Rubber Stampers and Interior Designers

Dec 6 '13 37 Last Comment
Dec 6, 13 9:10 am

Had a big debate last night about this... Here's a scenario: the Interior Designer owns a firm that specializes in high end residential design. He knows, even before signing any contract. that a large portion of the work involves architectural services, but non-the-less signs a contract with the owner. What I don't understand, is how does the ID get away with hiring an architect to stamp the drawings? Is this a loophole in our profession? Is there a gray area in terms of what is Interior Design and what is Architecture? How can there be a separate firm for design and architecture if the two are so closely related?


Non Sequitur
Dec 6, 13 10:40 am

It's a grey zone. I've had a project where an interior design firm had a renovation project which included an extension to a 50+ year old masonry building. The scope of the work far exceeded what even the best int-designers could do therefore our office was hired by the int-design firm to complete the construction drawings based on their layouts, but we quickly discovered that they were incompetent and took over the entire project from them. We even stopped communication between them and the client. In the end, all they did was pick the tiles above the sinks and make some artful (fake)stone veneer wall sculpture. The project went way over budget because an int-des was hired to do the job of an architect.

Both disciplines are not closely related, an architect can do interior design but an interior designer cannot do architecture however convincing the local colleges make it appear.

Dec 6, 13 10:59 am

Oh I agree with you completely. I just don't know how this happens... ALL THE TIME...

Non Sequitur
Dec 6, 13 1:50 pm

It's because int-designers are a dime-a-dozen and claim to provide the same service as licensed architects. If I need my windows obscured by modular furniture, I'll call a int-designer but for virtually anything else, it's not worth it.

Dec 6, 13 2:15 pm

finally someone who sees things my way :) haha

Dec 6, 13 3:55 pm

I guess this is an unpopular topic... perhaps because it's true...

Dec 6, 13 4:16 pm

I just don't know how this happens... ALL THE TIME...

It happens because there is always some stupid licensed architect willing to do it.  As long as there are whores there will be johns.  We have met the enemy and he/she is us.

Dec 6, 13 4:32 pm

and by john's you mean interior designers?

Dec 6, 13 4:52 pm

I don't understand the problem.  First, what state are you in that requires an architect for residential?  In most states residential is exempt.  Must be in the nanny state of NY?  I agree that they should not sign a contract that promises work that they cannot deliver.  This is just common sense and if it went to court the designer would likely have to pay for any additional architecture fees.  However, if they did specify that certain aspects of the project were not in the scope of work, and the client agreed and understood that they would have to hire an architect as well, then where is the problem?  Its called a referral.  Lawyers and doctors do this all the time.  They get a client and charge them a consult fee, maybe handle certain aspects of their case, and then refer out what they cant do.  Doctors sometimes refer clients to nutritionists, counslers, etc...   

Dec 6, 13 4:59 pm

your argument makes no sense... in what "nanny" state do you live in in which you aren't allowed to represent yourself?? That's right- you don't need a lawyer, but why would you if you know a lawyer knows a ton more than you about the law?? 

Dec 6, 13 5:00 pm

if you go to a criminal lawyer for a dwi and also have a immigration problem the criminal lawyer will handle the dwi case and refer you out to a immigration lawyer for the immigration case even though the two cases are intertwined and related...Do you think the immigration lawyer complains about a referral? Hell no, they even pay a referral fee to the original lawyer...usually like 30%.  You are getting a referral with no fee and you are complaining that some other designer got a little piece of the pie... 

Dec 6, 13 5:01 pm


Dec 6, 13 5:02 pm

you missed the point

Dec 6, 13 5:05 pm

and no I am not an interior designer just a guy with a low tolerance for protectionist rhetoric under the guise of public protection.

Dec 6, 13 5:28 pm

Its just really annoying that architects are always trying to make the party more exclusive..  The reason that interior designers even exist is because its an architectural field of specialty that became a separate profession because of the over regulation of architecture...  Those that work within the realm but do not require club membership will naturally separate themselves.  The path of least resistance. 

