Individuals and businesses in California who want to create or remodel a safe and comfortable environment for their home or place of work hire Certified Interior Designers (CID) for space planning, interior design, selection of furnishings, custom cabinetwork design, finish selection, observation of the construction and supervision of the installation for their projects.
Consumer’s Guide to Hiring a Certified Interior Designer
Although there is no restriction on the use of the title “Interior Decorator” or “Interior Designer” in California, there is a difference in the interpretation of the title among the profession.
An “Interior Decorator” is someone who primarily deals with colors, finishes, and furniture and normally stays within the residential field of interior design. Typically, they might charge an hourly fee for their creative services such as laying out the furniture in a room, or putting together different colors and finishes in order to create several palettes from which the client can choose. In most cases, a decorator will charge a “mark-up” on all the products they will try to sell to you. This mark-up can vary wildly, anywhere from 20% to 50% in some cases. Most decorators are reluctant to prepare a formal contract or letter of agreement spelling out what the services are that they will provide, and how much they will charge. There are no laws covering interior decorators in California, or how they conduct their business.
An “Interior Designer” is someone who should be able to complete an interior design project from start to finish, including preparing construction documents for bidding and permitting, as well as supervising the construction and installation of the work. This person in essence becomes your agent to deal with local building codes and building departments, and licensed contractors. They should have the expertise to handle all of these different players, whereas you may not, or may not have the time or inclination.
Interior designers cover all types of projects from commercial (offices, medical facilities, retail shops, restaurants, hotels, retirement and nursing facilities, to name a few) to residential. Typically, an interior designer has some education and experience, as well as possibly having taken an examination in order to test their competency.
Because someone uses the title “Interior Designer”, it does not mean they are any more qualified than an “Interior Decorator”, or anyone who chooses to use either title irrespective of their qualifications or experience, which may be none at all. There are no laws covering interior designers in California, or how they conduct their business.
CERTIFIED INTERIOR DESIGNER
The only guarantee that the person you are hiring is qualified in some way or another is to hire someone who is a “Certified Interior Designer”, a title act written in to the California Business and Professions Code and protected by law to prevent anyone using that title that has not complied with the law.
“Certified Interior Designer” means a person who prepares and submits nonstructural or nonseismic plans consistent with Sections 5805 and 5538 to local building departments that are of sufficient complexity so as to require the skills of a licensed contractor to implement them, and who engages in programming, planning, designing, and documenting the construction and installation of nonstructural or nonseismic elements, finishes and furnishings within the interior spaces of a building, and has demonstrated by means of education, experience and examination, the competency to protect and enhance the health, safety, and welfare of the public.
QUALIFICATIONS AND EXAMINATION FOR CERTIFICATION
A certified interior designer obtains a stamp from the California Council for Interior Design Certification (CCIDC) that shall include a number that uniquely identifies and bears the name of that certified interior designer. The stamp certifies that the interior designer has provided California Council for Interior Design Certification (CCIDC) with evidence of passage of a California-code specific interior design examination and any of the following:
(a) He or she is a graduate of a four- or five-year accredited interior design degree program, and has two years of diversified interior design experience.
(b) He or she has completed a three-year accredited interior design certificate program, and has completed three years of diversified interior design experience.
(c) He or she has completed a two-year accredited interior design program and has completed four years of diversified interior design experience.
(d) He or she has at least eight years of interior design education, or at least eight years of diversified interior design experience, or a combination of interior design education and diversified interior design experience that together total at least eight years.
There are laws in California covering “Certified Interior Designers” and how they conduct themselves and their business.
The Four E’s
Most people think all interior designers are licensed or certified; but this is not true. In California, anyone can use the title “interior designer”; “Certified Interior Designer” is the only legally recognized and protected title for interior designers in the state of California. A Certified Interior Designer is a competent design professional who may prepare and submit non-structural; non-seismic construction documents and specifications to local building departments for the purposes of plan check. Certified Interior Designers have demonstrated through education, experience and examination their knowledge of the California Building Code as it relates to space planning, life safety, flammability and disabled access code issues, under the provisions of Chapter 3.9 of the Business & Professions Code, commencing with Section 5800. CCIDC is the organization responsible for administering the requirements of the Certified Interior Designers Title Act.
An interior designer may be eligible for certification if he/she satisfies the applicable interior design certification examination requirements and has either the requisite number of years of interior design education or diversified interior design experience, or a combination of both. To become a Certified Interior Designer it requires a minimum of 40 Core Units from an interior design program accredited by any accrediting agency recognized by the United States Department of Education, or be an interior designer with more than 8 years of diversified interior design experience. Additionally, every active Certified Interior Designer is required to complete continuing education courses equivalent 10 hours of Continuing Education Units during each two-year certification renewal period.
