A blog to share thoughts and musings with interior designers

Landscape Architect is okay but Interior Architect is not...

On August 25th, 2018, I wrote the following email to AIA. Note their reply… I never heard back:

Hi there!


I am an interior designer who is currently studying for the NCIDQ exam. I have worked in architecture firms in the past doing commercial work, before going out on my own as a residential interior designer. I plan to open myself up to commercial work independently after passing the exam. My husband, a licensed architect, works with me independently as well as working full time for an architecture firm. I went to school with architects and landscape architects in an interdisciplinary institute.


Now for my question. I notice that Landscape Architecture has, of course, the title of “Architect” in their title. They have their own licensing program, but have been permitted via legislature to use the title of Landscape Architect. Are they architects? No, of course not! They are Landscape Architects. Interior designers have tried multiple times to request the use of the title “Interior Architect”, but AIA constantly fights this. Why? Because we are not architects! Of course we aren’t architects, we are Interior Architects (well, we would like to use this title). Why fight interior designers but not landscape architects? My honest conclusion is that we are seen as lesser or that AIA fears competition. No interior wants to bypass architects, we are not qualified to do architecture. It is a different field, hence the INTERIOR aspect of the title. The other aspect to this conclusion is that interior design is a female dominated field and, well, let’s be honest- we live in a sexist world where women are constantly pushed down and not encouraged to excel and heaven forbid “do a man’s job”. Is this the fear? 

I am not trying to anger anyone, but just to fully understand why a landscape architect would be granted the use of architect in their title, but interior designers should not.


See, here is the problem. Half of the interior design field has not gone to college, they have no training, no qualifications, and honestly believe that no one ever died from bad interior design (just take a look at the recent death at HPMKT because a swing was placed above Terrazzo floors with its back to a glass wall. Many do not want the responsibilities or liability that goes along with this. We want to work WITH architects and we want to take responsibility for our decisions and put the knowledge and testing we have taken to work. So, how do we (those of us like me who work primarily on renovations and additions -with an architect-) differentiate from those who want to select wallpaper, make pretty mood boards, and have never put a pen to vellum with any drafting knowledge, understanding of pulling permits, etc.? Well, a title change seems like a simple answer… of course it isn’t and there would still be a lot of educating the client, but I feel like right now we have to work first on getting the fields to get a long, work collaboratively, embrace one another’s skillsets and support one another… not fight over the use of a title.


So, in short.. I would like to better understand why the fight against “interior architecture”? Every architect I know is equally baffled by this and fully supports the use of the title. Why is their association so conservative?



Rachel Waldron, Allied ASID, NKBA

20211  Vashon Hwy SW, #28 | Vashon, WA 98070



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Aug 28, 2018, 2:46 PM

to me

Dear Rachel Waldron,

Thank you for contacting the American Institute of Architects.

Your inquiry is important to us and deserves to be answered by the most knowledgeable colleagues. Thus, we have forwarded it to our Interior Architecture Knowledge Community (IAKC) National staff contacts for their review and response: specifically, Melissa Morancy, (, 202-626-7371) and Maggie Brown (, 202-626-7479). Kindly afford them time to review and resolve the matter at hand.

AIA Knowledge Communities are primary interest areas in the architecture field where those with a common interest/expertise can share resources, ask questions and keep abreast of current topics.

We appreciate your continued patience and support of the AIA.

Best wishes,

Alison Karfeld

Associate, Membership Call Center Operations


1735 New York Avenue, NW, Washington, DC 20006

Office: (800) 242-3837

Fax: (202) 626-7547

A Message to Interior Designers

Houzz's recent acquisition of Ivy sparked a lot of emotion in the interior design community. Some were excited and optimistic about the possibility of even faster improvement in the software and the opportunity to have an advocate for designers through Ivy founders Alex Schinasi and Lee Rotenberg. Others were furious, afraid, and felt a strong sense of betrayal. Ivy was used as a community space for sharing industry secrets. The software stored wholesale pricing, markup information, and client information.

