A Legal Threat Worth Noting

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.