little hoover commission report

What the Little Hoover Commission Report Means for Interior Designer Licensing in California

Recently on October 4, 2016, the Little Hoover Commission released a comprehensive report titled “Jobs for Californians: Strategies to Ease Occupational Licensing Barriers” that examines the benefits and burdens that occupational licensing provides to workers in California. Among the occupations studied, interior design was initially identified as a profession where licensing was not necessary, however further discussion, along with the testimony offered by IDCC resulted in establishing the case for licensing of commercial interior designers, in order to better protect commercial interior designers, their clients, and the other professionals who work with interior designers.

Results of the First Hearing

In the first hearing, and in initial discussions between the Little Hoover Commission staff and Interior Design Coalition lobbyists, interior design was used as an example of a profession that should not be licensed. This position was predominantly based on a misconception that confused the work of interior decorators and interior designers, and saw these two professions as equivalent. Representing the interests of interior designers across California, the IDCC participated in the second hearing in June, and Deborah Davis, FASID, Director at Large for the IDCC, presented an outstanding argument that testified for the need for licensing in the profession of commercial interior design.

IDCC Advocacy

Deborah Davis explained the Commission “Many people think of interior designers as people who pick out pillows, carpets and curtains, [however] a lot of our jobs involve code-impacted work. Interior designers, who currently are not licensed in California, can design all interior elements of a building outside of seismic components and load-bearing walls.”

Davis explained that when designers are hired to move a wall four feet, they need to adjust the HVAC system, fire sprinklers, electrical wiring, lighting and other elements. “This is the interior designer’s purview,” Davis told Commission staff. “Architects don’t want this job. No one becomes an architect to move a wall four feet.”

Davis presented a compelling argument that the health and safety impacts of interior design work cannot be regulated by the free market, and should come under professional licensing for appropriate safety, quality and professional control.

Impact on the Final Report

The final report from the Little Hoover Commission featured many of the excellent points raised by Davis on the topic of professional licensing for interior designers in California, and IDCC will continue to collaborate with the Commission and other stakeholders in 2017 and beyond to pursue the points raised. The report takes into account many of the benefits that come from professional licensing for interior designers, as well as recognizing the barriers to licensing that exist, and the drawbacks of licensing. The report noted that interior designers’ work mobility and productivity is impacted by the need to have their work checked by other licensed professionals, such as architects. Licensing has many benefits for health and safety, assuring the consistency and compliance of all licensed interior design work across California. Lastly, the report recorded that licensing would help to empower highly qualified interior designers, 90% of whom are female small-business owners, and help to establish public trust in the qualifications of licensed interior designers.

The Little Hoover Commission was an excellent opportunity to advocate for, and voice the issues of the interior design profession in California, and IDCC rose to the task. We look forward to seeing more progress as a result of the Little Hoover Commission for licensed interior designers now and into the future.


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