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Interior Designers
by Dr. Oneida Cramer

The Texas Chapter of the American Society of Interior Designers (ASID) recently initiated a new era for interior design in the State of Texas by offering Continuing Education Program Hours (CEPH) at their annual 2001 meeting. Effective September 1, 2001, all interior designers must complete at least eight CEPH credits in order to maintain their licenses as interior designers in the State of Texas.

?It?s mandated by law now,? said Annual Meeting Committee, Chairman, Pat McLaughlin ASID. ?ASID, for (15-20) years, used to provide what they called Continuing Education Units (CEU) to their members just as a way to keep abreast of what?s going on in the industry. CEPH is exactly the same thing?it?s a continuing education professional hour. But, if it?s CEPH, it has to do with Texas, and since it has to do with Texas, it has to fall under health, safety, and welfare.? December 1, 2001 marks the first due date for designers to have accrued eight CEPH credits; so ASID wants to offer the opportunity for interior designers to get all their health, safety, and welfare hours, one of which has to be barrier-free, at their annual meetings held in September. In addition, ASID wants this first year to set a level of excellence that will encourage participants to return to their venue in the years to come. And they?re targeting a pool of around 7,300 registered interior designers in the State of Texas.

The legitimate use of the title, ?interior designer,? designates an authorized designer, who has had an accepted and/or accredited college education culminating in a degree, apprenticeship experience, successfully passed the appropriate examination, and is now taking continuing education courses and meeting annual registration deadlines to maintain that interior design status as active and current. On the other hand, using the title in a professional name or on promotional material without having the proper licensing will result in disciplinary action from the Texas Board of Architectural Examiners (TBAE).

Interior designers are today flexing muscle through TBAE, originally a six-member board of architects created in 1937 by the Texas Legislature to register and regulate the use of the tile ?architect. ? TBAE expanded the board to nine?four architects, two landscape architects, and three public members in 1979 when they assumed the registration and regulation of the Texas Board of Landscape Architects. Not until 1991 did they begin regulating the title ?interior designer,? and change their profile to include one interior designer, one landscape architect, four architects, and three public members. At the time, TBAE also started utilizing the National Council for Interior Design Qualification Examination (NCIDQ) as a requirement for registering interior designers. Then in 1999, the Texas Legislature passed into law the requirement for annual CEPH credits with the effective starting date to begin after September 1, 2001.

?We?re trying to elevate the design profession to that of the attorney, that of the realtors, doctors, accountant,? said TBAE Executive Director, Cathy Hendricks ASID/IIDA. ?All of them require continuing education. This is a very important part of the profession.? And if any interior designer doesn?t agree with this policy and doesn?t want to participate in continuing education courses, then Hendricks recommends that that designer give back the license and call him or her self an interior decorator.

The mission of TBAE is to protect the public?s life, health, safety, welfare, and property by ensuring that architects, landscape architects, and interior designers provide quality professional services. TBAE functions through the regulation of programs for education, licensing, and professional registrations. For instance, interior designers must display their licenses in their business locations.

?Every time you work with a registered interior designer, architect, or landscape architect, they are required to give a statement of certification to the client, informing them of who regulates them and who to contact in case that client is unhappy with the services that were rendered,? Hendricks said. If a consumer has a problem with a registered interior designer or someone who presents him/herself as a designer but they?re not, the consumer can contact TBAE through their web page,, or call 512-305-8530. ?Even if they (consumers) are not sure?sometimes people are confused and they think they have a problem?they can call us. We get lots of calls that don?t end up in opening a case at all.?

The Texas Department of Licensing and Regulation oversees a state wide building code the Texas Accessibility Standard (TAS) that registered interior designers are required to comply with on space designed for public use. Such a standard does not exist for private residences.

?We have up to this point said the everything involving residential construction is exempt,? Hendricks said. ?We don?t regulate contractors, and we don?t regulate builders. A lot of states do; but Texas doesn?t.? However, in the last Legislative session, Texas did pass Bill 77R 03384 to adopt a uniform residential building code, effective starting dates September 1, 2001 and January 1, 2002. This law primarily addresses the needs in rural areas where no building codes currently exist, according to Hendricks.

?A lot of people don?t understand why we regulate interior designers,? Hendricks said. ?They don?t understand the accessibility issue. They don?t understand the psychology of spaces. They don?t understand how they can make spaces so that people can live independently longer. What I see in the future is if people would make their hallways a little wider and make one bathroom have a 3-foot wide door, they could accommodate someone if they got in a car accident or had a skiing accident and were in a wheelchair,? Hendricks said. Put in a tiny bathroom door, 2?8? or 2?6?, which is more often used, or a 2?0? sometimes, there?s no way a wheelchair can get in. Yet, by the year 2010, 30% or more of the population is going to be over the age of 65.

Even if an interior feels comfortable and provides a healing environment, the most pleasing part of the design, in the end, is the aesthetic, according to McLaughlin. The clients see an interior with a look and feel that is good. Yet, all the other elements are there and are so engrained into the design that the space doesn?t appear to be addressing health, safety, and welfare issues.

-by Dr. Oneida Cramer
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