Why It Is Illegal to Use the Title “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; as clearly explained in the Unlicensed Practice Penalty form provided on the California Architect’s Board Website.

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 50 interior design schools in California, and eight 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. This only exacerbates the accusations from Architects that interior designers are trying to practice architecture without having to submit to the rigors of actually becoming a licensed architect.

CAB Enforcement Actions Against the use of Interior Architect (click on the links for complete details):

A word of caution for the schools!

We have discussed with the California Architect’s Board (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 choose. It is the individuals graduating 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 the term “Interior Architect” 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 drag them into an expensive legal battle, with their former student(s). 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.