Barack Obama

Reason.tv: Throw-Pillow Fight—Is your interior designer really putting your life at risk?

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Should moving a throw pillow get you fined or jailed?

With all the artistry and attitude, it's no wonder design shows are so much fun. But are the people on those shows putting your life, and even the president's life, at risk?

Natasha Lima-Younts can't see how she's putting anyone's life at risk. She's been an interior designer for more than 20 years. She started her own business, and hired dozens of employees. She has an extensive portfolio and magazine features about her work. What she doesn't have is a state license. That doesn't bother Yount's client Angie Stoeker, who loves what Younts has done with her home, but it does bother those who push for licensing laws.

Alabama politicians once threatened unlicensed designers with jail time-moving a throw pillow could get you a year behind bars-and 22 states plus the District of Columbia regulate interior designers. Industry groups lobby for such laws because they say unlicensed designers put lives at risk. "Every decision an interior designer makes affects the health, safety, and, welfare of the public," says the the American Society of Interior Designers. Another group implies that "confusing floor patterns" and other items installed by unlicensed interior designers cause 11,000 deaths per year.

Reason.tv's Nick Gillespie went looking for dead bodies, and for an explanation for why the state of Florida launched a legal case against Younts. State regulators demand that she obtain a license, a license she says she doesn't need, a license that could cost her six years and hundreds of thousands of dollars.

Do licensing laws protect consumers from death and destruction or, as the Interior Design Protection Council argues, do they protect licensed designers from competition? Should Younts be stripped of the career it took her decades to build? Should President Obama be worried about his interior designer, the unlicensed Michael Smith? Jump into the throw-pillow fight and decide for yourself.

"Throw-Pillow Fight" is written and produced by Ted Balaker. Director of photography is Roger Richards.

Go here for iPod and HD versions, related links, and to embed this video at your website.

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  1. The president used an unlicensed designer?

    I voted for a conspirator to commit unlicensed design?

  2. I remember reading about this. It's one of those things where you just think about the fact that somebody actually said once, "Interior designers should need to be licensed by the state" and that person wasn't punched in the throat and laughed at by everyone in the room.

  3. Another group implies that "confusing floor patterns" and other items installed by unlicensed interior designers cause 11,000 deaths per year.

    Is that mythical number greater or less that the mythical anorexia death number from a few years ago?

  4. This is what licensing is all about: limiting competition for the benefit of the vendors who call for the licenses.

    -jcr

  5. Industry desired and state imposed entry barriers are clearly in the best interest of the public. That evil woman probably also tears off the tags!!!

    I fear the people here are unlicensed journalists. I may be reading information and ideas that are harmful to my delicate person. Could you guys go get licensed so I can be assured by the state that I am getting quality information and ideas.

    If she needs money for her defense she should hold an unlicensed lingerie pillow fight. Or better yet get licensed and then start a nude interior decoration segment of her business.

  6. Her room looks very cluttered.

  7. I guess if I don't hire a licensed interior designer by default I am designing my interior myself...and I don't have a license.

  8. Prepare to die tragically, jester. You may have a confusing floor pattern just waiting to pounce.

  9. I walked into an open door last night. Now I have a big welt on my forehead. A licensed designer could have prevented this.

  10. "unlicensed interior designers cause 11,000 deaths per year"

    These mass murderers don't need a license - they need to be hanged.

  11. I walked into an open door last night. Now I have a big welt on my forehead.

    Imagine the carnage if it had been closed!

  12. Are licensed designers exepmted from liability from pillow fight injuries or deaths, in rooms they designed?

  13. "Prepare to die tragically, jester. You may have a confusing floor pattern just waiting to pounce."

    Or you may sustain a critical toe injury due to a living room that is unnavigable at lower light levels. The pain from this injury would be a direct cause of you kicking the dog. The abuse of the dog would spur your significant other to awake, discovering your canine abuse. This abuse would anger said significant other, rightfully so. Thus causing an argument to ensue. Said argument would escalate to physical violence culminating in you shooting your significant other with an assault weapon. Landing you in jail. Where you would receive subpar medical care for your critically injured toe. This subpar medical attention would miss the forming blood clot that would later work its way to your heart ending your life with a myocardial infarction.

    See? All because you didn't use a licensed interior decorator.

  14. I know this was posted this morning but it has to be an April Foold Hangover Joke.

    11,000 deaths per year from floor pattern calamities is ridiculous.
    This statement right here is bogus: "Every decision an interior designer makes affects the health, safety, and, welfare of the public,"
    And why would obtaining a license cost her six years and hundreds of thousands of dollars? Even licenses for real jobs don't cost that much.