Certified Interior Designers complete several years of “diversified interior design experience.” Defined as the preparation, or instruction in the preparation, of nonstructural or non-seismic plans which are of sufficient complexity so as to require the skills of a licensed contractor to implement them; and includes programming, planning, designing, and documenting the construction and installation of nonstructural or non-seismic elements, finishes and furnishings within the interior spaces of a building, and encompasses the competency to protect and enhance the health, safety, and welfare of the public.
Certified Interior Designers must pass The IDEX California Exam, which tests their abilities to apply financial planning knowledge to real-life situations. The IDEX California is an examination specially developed for certification purposes in California and tests candidates specifically on the California Building Code (CBC) and Title 24 as well as ethics, business practices, and design standards, among other things.
When it comes to ethics and professional responsibility, Certified Interior Designers held to the highest of standards, as outlined in CCIDC’s Code of Ethics and Conduct. They are obliged to uphold the principles of integrity, objectivity, competence, fairness, confidentiality, professionalism and diligence as outlined in CCIDC’s Code of Ethics and Conduct. A Certified Interior Designer is required to conduct his/her profession in a manner that will encourage the respect of clients, suppliers of goods and services to the profession, and fellow professional interior designers, as well as the public. It is the individual responsibility of every Certified Interior Designer to abide by this code.
- A Certified Interior Designer is required to conduct his/her profession in a manner that will encourage the respect of clients, suppliers of goods and services to the profession, and fellow professional interior designers, as well as the general-public. It is the individual responsibility of every Certified Interior Designer to abide by this code.
- In performing professional services, a Certified Interior Designer shall exercise reasonable care and competence, and shall take into account all applicable laws, regulations and codes.
- In performing professional services, a Certified Interior Designer shall at all times consider the health, safety, and welfare of the public.
- In performing professional services, a Certified Interior Designer shall not knowingly violate the law, nor counsel or assist a client in conduct the Certified Interior Designer knows, or reasonably should know, is illegal.
- A Certified Interior Designer shall not knowingly accept monies from a client for any installation or construction work that is required by law to be performed by a licensed contractor without holding such a license from the State.
- A Certified Interior Designer shall not permit his/her name, signature, or stamp to be used in conjunction with a design or project for which interior design services are not to be, or were not, performed by the Certified Interior Designer or under his/her responsible direction.
- A Certified Interior Designer shall not engage in any form of false or misleading advertising or promotional activities and shall not imply, through advertising or other means, that staff members or employees of his/her firm are Certified Interior Designers unless such be the fact.
- A Certified Interior Designer shall not make misleading, deceptive or false statements or claims about his/her professional qualifications, experience, or performance.
- A Certified Interior Designer shall not by affirmative act or failure to act, engage in any conduct involving fraud, deceit, misrepresentation or dishonesty in professional or business activity.
- In the conduct of his/her professional activities, a Certified Interior Designer shall not discriminate on the basis of race, religion, gender, national origin, age, non-disqualifying handicap, or sexual orientation.
- In performing professional services, a Certified Interior Designer shall refuse to consent to any decision by his/her client, or employer, which violates any applicable law or regulation, and which, in the Certified Interior Designer’s judgment will create a significant risk to public health and safety.
- A Certified Interior Designer shall undertake to perform professional services only when he/she, together with his/her consultants, is qualified by education, training or experience to perform the services required. (A Certified Interior Designer should not work outside their specific area of expertise.)
- Before accepting an assignment, a Certified Interior Designer shall reasonably inform the client of the scope and nature of the project involved, the interior design services to be performed, and the method of remuneration for those services. A Certified Interior Designer shall not materially change the scope of a project without the client’s consent.
- When accepting an assignment, a Certified Interior Designer should always have a contract, or letter of agreement, with the client that clearly spells out the scope of the work, the fees or costs associated with that scope of work, how and when those fees are to be paid by the client, when the work is expected to be completed, and a clause for legal remedies in the case of a dispute between the client and the Certified Interior Designer utilizing binding arbitration or other suitable forms of dispute resolution.
- A Certified Interior Designer shall disclose, in writing, to his/her employers and clients prior to the engagement, any direct or indirect financial interest that he/she may have that could affect his/her impartiality in specifying project-related goods or services, and shall not knowingly assume or accept any position in which his/her personal interests conflict with his/her professional duty. If the employer or client objects to such financial or other interest, the Certified Interior Designer shall either terminate such interest, or withdraw from such engagement.
- A Certified Interior Designer shall not reveal any information about a client, a client’s intention(s), or a client’s production methods) which he/she has been asked to maintain in confidence, or which he/she should reasonably recognize as likely, if disclosed, to affect the interests of his/her client adversely. Notwithstanding the above, however, a Certified Interior Designer may reveal such information to the extent he/she reasonably believes is necessary to (1) stop any act which creates a significant risk to public health and safety and which the Certified Interior Designer is unable to prevent in any other manner, or (2) to prevent any violation of applicable law or this Code of Ethics.
