Guide to the Law for Interior Designers in California

Interior Design colors and plans

1. Do I need to have a license or certification to be an interior designer in California?

No, but state law provides for an optional certification as a “certified interior designer.”

2. What about designing buildings?

In general you need to be a licensed architect to design a building, but there are various exceptions. See our Guide to the Law for Architects & Landscape Architects.

3. What is a certified interior designer?

Under California law, a certified interior designer is “a person who prepares and submits nonstructural or nonseismic plans to local building departments that are of sufficient complexity so as to require the skills of a licensed contractor to implement them, and who engages in programming, planning, designing, and documenting the construction and installation of nonstructural or non-seismic elements, finishes and furnishings within the interior spaces of a building, and has demonstrated by means of education, experience and examination, the competency to protect and enhance the health, safety, and welfare of the public.”

4. Who can use the title “Certified Interior Designer”?

You may not call yourself a Certified Interior Designer, or use any terms including “licensed,” “registered,” or “CID” unless you are certified by the California Council for Interior Design Certification.

5. Who can use the term “state certified” interior designer?

Even if you are a Certified Interior Designer you CANNOT say you are “state certified” because the state doesn’t certify interior designers. Certification is done only through the nonprofit organization California Council for Interior Design Certification.

6. When do I use my “stamp” and certification number?

You must sign, date, include your stamp, and indicate your certification number on all plans, specifications, and other instruments of service and contracts prepared for others.1See CCIDC FAQ

7. Is there a specific contract I need to use with my clients?

You must use a written contract (can be by email) when providing services to a client. The contract must include:

  • A description of the services to be provided to the client
  • A description of any basis of compensation applicable to the contract and the method of payment agreed upon by the parties
  • Your name, address, and certification number and the client’s name and address
  • A description of the procedure that you and the client will use to accommodate additional services.
  • A description of the procedure to be used by any party to terminate the contract.
  • If the contract was signed in the client’s home, the client has the right to cancel for any reason within 3 days. You must include a statement in the contract notifying the client of this right, which must include all of this.
  • A written disclosure stating whether you carry errors and omissions insurance

You do NOT need to have this contract if:

  • The client isn’t paying for the services.
  • You are providing services for:
    • A licensed architect
    • A licensed landscape architect
    • A licensed engineer

8. Is there anything else I need to know about running a design business?

Yes. See our Guide to the Law for Business Owners and Entrepreneurs. You will also need to know about Intellectual Property law, particularly copyright.

Further Reading

Guide to How to Get Legal Help. You may want to find a lawyer to assist with business and intellectual property issues.

California Business & Professions Code Chapter 3.9 Interior Designers


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