior design practice acts. Blue states have I.D. title regulators.

“The less a proposed law is publicized, the less it will be opposed and the more likely it will pass,” says Ed Nagorsky, general counsel and director of legislative affairs for the National Kitchen & Bath Association http://nkba.org/. Since 1995, the NKBA and about 30 other groups, including the National Association of the Remodeling Industry and the National Association of Home Builders, have successfully argued there is no evidence that unregulated interior design poses a threat to the public in any way.

Nagorsky expects to defeat the legislation in Pennsylvania, as well as in other current battleground states such as Tennessee, Minnesota, Michigan, and Washington. But he warns remodelers against apathy regarding any legislative rumblings, noting that states that enacted interior design laws did so prior to 1995, when the NKBA and its alliance began focusing seriously on the issue.

—Leah Thayer, senior editor, REMODELING.