- A Certified Interior Designer shall pursue his/her professional activities with honesty, integrity and fairness, and with respect for another interior designer’s, or colleague’s, contractual and professional relationships.
- A Certified Interior Designer shall not initiate or participate in any discussion or activity which might result in an unjust injury to another interior designer’s or colleague’s reputation or business relationships.
- A Certified Interior Designer shall not accept instruction from his/her clients, which knowingly involves plagiarism, nor shall he/she consciously plagiarize another’s work.
- A Certified Interior Designer shall not endorse the application for certification of an individual known to be unqualified with respect to education, training, experience, or character, nor shall he or she knowingly misrepresent the experience, professional expertise, or moral character of that individual.
- A Certified Interior Designer shall only take credit for work that has actually been created by that designer or the designer’s firm and under the designer’s direction.
- A Certified Interior Designer agrees to maintain standards of professional and personal conduct that will reflect in a responsible manner to the profession.
- A Certified Interior Designer shall seek to continually upgrade his/her professional knowledge and competency with respect to the interior design profession.
- A Certified Interior Designer agrees, whenever possible, to encourage and contribute to the sharing of knowledge and information between Certified Interior Designers and other allied professional disciplines, industry, and the public.
- A Certified Interior Designer shall not knowingly make false statements or fail to disclose any material fact requested in connection with his/her application for certification or the renewal thereof.
Hiring a Certified Interior Designer ensures that you’ll be working with a trained, experienced, tested and competent design professional. If you’ve never worked with an interior designer before, the process can be overwhelming. This information is designed to help you make informed decisions about hiring the best interior designer for your residential, retail, office or other commercial project.
Once you’ve decided to hire an interior designer, choosing one is of paramount importance. Many people call themselves interior designers, but if you are a consumer with a complex project be sure you hire someone who is truly qualified to execute the task at hand.
This should be someone who is trained to guide you through dozens, sometimes hundreds of decisions, challenges, and opportunities to a successful result.
CCIDC, the California Council for Interior Design Certification, was established in 1992 to be resource to California consumers to identify qualified and vetted interior designers who have met the state standard for certification.
Please read: The Most Common Mistakes People Make When Hiring an Interior Designer.
As opposed to a non certified interior designer, a Certified Interior Designer is a competent design professional who is qualified to design, prepare, and submit any type of non-structural, non-seismic interior construction plans and specifications to local building departments. Certified Interior Designers have demonstrated through education, experience and examination their knowledge of the building code as it relates to space planning, life safety, flammability and disabled access code issues.
WHAT ARE THE MEANINGS OF THE TERMS “NONSTRUCTURAL” AND “NON SEISMIC”?
“Nonstructural” means interior elements that are non-load bearing. It excludes the structural grid system supporting a building.
“Non-seismic” means interior elements that do not assist in the seismic bracing of a building’s structural system.
Common non-structural items include ceiling and partition systems. These components employ normal and typical bracing conventions and do not assist in the structural integrity of a building.
A Certified Interior Designer must have completed:
- A four or five year accredited interior design program and have a minimum of two years experience, or;
- A three year accredited interior design program and have a minimum of three years experience, or;
- A two year accredited interior design program and have a minimum of four years experience, or,
- Have a combination of interior design education and experience for a minimum total of eight years.
They must pass the IDEX California examination specifically developed for certification based upon the California Building Code, Title 24, California laws and regulations.
Only persons who have met these education, experience, and examination requirements, and have been certified by the California Council for Interior Design Certification (CCIDC) may refer to themselves as a Certified Interior Designer.
HOW DO I KNOW THAT THE INTERIOR DESIGNER I AM HIRING IS CERTIFIED?
HAS YOUR DESIGNER SIGNED A CODE OF ETHICS AND CONDUCT?
Ask your designer if they have signed and agreed to abide by a Code of Ethics and Conduct. Ask them for a copy. All Certified Interior Designers are required to sign and abide by the CCIDC Code of Ethics and Conduct.
HOW WILL THE CERTIFIED INTERIOR DESIGNER BE IDENTIFIED? (B&P Code Section 5802) Each Certified Interior Designer should affix a stamp and a wet signature to all drawings, specifications or documents prepared for submission. All documents shall be presented as interior design documents, not as architectural or engineering documents.
WHAT THE CCIDC STAMP LOOKS LIKE:
No. The California Council for Interior Design Certification (CCIDC) is a private nonprofit corporation that reports to the state legislature and is responsible for certifying interior designers. The certification process in California is a Title Act, as directed by the California Business and Professions Code, Section 5800.
Anyone may use the term Interior designer, however their qualifications for professional practice are unknown. If they are not a Certified Interior Designer, they may not have the knowledge and ability to protect the health, safety, and welfare of the public.
