With more and more people hanging out shingles as either interior design professionals—thanks partly to the popularity of television shows like Design on a Dime, Extreme Home Makeover and Trading Spaces—knowing who to hire for a job in your home or building can sometimes be a little tricky.
For example, the terms “interior designer” and “interior decorator” are often used interchangeably—but the two professions are not identical. Both interior designers and interior decorators can turn your lobby or common areas into cozy, welcoming spaces, but the two professions are not synonymous.
Interior designers are, according to the American Society of Interior Designers (ASID), responsible for an array of tasks including non-aesthetic considerations like building codes and acoustics. Interior designers are also required to have a license in most states, certifying that they are a qualified professional with the required background and schooling.
By contrast, interior decorators are almost purely concerned with aesthetics: surface decoration, paint, fabric, furnishings, lighting and building materials. In a word, they make a functional space beautiful. The educational requirements for decorators are not as stringent as they are for designers, and licensing is not required—so if your building wants to simply make the lobby look better without a complete, down-to-the-studs overhaul, you may need a decorator, rather than a designer.
But how can you be sure that the decorator you hire is experienced and competent? One way is to look for a decorator who is a member of Certified Interior Decorators International, or CID.
Ron Renner formed CID in 1997 in response to a need he perceived in the industry during the early and mid-1990s. He saw a need for interior decorators to be recognized as professionals, and for those decorators to have credibility. CID is geared toward decorators who are displaced by the state licensing of interior designers nationwide, and for those who choose to remain independent of government regulation.
“I’m not in it for the money. I’m concerned about integrity,” says Renner, who was already an accomplished interior designer before founding CID, and who was also one of the founders of ASID, one of the first truly certified interior decorators in the country. “We’ve changed the entire industry, and now a CID decorator can walk into anywhere an receive the same respect as an ASID professional. They can receive the same buy-in power without having to go through the college training that a designer would,” says Renner.
Membership and Certification
Based in Stuart, Florida, CID serves as both the certifying body and professional membership association. The term “Certified Interior Decorator” and “CID” are registered trademarks filed in the United States Patent and Trademark Office in Washington, D.C. in 1997. The CID designation and trademark is used internationally as well.
Certified Interior Decorators International serves to define the role of the interior decorator, eliminating consumer confusion about the difference between interior decorators and interior designers.
To become a member of CID, a decorator must complete a certificate-level program in the “Elements of Interior Design and Decoration” through a CID-accredited or approved school, college or direct learning facility. Upon completion of that program, each graduate must then purchase the CID study guide and take the CID entrance exam when applying for professional membership. After passing the exam, the organization will issue credentials that must be renewed annually to maintain certification.
“We are the certifying body for decorators,” says Renner. “They must be approved and take our exam. Membership is $295 per year, and they must keep up with it or they lose their certification.”
“Professional membership in CID is a final destination for individuals seeking credentials. We are not a stepping-stone for individuals seeking to become interior designers,” he says.
“Our decorators are one hundred percent certified. There’s no associate membership. If they’re going to work in the business, we’re going to give them the credentials and certification that is going to be needed to be a decorator. That’s what makes us unique. I’m a consumer advocate and I don’t want consumers to be confused as to what they’re getting,” he says.
Benefits of Membership
The growing number of people joining CID is proof positive that decorators see its values as well. CID members are representative of the entire spectrum of decorators, from those who have long been established in the field to those who have made a career change to interior decorating. Both members and clients sing its praises.
“It’s made a big difference in my business for sure. I have no employees and have been in business for almost 50 years,” says Bill Ford, CID, of Bill Ford Interiors, Inc., based in Paducah, Kentucky.
“I’ve had my certification maybe five years, and was already well established before that. I started in this business in 1957 when I was 17 or 18. I was trained by experts and have been on my own and self-employed since 1967 or ‘68. Bill Ford Interiors is 11 years old. Prior to that, I worked out of my home and people just knew me by name,” he says.
Although he’s already established himself and made his name as a skilled interior decorator, Ford appreciates the many benefits of CID membership.
“CID keeps me informed and updated on trends. It gives me stronger credibility with the client and it’s helped me in that area because I can work out of state as well as instate, so that benefits me there,” says Ford, who has done work in New York, Florida and Illinois, among other locations.
“Their continual advertising in various publications is a great benefit also,” he adds. “It’s been very beneficial. It’s credibility, and it’s on everything—my cards and my letterhead,” says Ford, who is also an artist, calligrapher and painter. “It’s definitely been an asset and I will always be a member. I like Ron a lot; he’s always been there when I’ve needed him.”
CID was a perfect match for decorator Pepper Lewis, a Stuart, Florida-based interior decorator.
“I have been in business since 1995 when I became incorporated. I have no formal education in interior design or decorating, but for me it came naturally. My college degree was in social work. I started out rearranging—or ‘redesigning,’ as it is called now—rooms for friends. I was also asked to help pick paint colors. Since I was doing it so much, I became incorporated. I also collected antiques at the time and had a booth in a local antique mall, so I started to mix the two,” says Lewis.
After becoming incorporated, Lewis felt the need to acquire the type of credibility that a CID certification would offer.
“I was looking for some way to validate what I did,” she says. “This town was full of designers and I knew a lot of them and did not want to step on any toes. I knew I had talent and a passion for decorating and I thought I needed credentials to be taken seriously. Being certified has given me a lot of the same advantages that designers have had all along. I have come to realize, especially since HGTV—my favorite pastime—that there are great decorators out there just like me who just happen to be lucky enough to have talent,” says Lewis.
“My clients chose me particularly over an interior designer because of my versatility,” Lewis continues. “I can redesign your room with your own furniture and accessories. I can and have designed and built three houses of my own and overseen the designing of several homes in our area. I love color, and have worked with clients who only wanted input on that. I incorporate antiques or flea market finds in the accessories of most homes I’ve done. I show clients how they can have the look of a lot of money, but without an exorbitant budget. I will work with my client in any way to help them achieve the warmth and coziness they want in their homes.”
The Future of CID
Consumers are also pleased after working with CID-certified decorators. This shouldn’t be surprising, as Renner envisioned CID as a benefit not only to the certified decorators, but also to the clients they serve as well.
“CID is everything if you’re going to be a decorator,” says Renner. “Based on the responses I’m getting, it seems we are becoming the consumer’s choice. I hear this all the time, that decorators find that CID is really a plus point for them. We’re doing a good service and for me that’s rewarding.”
Today, CID counts more than 5,000 decorators among its members, and is growing quickly, according to Renner. In the future, Renner envisions various CID chapters around the country to provide networking opportunities for members.
“Integrity and professionalism are what we stand for. Savvy consumers are looking for certification and expertise. We’re raising the bar and raising the standard, and giving credibility to decorators. We are self-governed and self-regulated, opting not to be state-regulated. We will go to bat for our members,” says Renner.
As its membership continues to grow, so, too, will the business end of CID
“We’re still short of help right now, but we’re working on building our trade situation. I am building a board of directors and we’ll continue with the educational part of CID,” says Renner.
For more information about CID, please visit www.cidinternational.org or www.certifiedinteriordecorators.com.
Stephanie Mannino is a freelance writer and published author living in Hoboken, New Jersey.