When someone wants an interior design they call an interior designer-not an architect that can do interior design.  We are chopping up the profession through this process of exclusion and consequently narrowing the scope of "architecture."  

Dec 6, 13 5:39 pm

why not hire an architect to do interior design? why not hire the person most capable of providing the service you need?

Dec 6, 13 5:58 pm

Because perception is reality.  The public sees two different professions and assumes that they are separate in their scope.   

Dec 6, 13 6:20 pm

The only use for a stamp is to own a firm or have your employer list you as a statistic for example - we have this number of architects on our staff. Have you seen Angie's list, the page where it lists certified (meaning bullshit) home designers? Compare it to the architect page on Angie's list where the comments roll on for pages with comments from home designers telling you not to hire an architect. 

Services not performed under the architect's supervision are not exclusive to interiors bluffing a residential project. I've been told of lost opportunities for commercial projects when a building designer gets hired for the project and uses a civil to stamp the project. A civil stamp trumps a little archi stamp in most places. It isn't just residential anymore. You don't need an architect unless the jurisdiction explicitly requires an architect to stamp. In that situation the loophole is; the interior firm hires the architect as an employee, even if only for 5 minutes to stamp plans. Another loophole is to break the project into tiny pieces and get minuscule parts of the project permitted individually. You rarely need an architect anymore. 

Don't try the argument on me about how architects help you pick things out, or make it nifty. I know what architects do.

Land development is done in giant tracts with housing units by the thousands with laws preventing or making additions almost impossible. Architects are obsolete in the residential market. In the commercial market you don't need an architect. That leaves a stamp as a prestigious novelty for the wealthy. There isn't much of that work when you count up all the stamps.  

The only thing to be upset by in any of this is the gigantic investment of time and money to become an architect. It is an over qualification that few of us knew embarking on the lengthy process which takes longer than it ever has.      



Dec 6, 13 6:20 pm

so how do you think the public perceives the practice of architecture? if architects are not interior designers, how do they compare to engineers  in the eyes of the public?

Dec 6, 13 6:21 pm

legally, an architect can do the same work as an engineer... not many architects do, but they can. 

Dec 6, 13 6:24 pm

And to think, you could have done it all with a GED and a flair for fabrics. 

Dec 6, 13 6:26 pm

The difference is architects don't want to do engineering. Engineers love to design so they will take the work. 

Dec 6, 13 7:24 pm

you know, I just thought of something... every time an interior designer submits drawings, the drawing title is probably A (dash) whatever... A stands for Architectural... there is no such thing as an ID sheet... so there... point proven... ID's are wanna-be architects. 

Dec 6, 13 8:29 pm

If you are framing this in terms of plans there isn't such a thing as Architectural plan check in any jurisdiction I've encountered. Plans are submitted for structural plan check and the consulting engineering disciplines. I don't know why ID is a field. There is interior architecture and FF&E sales people. It's a sham.   

Dec 6, 13 9:01 pm

that is so not true, atom... plans are also checked for occupancy and egress code compliance. 

Dec 8, 13 3:08 am

The plans for occupancy and egress code compliance are submitted to Structural plan check. It is not called architectural plan check.

The public perception of architecture is that it is a high art. The architect is an expense to the client which they do not get a loan for so you are an expense to the client.

I don't like or want any of these terrible things happening to the profession.  But back to the point. How does the ID get away with hiring an architect to stamp the drawings? Sales. Interiors are in the business of sales. People like getting duped and will fall for it. They are told it will be cheaper than hiring an architect. They don't often get prices to compare & they fall for the notion of getting to do it cheaper.  

Steven WardSteven Ward
Dec 8, 13 7:59 am

I don't disagre with your opinions, exactly, Atom. But some of your facts about how things are reviewed and by whom must be regional/local. They're not true where I am and don't even sound like what I've encountered other places.

[so you don't think I'm blowing smoke, I've been in practice in three states and our office has registrations and has operated in 5 others.]