MAY A CERTIFIED INTERIOR DESIGNER ACT AS A GENERAL CONTRACTOR AND HIRE SUBCONTRACTORS FOR PROJECTS? (B&P Code Section 5803)
No. The Certified Interior Designer would have to hold a valid contractor’s license in order to hire subcontractors and/or perform contracting work. Certified Interior Designers prepare designs for work to be performed by licensed contractors.
MAY CERTIFIED INTERIOR DESIGNERS DESIGN DISABLED ACCESS SYSTEMS?
Yes. Certified Interior Designers are required to pass the IDEX California examination in order to demonstrate proficiency in disabled access and other code requirements.
They are recognized by Section 5800(a) to have …”demonstrated by means of education, experience, and examination the competency to protect and enhance the health, safety, and welfare of the public.”
MAY CERTIFIED INTERIOR DESIGNER PLANS INCLUDE MECHANICAL OR ELECTRICAL ENGINEERING DRAWINGS?
Yes, if the mechanical and electrical elements have been prepared and stamped by a licensed mechanical or electrical engineer.
HOW CAN I FIND A CERTIFIED INTERIOR DESIGNER FOR MY PROJECT?
The Certified Interior Designer has the education, training, and experience to guide you through the entire design process – from helping define the initial project goals, to meeting budgets and schedules. A certified professional can actually save you considerable time and expense by knowing how to get the most out of your design budget, and by avoiding costly mistakes. Fees for certified interior designers are very competitive in the marketplace. Click Hire a Local CID for a list of current certified interior design professionals in your area.
Your Design Needs – Evaluating Your Project
Before you hire a Certified Interior Designer, you should evaluate your project and provide this information to the Certified Interior Designers being considered.
Your evaluation of your project should include, but not be limited to:
- The services you expect the Certified Interior Designer to perform;
- The size, appearance, and functional requirements of your project;
- What you intend to spend for design fees, if known;
- What materials and types of furnishings and lighting you wish to use;
- What you intend to spend for construction;
- How your project will be financed and, if known, by whom;
- Your anticipated starting and completion dates of your project; and
- How you intend to construct the project.
Request for information
You should request information on qualifications and experience from several Certified Interior Designers. After reviewing their qualifications, you may want to interview a number of Certified Interior Designers to determine their understanding of your project and their compatibility in working with you.
During the selection process, you may want to ask some or all of the following:
- Do you have valid Certification with the CCIDC?
- If so, what is your Certification number?
- Do you carry insurance? If so, what type(s)? How long have you carried each type and what are the policy limits?
- How long have you been in business?
- How many persons are employed by your firm?
- How have you kept current in your practice?
- Do you intend to use consultants for this project? If so, whom do you propose to use? What are their qualifications and your experience with them?
- What percentage of your practice involves the type of interiors I intend to build (or remodel)?
Questions about experience
- Have you recently designed the type of interior I intend to build? If so, how many times?
- May I see examples of your previous projects that are similar to my project (sketches, photos, plans)?
- When and what was your most recent project?
- May I have the names and contact information of the clients whose projects you are using for these examples?
- What was the actual interior design and construction cost versus budgeted cost for these projects?
- What services did you provide for these clients during the design, bidding, and construction phases?
- What services do you propose to provide for my project during each of these phases?
- Who will provide these services, you or your employees?
Questions about fees
- What will the fee schedule be?
- How will your fees for my project be determined and what services do the fees cover?
- Will you provide probable construction cost estimates for my project?
- If consultants (such as architectural or structural engineering) are necessary, are their fees included?
- What additional costs (e.g., permit and other governmental fees) or services (e.g., time spent obtaining necessary permits and other approvals) do you anticipate for my project?
- How do you establish your fees for additional services and reimbursable expenses?
- Will there be a charge for redesign if it is necessary to meet the construction budget?
- Will there be additional charges for changes required by the building department or other government agency?
- How are additional charges computed for design changes requested by me?
- How will the fees be handled if the project is abandoned (cancelled) before completion?
Questions about time frame for your project
- Can you meet my proposed schedule?
CAVEAT EMPTOR (BUYER BEWARE):
Do your research!
Take responsibility, do not become a victim!
Know with whom you are doing business!
Anyone can call himself or herself an “interior designer” no matter what their qualifications are.
Shop around before hiring someone to do your interior design.
Get a list of “Certified Interior Designers” in your area from CCIDC.
What is a “Certified Interior Designer?
Check them out thoroughly BEFORE you hire them!
BE CLEAR ABOUT YOUR EXPECTATIONS:
Have a clear understanding of what you want to accomplish.
Try to find similar examples of what you are looking for.
Ask yourself; do you really need professional help?
Can you afford the time and money it will take?
What you see on HGTV is not even close to reality!
Ask if they are a “Certified Interior Designer,” verify their Certification with CCIDC.
How long have they been practicing as an interior designer?
Do they have any interior design education?
What interior design related examinations have they taken and passed?