  15. hmm, that whole scenario sounds like season two of CSI:Miami.

  16. Jester, you fool!!! Mischief is clearly afoot in your domicle! This could happen to you!

  17. you may sustain a critical toe injury due to a living room that is unnavigable at lower light

    That happened to me three days ago and I'm still limping, but it had more to do with the half-gallon of cheap wine I drank than the ambient light. Can I sue the designers anyway?

  18. Nick,

    And why would obtaining a license cost her six years and hundreds of thousands of dollars?

    I took the context to mean that she has built a business over the years, demonstrated financial success and will lose all of that (including future income) if she has to stop operating.

  19. ed,

    The lesson there is to drink in direct ambient light, not indirect.

  20. 11,000 deaths is ridiculous. Nonetheless, I still think all professions should be licensed. The public wants this as a way to ensure that they are getting the quality of service they are paying for.

  21. Wasn't this an episode of Lou Grant, except with plumbers instead of decorators?

  22. Tom,

    The public? Or interior designers who are licensed? And if it is the public, why did they not ask for her credentials?

  23. The public wants this as a way to ensure that they are getting the quality of service they are paying for.

    Brava Tom, Brava!

  24. Poor lighting is more likely the result of the new light bulbs everyone is supposed to buy.

    I imagine it now takes 24 hrs to bake a cake in an easy-bake oven.

    And how many people are killed a year by licensed-designer-placed trompe-l'oeuil?

  25. We won't truly be safe until all the interior designers are in a union. No one wants to get trampled at home now do we?

  26. That comment hurts my head, Tom. Did the state ok you to comment here? I'm pretty sure you don't have a valid license to be on the internet.

  27. Poor lighting is more likely the result of the new light bulbs everyone is supposed to buy.

    What? You replaced the original lighting with bulbs of a different design, without consulting a licensed designer?

    The entire public is in danger because of your selfish actions!

  28. licensing per se is not a bad thing. It provides an almost heuristic means of evaluating the abilities of those you seek to contract with. It allows for what should be a collective evaluation using more sources than could easily be scrutinized by the contracting party. The fact licenses create entry barriers is also not intrinsically a bad thing. This should in practice raise the level of competence of the entire pool. The problems arise when the state gets involved making such licenses mandatory and criminal to ignore. By doing so the state removes the means of a large portion of new information in the form of competition from entering the pool and allows the rules of licensure to be manipulated for the sole purpose of protecting current licensees. It's one of those slippery slopes that creeps toward involvement with the state with time and once the state is involved the risks outweigh the benefits.

    Plus I might use a fuchsia throw pillow with a teal couch in attempt to bring back the days of Miami Vice. T

  29. My only issue with liscenced interior designers is that they are hesitant to arrange in accordance with the illegal floor plans I routinly draw up. They are also generally much less inclined to help me instal the contraban and illegal material that papers the walls of my apartment...

    ...What a joke. People are so blatently greedy when they can't rely on their own tallent and hard work.

  30. The ironic thing is, that being forced to close her successful business by government regs threatens the collapse of the galactic economy. The Obama will be on tv in an hour calling for a bipartisan response.

    Congress will begin printing another gadzillion for the bailout (no time to read the bill - JUST SPEND).

  31. Congress will begin printing another gadzillion for the bailout (no time to read the bill - JUST SPEND).

    By this time next year I can illegally paper my condo walls with money cheaper than fancy wall papers!

  32. Jesus Christ, Xeones. Don't give them any ideas!

  33. If it was something fair, like a simple IQ test, I could think of worst things than an internet commenting license. Then it would be your choice to read the licensed comments (90% here) or unlicensed drivel (100% YouTube and IMDb.)

  34. The tards are the internet have value. Just like watching a dog chasing its tail has value. The value is just harder to quantify and tends to deteriorate quickly.

  35. The public wants this as a way to ensure that they are getting the quality of service they are paying for.

    As a member of the genuinely licensed profession of law, let me assure you - licensing is no guarantee of quality.

  36. But SugarFree, wouldn't most of us dodge the licensing process, just on principle? I mean, i'm a genius, but i'd do so.

  37. wouldn't most of us dodge the licensing process, just on principle?

    And thereby proving you don't need licensing, which automatically grants you a license.

  38. And thereby proving you don't need licensing, which automatically grants you a license.

    Oh, i see what you did there.

