A Legal Threat Worth Noting

by WOHe

There’s a threatening storm front gathering on the nation’s
legislative landscape one that kitchen and bath designers need to
pay close attention to, even’amid the distractions of a trying
fourth quarter, the current holiday season, and the challenging New
Year that now looms ahead.’

This ominous legal threat is directly tied to persistent efforts
by organizations outside the kitchen and bath industry to control,
and possibly limit, the activities of residential design
professionals including kitchen/bath specialists through the
passage of various forms of interior design practice
legislation.

Several states, in fact, have already put into effect
broad-based laws which regulate both the practice of interior
design and the use of the terms “interior designer” and “registered
interior designer.” Other states are considering similar
legislation, which generally requires that those who practice
interior design of any sort be a graduate of an accredited interior
design program, have passed the National Council for Interior
Design Qualification (NCIDQ) exam, and have a predetermined amount
of education and experience.

While the precise impact of this new wave of practice acts
remains unclear, their potential impact could be nothing short of
devastating. In fact, they could severely limit many kitchen and
bath designers from continuing to perform the services in which
they specialize and could, in fact, place many in jeopardy of
losing their careers and businesses altogether.

This troubling set of circumstances has come into sharp focus in
recent weeks amid pledges by the National Kitchen & Association
to “protect” kitchen and bath designers from what the association
has termed “unwarranted” and “misguided” intrusions on the right of
those designers to practice their profession.

The NKBA has already worked extremely hard, through lobbying
efforts, to oppose any legislation that threatens to limit its
members from continuing in business. The association has argued, as
well, that while the NCIDQ exam may be appropriate for testing the
general competencies of interior designers, it’s far from adequate
in legitimately testing the specialized skills necessary in
designing safe and functional kitchens and baths.

The NKBA has also attempted to work with organizations like the
American Society of Interior Designs (ASID) and the NCIDQ in
arriving at compromise legislation that would protect the interests
of the interior design profession, while also protecting the rights
of kitchen/bath designers and the public at large.’

Those efforts, however, have met with’little success.

What’s significant here is that the NKBA, throughout its fight,
has made it clear that it neither supports nor opposes interior
design legislation per se. In other words, it really doesn’t care
whether allied design professionals refer to themselves as
“certified interior designers,” “licensed interior designers,”
“professional interior designers,” or any other such term.

The association does, however, have a legitimate and justifiable
concern when other associations seek to adopt practice acts that
might prevent NKBA members from working in their chosen
profession.

And that’s clearly what’s happening now.

In fact, what we’re seeing now is that as a result of some
poorly worded legislative efforts legitimate and qualified jobs and
businesses that have served the public successfully for years could
potentially be at risk.

That seems as ludicrous as it does unjust.

It seems equally absurd that design professionals who’ve spent
years practicing the skills demanded of kitchen and bath
specialists would have to now first pass the NCIDQ exam before
being allowed to continue to perform kitchen and bath design
services.

Clearly, it’s high time to take this situation in a different
direction. It’s time for all parties to cut out the rhetoric, open
their eyes, recognize they’re not really at odds, and agree to
intelligent, compromise legislation that truly protects the
interests of everyone.

Kitchen and bath specialists, for the most part, are not seeking
to perform architectural or engineering services. Nor do they wish
to be considered “interior designers” under title registration
laws. They do expect, however, to continue to be able to earn their
livelihood and win a recognition from the broader design community
that they’re highly competent in their specialized area of
expertise.’

Somewhere, there’s surely got to be a compromise that strikes a
balance and achieves the goals of both the design community and the
kitchen/bath industry.

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