We do have both clients and other designers who come to us only because (in their minds) they need our stamp. In each case we have to decide whether there is an opportunity for us, not only monetarily but professionally. We try to help them understand that architecture is a value-added proposition. It sounds like you need to (re-)learn it, too.

Dec 9, 13 7:09 pm

'cause the ID has the better rolodex (iphone contact list) than the RA, so they get the fat commission then cut the RA off a slice because the RA sucks at business and the ID doesn't.

What's really funny is when the ID is actually a GC, who the RA works for on a full time basis.

Dec 9, 13 10:30 pm


Dec 10, 13 12:53 pm


what is your background?  I agree that architects are a hard sell in residential, but not commercial, most clients I've worked with are fairly sophisticated and would rather have something done once right than twice cheap. 

When talking with friends I like to make an analogy of architects vs designers and chefs vs cooks.  Lots of people know how to cook and even cook for a living, but if your throwing a big important party  it's often wise to spend a bit more for the chef

Dec 10, 13 2:26 pm

I know that. I say the same. Sometimes I elaborate on the dish being served. I stated the facts which I am not in favor of. 

Dec 10, 13 3:39 pm

Is there a goal for this discussion or are we simply rehashing the same tired war all over again? Unless it leads to some way of fixing things, simply defining the problem isn't a very good use of time.

Dec 12, 13 11:46 am

The difference is that chef is not a regulated title.  A chef is not defined by a piece of paper but by the quality of the food.  There are many "architects" that make Mac and cheese buildings but still claim the title architect.  There are not many fry cooks that call themselves chefs.  The public understands the difference between a real chef and a fry cook without any state intervention.  Also, the act of serving food is far more dangerous than architecture.  About 9000 people a year die from food born illness.  Why don't we hear chefs bitching about title protection?  Chefs have prestige because their title is synonymous with a certain skill and quality product.  The title architecture has become muddy because the title is a result of a state certificate.  We removed the prestige of the title by replacing peer/public recognition with red tape.  A title earned by ones special talent and reputation is far more valuable than one earned by a series of state approved tasks.  Also, the unregulated title chef makes the profession much stronger because it encourages diversity and also entrepreneurship.   

Dec 12, 13 11:54 am

Architecture is not the same as medicine and law.  Architecture is a creative profession and creative professions do not benefit from rigid structure.  IMO, the title protection is nothing more than a form of protectionism and a way to market and sell degrees to career minded youngsters.  If you really want "architect" to be an exclusive title, then deregulate it and bestow the title onto only those who make architecture.  Not buildings..Architecture!  You will see about 80% of the "architects" evaporate.   

there is no there
Dec 12, 13 12:17 pm

9,000 deaths a year is nil once you consider death from iatrogenic illnesses (at least 200,000+ a year) is the 3rd leading cause of death in the good ol' US.

Dec 12, 13 12:23 pm

has anybody ever counted how many people charles bronson killed in the death wish movies?  architects can be dangerous too!

pretty soon, 'how i met your mother' will turn into ted mosby killing anyone who tries to mug him.  or design "macaroni and cheese" buildings.  or something like that.

Non Sequitur
Dec 12, 13 3:47 pm

Curt, yes, people have counted Bronson's kills while playing an architect and they are as follows:

Death Wish: 10 kills

Death Wish2: 10 kills

Death Wish3: 52 kills

Death Wish4: 37 kills

Death Wish5: 7 kills

So, that's a respectable 116 kills. (

Dec 13, 13 9:45 am

Two main issues:

First is the hiring of architect to sign the drawings, and as noted by some that residential is largely exempt from having a licensed architect.  That is why many are called Designer instead of Architect in the field of residential design.  Though in some municipal or HOA it is required to have an architect's seal.

Secondly, why hire ID to do architecture?  Because that client and many others do not know the difference, the same reason why people hire contractor to expand and renovate their houses only to find out that the work is shoddy. By then it is too late because the contractor is long gone.  Turn on HGTV and they have TV shows where the crew comes in and fix the shoddy work by contractors.  However, the crux to this problem is us because as a group, we architects are REALLY BAD as representing ourselves and educating the public as to the value of our profession.

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