The presidential debates turned out to be tame affairs. But think of the fur that would fly if the latest chapter of the Interior Designers vs. Remodelers face-off happened on a stage. Or, more aptly, in a boxing ring.

In one corner is the  American Society of Interior Designers (ASID), which has been lobbying various state legislatures for provisions that would regulate those who would be allowed to provide interior design services to the public. That means something as straightforward as a cabinet layout for a kitchen or bath would have to be done by a certified designer. And how a designer would be “certified” is a moving target.

In the other corner is, among others, the National Association of the Remodeling Industry (NARI), the  National Kitchen & Bath Association (NKBA), and something called the Institute for Justice, an Arlington, Va.–based libertarian public interest law firm that litigates on behalf of entrepreneurs facing what it calls “anti-competitive state licensing laws.”

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Recently NARI and the NKBA formally joined forces in opposing what they call “restrictive and unnecessary design regulation.”

“There is a concerted effort on the part of a select few designers who insist that everyone seeking to practice interior design attend their approved schools, pass their approved exam, and apprentice under them, all without any demonstration that the current practice of interior design by those who don’t meet these self-imposed standards is in any way a cause for concern,” says Edward S. Nagorsky, general counsel and director of legislative affairs for the NKBA. “Such unnecessary and anti-competitive legislation will limit consumer choice in retaining the services of a professional designer, while increasing the costs of design services beyond the reach of the ordinary consumer.”

State by State

So far, several initiatives have been thwarted. In California, Senate Bill 1312, the Interior Design Practice Act, was withdrawn after it failed to get enough support for a floor vote.

Senate Bill 1312 would have required that anyone offering design services first obtain an interior design degree from one of a select number of educational institutions, complete an internship, and pass an exam supported by the ASID.

In New York, Gov. David Paterson vetoed Senate Bill 3659, the Interior Design Practice Act, which would have required anyone calling him or herself an “interior designer” to be licensed by the state.

But there is still plenty of activity going on in other states. The NKBA’s Legislative Alert Center lists key bills in Alabama, Ohio, and Illinois that all deal with two big areas of focus: interior design titles and practices.

The debate is even making its way onto Web forums. Earlier this year, when the Minnesota State Senate was considering a bill that would limit cabinet and kitchen design to certified designers, the Business and Management forum at, a woodworking industry site, lit up. “This could put under some already struggling cabinet shops in this state,” wrote Dave L. “First the housing slump, now this. What’s next? A ban on nail guns?”

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