Have they been tested specifically on California building codes and regulations?
CHECK THEIR WORK:
Call their references, even if you “know” your Interior Designer.
Look at recent work done by them, and try to visit their projects.
Ask how long the different projects took to complete.
Ask if their projects came in on budget or not.
GET A PROPER CONTRACT:
Certified Interior Designers are required by law to provide a contract. (CBPC Section 5807)
If they’re not certified require them to prepare an interior design contract.
If you have an attorney, run it by them, there is a lot of money at stake!
Make sure the agreement spells out the scope of work to be performed by the interior designer.
Make sure the agreement spells out the fees paid to the interior designer.
Make sure the agreement spells out how and when the fees are to be paid.
Make sure the agreement has a dispute resolution clause.
Ask about their insurance coverage for anything you purchase from them.
Certified Interior Designers are required by law to disclose E&O insurance. (CBPC Section 5807)
ESTABLISH A BUDGET:
Do not start a project without establishing an agreed budget first!
Make sure your budget for the work includes all the design fees, taxes, delivery charges, and other costs.
Make sure your designer is getting multiple bids for all custom and construction work.
Do not pay an interior designer for construction work unless they have a valid state contractor’s license.
Pay all contractors and sub-contractors directly, do not give money for contractors to the designer.
If they state they have a contractor’s license, ask to see it and check it out with the Contractors State License Board.
For all items purchased, on your behalf, being marked-up; ask to see the original invoice up front.
BE PREPARED FOR THE UNEXPECTED:
Things you want may not always available. They may take longer than anticipated and may cost more.
When demolishing existing interiors, surprises may arise that will take longer and can cost more.
Establish a contingency fund of 10% to 20% of the total budget for unexpected items.
Delays on a project can cost more because the contractors are charging for their time. So is the designer!
Be prepared to compromise to keep the project moving along on time and on budget.
Listen to the professional who will guide you through the entire process.
THE TRAUMA OF REMODELING:
When planning a remodel with your designer, remember you live or work there!
If you need to move out temporarily and can do so, you should!
If you cannot move out temporarily, prepare for being overwhelmed if the work is extensive.
Do not get in the way, and do not try to micromanage, use your professional designer to get you through this.
LISTEN TO THE PROFESSIONAL:
Remember, you hired a professional interior designer, so listen to them.
If you don’t like the design concept, or you feel uncomfortable, maybe it is time to end the relationship.
The designer should only have one customer, you and not your family or friends!
Do not let other family members or work colleagues give instructions without your approval.
You may call the CCIDC to verify the certification status of the Certified Interior Designer(s) you are considering to hire. Although a Certified Interior Designer may display a certificate indicating that he or she is certified by CCIDC, it may be invalid if the Certified Interior Designer has not renewed the certificate, has had his or her certification suspended or revoked. The CCIDC, upon written or telephone inquiry, will also inform you of any record able complaints or disciplinary actions filed against the Certified Interior Designers you are considering hiring.
We also suggest that you check the references that each Certified Interior Designer has given you and ask the following questions:
- Did the Certified Interior Designer adhere to required schedules and budgets?
- Were you pleased with the Certified Interior Designer’s services and your working relationship with them?
- Did the Certified Interior Designer listen to your concerns and attempt to resolve them?
- Would you hire the Certified Interior Designer again?
- What problems surfaced during the project?
If possible, visit the actual projects the Certified Interior Designers have used as examples of their services.
As part of the CCIDC Code of Ethics (See “CID Code of Ethics” in left column), and CID Law Section 5807, a Certified Interior Designer is required to use a written contract prior to commencing interior design services to a client in order to inform the client of the scope and nature of the project involved, the interior design services to be performed, and the method of remuneration for those services. A Certified Interior Designer shall not materially change the scope of a project without the client’s consent.
By law, a written contract shall be executed by the Certified Interior Designer as follows:
5807. (a) A certified interior designer shall use a written contract when contracting to provide interior design services to a client pursuant to this chapter. The written contract shall be executed by the certified interior designer and the client, or his or her representative, prior to the certified interior designer commencing work. The written contract shall include, but not be limited to, all of the following:
(1) A description of the services to be provided to the client by the certified interior designer.
(2) A description of any basis of compensation applicable to the contract and the method of payment agreed upon by the parties.
(3) The name, address, and certification number of the certified interior designer and the name and address of the client.
(4) A description of the procedure that the certified interior designer and the client will use to accommodate additional services.
(5) A description of the procedure to be used by any party to terminate the contract.
(6) A three-day rescission clause in accordance with Chapter 2 (commencing with Section 1688) of Title 5 of Part 2 of Division 3 of the Civil Code.
(7) A written disclosure stating whether the certified interior designer carries errors and omissions insurance.
(b) Subdivision (a) shall not apply to any of the following:
(1) Interior design services rendered by a certified interior designer for which the client will not pay compensation.
