Broward News

Messing With the Interior Design Mafia?
Don't call it "interior design" until you see the paperwork.

Do you know what it takes to become an "interior designer" in this state? Being able to match a bedspread and drapes should do it, right?

Wrong. "Decorators" may be able to walk off the street and charge you to move your furniture around, but to call yourself an "interior designer" in Florida, you've gotta work for it.

How about two years of classes, four years of apprenticeship (like Johnny Tremain, but gayer), and passing a special exam administered by a national design institute?

But now all that could change with a civil rights lawsuit filed against Florida by would-be designers and the Institute for Justice, a Virginia-based Libertarian law firm. The suit claims the legal requirements inhibit the designers' "right to earn an honest living and communicate truthfully about interior design services they lawfully perform in Florida."

Lawyers from the group have called Florida interior designers (ready for this?) an "elitist cartel."

"In the midst of a recession and with the economy in shambles, the last thing the government should be doing is putting up barriers to people who simply want to earn a living in the occupation of their choice," Clark Neily, a senior attorney with the Institute for Justice, said in a news release before the group's demonstration yesterday at the state Capitol.

"People are free in nearly every other state besides Florida to hire the interior designer who best meets their needs. But the government has taken that decision away from people in Florida, and the result is higher prices for consumers and fewer employment opportunities for designers. The proper role of government is protecting people from genuine harm--not protecting elitist cartels from fair competition."

That's right, an "elitist cartel."

The Sun-Sentinel spoke with a wannabe designer from Delray Beach. Eva Locke, who spent two years at Palm Beach Community College and "has redone a few houses," said:

"I'm very capable of opening my own interior design business. There's no reason on Earth for this law to exist. It's there supposedly under the guise of protecting the health, safety and welfare of the public. How are we in any way impacting the welfare of the public?"

The real question here is more of a philosophical one: If a rich person hires someone to "re-do" a house and it goes badly, who cares? Perhaps Milton put it best when he said, "Let Truth and poor design grapple."

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Michael J. Mooney