By Granting Licensure to Interior Designers, Massachusetts Can Finally Live Up to Its Progressive Ideals

Six years ago, I was interviewed on a topic close to my heart: professional licensure for interior designers. I was frustrated that the state of Massachusetts would not allow interior designers to obtain a form of regulatory licensure, unlike the majority of states and provinces in the US and Canada. 

Today, and several legislative defeats later, we are in exactly the same position. We have 21 interior designers at SMMA, and none of us can attain licensure in Massachusetts. This places several unfair restrictions on our profession. Without a license, we cannot stamp and submit drawings for building permits. We cannot sign AIA contracts. And aside from furniture selection, we cannot bid on public work. Our career options are limited for as long as all paths to licensure are limited.  

A new bill, S.2408, is currently working its way through Beacon Hill. In substance it is much the same as the very first bill introduced in 2009. It simply asks that interior designers be recognized as registered professionals—a status our architecture and engineering colleagues have enjoyed since time immemorial.

Map showing status of licensure in the interior design profession in US and Canada

Map courtesy of IIDA

In a state that prides itself on its “progressive” attitudes and policies, the failure to grant equitable status to interior designers—a profession that is overwhelmingly female—should be cause for reflection. Massachusetts has been left behind, most recently by Iowa and New Mexico, who earlier this year passed laws recognizing interior designers as licensed professionals. Today, only 22% of Americans live in states with no legislation or permitting privileges to support interior designers. It is disheartening, to say the least, that the Commonwealth is stuck in this small minority of holdouts.

That said, there is still cause for optimism. Attitudes in the design industry have changed a great deal since I first entered the profession in the 1980s. Momentum is on our side: There are more women than ever in the A/E/C world. In 2022, 16.1% of architects and engineers in the US were women, up from 9% in 1990. Many of our wonderful colleagues at SMMA have joined us in advocating for licensure for interior designers by signing petitions and contacting their state representatives and senators. And no wonder—they see first-hand the quality we bring to every project, whether through our conceptual drawings, construction documents, or out in the field doing construction administration. 

It's not only about fairness

While attitudes may have changed for the better, legislation has yet to catch up. With Bill S.2408, Massachusetts has the chance to elevate its design industry and boost consumer confidence by establishing a level playing field for all design professionals. Moreover, as a state known for its innovation and creativity, interior design licensure would attract top design talent, encourage entrepreneurship, and stimulate economic growth. That, surely, should be enough to win over any wavering legislator.

The bill has successfully moved to the Senate Ways and Means Committee, where its fate will be decided in the coming weeks. It is not too late to reach out to your Massachusetts senator via this link to urge them to vote in favor. With your support, we can finally tip the balance in favor of licensure for interior designers and bring our state in line with the majority of the country. 

Sign the petition to support licensure for interior designers