(2) Interior design services rendered by a certified interior designer to any of the following:
(A) An architect licensed under Chapter 3 (commencing with Section 5500).
(B) A landscape architect licensed under Chapter 3.5 (commencing with Section 5615).
(C) An engineer licensed under Chapter 7 (commencing with Section 6700).
(c) As used in this section, “written contract” includes a contract in electronic form.
Many Certified Interior Designers prepare their own contracts or have them prepared by an attorney. Whatever contract is used for professional services, it is a legal document that binds you and the Certified Interior Designer to certain obligations for the life of the project and, in some cases, beyond project completion. It should include the specific services that you and your Certified Interior Designer have agreed upon and the conditions under which these services are to be rendered. Otherwise, issues could arise that may be both expensive and time-consuming to resolve.
Review the contract carefully. It is yours and the Certified Interior Designer’s responsibility to understand and follow the contract. You have the right to question and change the terms of the contract before signing it. Because it is a binding legal document, you may wish to have your legal counsel review it before you sign it. You, as owner, should retain an original copy of the signed contract. In addition, you should not contract with other parties regarding your project without first notifying the Certified Interior Designer with whom you have the primary contract.
Additional recommended items in the written contract
Beyond those items as shown above in CID law, the CCIDC recommends that a contract for design services also include
- The title and address of the project;
- At what phases of the Certified Interior Designer’s services the client’s approval must be given before he or she proceeds to the next phase;
- The time frame in which the design services must be completed;
- The construction budget and what items it includes;
- An itemized listing of the Certified Interior Designer’s basic services;
- The maximum fee for these basic services;
- A listing of the disciplines of consultants that may be needed (i.e., engineering, landscape, etc.), and a clarification of who hires the consultants and who approves and pays their fees;
- A list of the reimbursable costs that are not included in the basic fee;
- A list of what services constitute additional services and at what cost;
- A clarification of whose approval is required before these additional service costs are incurred;
- Whether assistance with establishing a contract between a contractor and owner will be provided;
- The date of anticipated start of construction;
- A provision for cost escalation or contingencies for delay of construction;
- A provision for cost escalation or contingencies for changes in the project scope during construction;
- A schedule of when and in what amounts payments are due;.
- Whether construction observation services are included;
- The amount of the retainer fee and how/when/ where it will be applied;
- How final payment is computed if the contract is terminated;
- A procedure for handling disputes between the parties should the need arise (for example, arbitration or mediation);
- A clarification of who owns the project documents; and
- A clarification of who is responsible for keeping project account records and when they may be reviewed.
The written contract is not the only document you should keep. You should also keep a written record of all verbal communication with your Certified Interior Designer that relates to the project. Do not assume your Certified Interior Designer will interpret everything you discuss with him or her the same way you do.
When you have a meeting or discussion with the Certified Interior Designer about your project, write the Certified Interior Designer a memo confirming your understanding of that meeting or discussion. These memos can help to prevent misunderstandings from occurring and may prove invaluable should a problem or dispute occur. Include the date and time of your conversation in the memo, as well as the date you write it.
You may also want to write memos or notes to yourself about the progress of the project. Photographs or videotapes taken at regular intervals (with notes as to the dates that the photos are taken) can be very useful in establishing a historical record of the project.
Keep detailed financial records by ensuring the Certified Interior Designer provides detailed invoices. Also keep records of the date and amount of each payment you make. Require the Certified Interior Designer to obtain your written approval before additional costs are incurred. Carefully evaluate each phase of the project. Make sure your Certified Interior Designer knows your written approval is necessary before proceeding to the next project phase.
Make sure that you receive a copy of all documents you sign, and keep a copy of all documents you give to your Certified Interior Designer.
There are no single set of industry fee standards for interior design. Many designers have different methods of computing and charging fees, so during the interview process you should make sure you ask about their fees.
- Flat fee billing method: Is it a lump sum fixed fee, or one based on square footage or a percentage of the overall budget? Is it an hourly rate? If hourly rates apply, then ask what the hourly billing rate is, and what the estimated number of hours for your project will be? If applicable, also be sure to ask about billing rates for travel time, designers staff who may work on your project, and any reimbursable expenses. All of this should be incorporated into a signed contract. Certified interior designers are required by law to provide their clients with a complete and clearly worded written contract. (CBPC Section 5807)
- Mark up percentage method: Be aware that some interior designers, certified or not, may purchase goods, and may include with, or without, professional fees a markup on items (such as furnishings, window and wall treatments, floor coverings, hardware, etc.) purchased on your behalf to cover their time involved in the project as a designer. This is more common in residential work as opposed to commercial work. Again, all of this should be incorporated into a written contract, whether the person is a CID or not. As work progresses and purchases are made, on your behalf, make sure you see itemized invoices as defined in the contract for these goods showing the agreed upon mark up and other costs (shipping, handling, sales tax, etc.) including the total price.