The biggest fear has been that Houzz will use this information to undercut designers and cut out the middleman. Despite being so much more than just a middleman, it is often how we are perceived. But, why buy software intended for designers that will undercut them? Without designers, there would be no subscribers, and this software, apparently purchased for $38 million would prove to be a poor investment. Another thought has been that this information is a big, beautiful instruction guide on how to build an interior design business. Could Houzz use it to create their own chain of "Design" firms? We may have just handed the competition a how-to for our business models. While this may sound like a perfect opportunity, it also sounds like a perfect storm. The fury and energy that swept the field due to this acquisition would turn into an outright protest with boycotts of both Houzz and their vendors. One would think a business has enough intelligence to foresee something like this, making it a very slim possibility.

So, maybe Houzz truly is just trying to win the hearts of the design community by providing us with the software we've been dreaming of for years. We still have a dilemma. Houzz has been the schoolyard bully for years. The platform has required designers to upload photos without watermarks, then tagged these photos with their own product that the designers are unable to verify quality of. This is quite simply taking advantage of a small business's need for marketing and publicity. Houzz offers forums to the public for tips and informs designers that in order to gain visibility, participation in these forums is necessary. When a designer's greatest skill lies in their intellectual property, it should, in no way,shape or form be given for free. Asking us to participate in these forums is requiring that we work for them (gaining a large audience in DIY homeowners) for free. Furthermore, articles  and newsletters are written for the do-it-yourselfers, teaching them how to do what we do without our expertise. They are not written for the homeowner encouraging them to work with designers and creating value for the profession. There are so many problems with this platform and this issues just grave the surface.

Many, maybe even most interior designers are saying "enough is enough" and aren't ready to trust again.

Many, maybe even most interior designers are saying "enough is enough" and aren't ready to trust again.

When beat up over and over, a single gesture of goodwill can be misread, feared and accompanied with the "too little, too late" anger. So, how does the school bully redeem themselves? For many, they cannot. For the forgiving type, a complete revamp of the system will be necessary.

  1. Tips provided by designers will need to come with compensation (average hourly rate for independent designers is $175/hour). Articles written by designers will come with reasonable compensation to match this hourly rate and should drive homeowners to the author's site.

  2. Photos uploaded by the designer should come with watermarks and if tagged with product, the designer should be given opportunity to approve this product. A note should explain to the homeowner that this is similar product. Most importantly, the designer should receive commission for the product sale.

  3. Articles posted should create value in the design professional, encouraging homeowners to seek professional advice.

  4. If designer’s websites are bringing traffic to Houzz, they should be compensated for any purchases made as a result.

  5. Designers should have traffic reports illustrating how many clicks Houzz gets from our sites.

In short, designers need to be respected for the hard work we do, and compensated for the years of experience and professional training they have.

After years of abuse, it with likely take years of goodwill and a lot of hard work to gain the trust of the community. We believe it is possible, but are skeptical that Houzz will take these measures rather than prey on the new, inexperienced, and insecure. In the meantime, I suggest that designers join the Interior Design Revolution on Facebook for ideas on how to resist the temptation to give away our intellectual property in the hopes of being noticed.

Designers, please share this message, be it in a blog, a vlog, a social media message, or just passing it along. Until Houzz agrees to compensate designers appropriately for their work, I would suggest that designers take one of these two approaches to their Houzz account:

Ruxana Oosman has generously offered for us to use her verbiage as a means of protesting the site:

Carla Aston has generated another approach to making Houzz work for you:

Join Interior Design Revolution (currently in Beta) for more ideas and actions to better the perception of our profession:


Comment on this post with a simple "I support this message" and a link to your business website. Houzz is watching!

About Interior Design Revolution: Our goal is to create a more accurate portrayal of what we do- as varied as that might be and to do that from within by earning and expecting respect from vendors, software, clients, and each other. We want to create a sudden, marked change in the interior design industry... hence the revolution.