Some interior designers provide professional design services only, and are not involved in the actual purchase of items for a project. In this case, the designer would charge only for design services and other reimbursable expenses, but should help you locate and coordinate suppliers or other resources for obtaining the necessary merchandise for your project.
When determining which billing method the interior designer uses, establish a budget together. Ask to see a copy of the designer’s project contract, and verify your payment responsibilities as listed in the contract. Before signing, make sure you understand it. If you have questions, ask!
Terms: What will be the payment schedule for the project? If the proposed schedule does not meet your needs, negotiate a reasonable compromise.
Before you sign the written contract, it is a good idea to establish clearly the total amount of money (including contingency funds) you are willing to pay for the design and construction of your project, the number of payments you will make to the interior designer, and the amounts and schedule for these payments. The fee schedule should be recorded accurately in the written contract, and you should make each payment to the Certified Interior Designer as called for in the contract, but only after verification, that the work scheduled in each phase has been completed to your satisfaction.
If you have obtained a loan for your project, ensure that it covers both the cost of your interior designer’s services and the construction cost. Do not pay an excessive advance or retainer fee before services have commenced on your project as this may be a red flag. A typical retainer is around 10% of the overall budget. Do not make the final payment until the project is complete in accordance with your contract and you are satisfied with the services your interior designer has provided you. Also make sure you obtain all lien releases from all those who are engaged on your project, including your interior designer, your general contractor, and all sub-contractors.
Careful planning and discussion with your interior designer, as well as accurate record keeping, should help prevent any fee disputes. CCIDC always recommends working with a Certified Interior Designer who have been trained and tested in all of these protocols.
Unless you are experienced in construction and installation, you probably should not attempt to build-out your interior. The construction work should be performed by a properly licensed and experienced building contractor. Therefore, it is important for you to ensure that the construction documents (building plans and specifications) you receive from the Certified Interior Designer are complete enough for you to obtain bids from one or more contractors, and that the plans are complete enough for the contractor to build your project.
Do not assume that the plans your Certified Interior Designer gives you are sufficient for the building contractor to build from simply because you were able to obtain a permit for the work. Discuss the plans with your Certified Interior Designer and your contractor to ensure that they are suitable for bidding and construction purposes.
It is also important to note that unless your interior designer has a valid contractor’s license they may not act as a general contractor or have any direct financial dealings between you, the consumer and the contractor. As owner of the project, you must hire a general contractor and conduct all business, including payments, directly with the general contractor. The CCIDC suggests you go through a similar process in hiring a general contractor as you do in hiring a Certified Interior Designer by Contacting the California Contractors State License Board by calling 1-800-321-CSLB or visit their Web site at www.cslb.ca.gov
Following these procedures will greatly reduce the chance for any misunderstanding. However, should any problems arise, you should openly and candidly discuss the problem with your designer. If you are still having difficulty solving the problem, contact us at CCIDC. We can often suggest solutions, or act as a resource until the problem has been solved satisfactorily. If necessary, we can determine whether the designer in question has violated the CCIDC Code of Ethics or our Rules and Regulations. The CCIDC has the duty and authority to investigate alleged violations by its Certified Interior Designers, and, in extreme cases, to even revoke their certification if warranted.
For your convenience, we have a complaint form on our website.
Problems with Your Project?
As a consumer you have a right to receive careful and professional service from the Certified Interior Designer you have hired. Even if you have read and followed this guide and have done everything possible to prevent problems, you may still feel that you have a complaint about your Certified Interior Designer. What should you do?
First, discuss the problem thoroughly and calmly with your Certified Interior Designer. If the Certified Interior Designer is violating your written agreement, review the agreement and other relevant documentation with the Certified Interior Designer to rectify the situation. If you and your designer are unable to settle the problem, your next step should be to call or write the CCIDC.
In addition, if the Certified Interior Designer has violated the CCIDC’s Code of Ethics (See “CID Code of Ethics” on left), provided in this guide, you have a right to file a complaint against the designer.
CCIDC believes that consumer problems can be minimized by hiring a Certified Interior Designer yet there may be occasion where you have no alternative but to file a complaint. After we receive your written complaint, we will contact you and look into the matter on your behalf, to try to resolve the problem.
While CCIDC has no authority over uncertified interior designers, we may be able to direct you to other means of recourse, such as the Better Business Bureau or Small Claims Court.
What constitutes a complaint?
The CCIDC has the power, duty, and authority to investigate alleged violations of the provisions of California Business & Professions Codes Sections 5800 – 5810, CCIDC Rules and Regulations, and the CCIDC Code of Ethics. Certified Interior Designers guilty of violations can have their Certification suspended, be required to attend education classes, or have their Certification permanently revoked.
The CCIDC takes action against Certified Interior Designers for:
- Fraud in obtaining certification;
- Impersonation of or use of an assumed or corporate name; a Certified Interior Designer, or use of a Certified Interior Designer’s stamp that does not belong to them;
- Using the Certified Interior Designer appellation or stamp when such has expired;
- Aiding unlawful practice;
- Signing others’ plans not prepared under their direct supervision or permitting the misuse of their name;.
- Fraud in the practice of interior design;
- Negligence or misconduct;
- Failure to accurately represent qualifications;
- Conflict of interest; and
- Incompetence or recklessness.
- Any violation of the CCIDC Code of Ethics
California Architects Board Slaps a $6,000 Fine on an Interior Architect!
The California Architects Board (CAB) has caught many individuals over the years for holding themselves out as an architect without a license for using such words as architect, architecture, and architectural when describing themselves, their services, and their agreements.
For example, did you know that by describing your construction documents as architectural drawings you are violating the law unless you are a licensed architect in this state? As a designer, certified or otherwise, you are preparing construction drawings, or documents, not architectural.
All unlicensed individuals using the title interior architect or interior architecture, is to hold oneself out as an architect and imply that you are a licensed architect, when in fact, you are not.
Where does this imaginary and illegal title come from?
The origins are unclear but more and more interior design schools are adopting this title for their programs in order to give themselves a supposed marketing edge when trying to attract new students in an ever competitive marketplace. There are 60 interior design schools in California, and six of them offer interior architecture as the title of their accredited interior design programs.
We also see a trend of promoting this language by other national interior design organizations, examining bodies and accrediting bodies, as a way of trying to elevate the profession beyond that of interior design, and into the realm of architecture without the education, skills, and experience of architects. This of course does not sit well with the architects or their professional organizations.
If there is any doubt as to why the architectural profession resists licensing and regulation of interior design one only has to look at the mission creep of the interior design profession and its incursion upon the semantics of architecture. No wonder they accuse interior designers of trying to practice architecture without having to submit to the rigors of actually becoming a licensed architect.
As predicted by this board, we now see the first of probably many citations to come against an individual for using the illegal title of interior architect.
This person has a degree in interior architecture from a school in Chicago, and decided to use the title inferred by that degree. Graduates from interior architecture programs in California lean towards calling themselves interior architects because it stands to reason that if you graduate from an interior architecture program, you think you must be an interior architect! CIDs found using this title, are promptly educated on the prospects of being cited by CAB.
A word of caution for the schools!
We have discussed with the CAB the legality of allowing the schools to call their programs interior architecture. CAB has researched this and told us they have absolutely no jurisdiction in this area and that the schools can call their programs whatever they wish to. It is the individuals emanating from these programs who are restricted by law as to what they can and cannot call themselves. It is basically an act of individual responsibility.
If more people are caught and cited and fined by CAB for using this term after graduating from one of these programs, and leave the school with the impression that it is okay to use such a title, there will be the possibility of some legal culpability on the part of the school. These schools, especially the ones in California need to make it very clear to all students enrolling in their interior architecture programs shall refrain from ever using that title.
Even if a school disavows the use of this title, a faculty member advocating such could unwittingly or otherwise drag them into a protracted and expensive legal procedure with their former student attempting to collect recompense. Food for thought! Of course disavowing the title of the very course you are offering undermines the whole marketing concept and makes it somewhat moot. Why not change it back to interior design and avoid the whole possibility of conflict?
CCIDC’s position is aligned with that of CAB. We are interior designers, they are architects. There is no such thing as a hybrid between the two and there never will be. If you want to practice architecture then become an architect. If you want to practice interior design at a professional level, then become a Certified Interior Designer. That is your title as allowed by the state of California under the law through CCIDC.
The use of initials “C.I.D.” and the title Certified Interior Decorator
There are online, private, for profit companies who represent people for a fee who pass their un-accredited “educational program” and who may use the appellation “C.I.D.,” or title “Certified Interior Decorator,” in professional circumstances in California; “C.I.D.” has no legal recognition in any state, under any law. These interior decorator organizations are not legitimate certifying organizations with oversight by the California Legislature, unlike CCIDC. CCIDC is the only approved certification board by the California Legislature for the interior design profession.
Only Certified Interior Designers certified by CCIDC have the legal right to use this professional title and the appellation “CID”. All interior designers certified by CCIDC are proven to have the required education and experience, and have satisfactorily passed the required IDEX California examination, in accordance with California law (Section 5800 of the California Business & Professions Code). A Certified Interior Designer who is certified by CCIDC is also required to adhere to a strict Code of Ethics.
CBPC Section 5812: It is an unfair business practice for any person to represent or hold himself or herself out as, or to use the title “certified interior designer” or any other term, such as licensed, registered, or CID, that implies or suggests that the person is certified as an interior designer when he or she does not hold a valid certification as provided in Section 5800 and 5801 of the CBPC.