  39. I'll reluctantly go along with these kinds of licensing but only after all aspiring elected officials get licensed first. Perhaps a graduate level test on the history of the United States, economics, Constitutional law,
    military strategy, science, and philosphy? Those passing all sections then are permitted to seek election. Any estimates on how many of our 535 distinguished gentlemen and women in Congress could pass it today?

  40. Any estimates on how many of our 535 distinguished gentlemen and women in Congress could pass it today?

    I'd say at least 500 of them, due to rampant cheating.

  41. So if any deaths can be discerned to be caused by the floorplans of licensed designers, will we revoke their licenses and hold them accountable? No?! That's ridiculous, you say!?

  42. creech,

    Cheating dude. Hell, when I was taking ECO 101 3/4 of the class were cheating on what I thought was the easiest shit on earth. "More of one thing means less of another dammit! Just use that logic and you'll pass with an A!"

  43. Reinmoose,

    Fruedian slip, there perhaps? Skeletons in your closet?

  44. Naga -
    huh?

  45. Reinmoose,

    I was making the assumption you were an unlicensed interior designer and your comments were akin to a guilty confession of having killed people with your confusing set up.

  46. You were accusing me of being an interior designer?!

    I can take the insinuation that I might indirectly kill people, but interior designer!?

    I challenge you to a duel, sir.

  47. *smacks Naga Sadow across the face*

  48. Every knows the point of licensing is revenue. Well that and some politician had a bad experience and thought "If this guy were licensed, I could have his license revoked and get back at him."

  49. Reinmoose,

    In the words of my forebearers . . . IT IS ON!!!

    The meadow at noon sir! Have your second consult my second!

    *leaves in a huff*

  50. Reinmoose,

    Just be aware he didn't show up for our duel. I was waiting for him at dawn like specified. I suspect he has no honor at all.

  51. SugarFree, give me that cane of yours

  52. SugarFree, you dolt! At noon! Noon! I'm not getting up at 5:00 am! Plus no sun in anyone's eyes at noon.

  53. [passes Reinmoose un-blood-splattered cane]

  54. It seems to me that if we are going to do all this BS licensing crap we should make politicians get licenses to run (or ruin if you like) our country. After all, couldn't THEY do more harm than an interior designer? Shouldn't THEY get licenses so we could be assured of quality? (assuming that licensing assured quality)

  55. FrBunny,

    I think many of the folks who would be commenting are listening to Matt on the G. Gordon Liddy show right now.

  56. jpocali,

    Shouldn't THEY get licenses so we could be assured of quality?

    I doubt most politicians could pass an interior design licensing test.

  57. SugarFree,

    Cane or no cane, I shall smite him in true Melanthus style.

  58. But Reinmoose is one of the Heracleidae. You don't stand a chance. maybe you'll get lucky, Zeus will rape you, and you can get turned into a thousand-eyed peacock by Hera before the duel.

  59. LOL. According to CQRID, New Jersey passed the licensing law for interior designers in 2002. That's right, with all the problems America faced back then, our leaders in Trenton were making the state safe for draperies. I was on the fense about incorporating my own business, but this is making me lean more towards taking the plunge.

  60. Smite or no smite, after a good caning I'm going to employ a method I saw in a performance once where a dude killed another dude by sticking his cane all the way down the guy's throat. I know you think your experience will help you, but have you ever had to swallow a 3' long wood?

  61. SugarFree,

    Zeus would totally back me up. He would think Reinmoose was unworthy of his heritage if I got him with the "Holy shit! What's that behind you!" trick. Then again, if it didn't work from time to time it would never be tried. Xanthus should have know to never turn your back to an enemy.

  62. Hmmmm....I should create an Underwriters Lab of blog posters. Test for proper their/there/they're and lose/loose knowledge and general IQ. If you pass, you get a little logo that appears next to your name on blogs that support my testing procedure. Same blogs could then allow filtering based on this.

  63. Reinmoose,

    Performance? What the fuck!?!? Do you have some sorta unlicensed geriatric gladiator contest going on in your local retirement home/coloseum?

  64. but have you ever had to swallow a 3' long wood

    Yes. But he wasn't proud of it and it was just that one summer at camp.

  65. You pinky swore you'd never tell!

  66. it was Jekyll and Hyde, I believe.

  67. Reinmoose,

    Now I'm suspecting you of running an unlicensed geriatric fight club! Unlicensed! The shame!

  68. I tried, Naga, but I can't get a single one of them to give up their licenses!

  69. Sadly Reinmoose, we aren't quite there as a society. It's a shame really. There's no movie about geriatric fighters . . . but there is a script! Link.

    *shakes head*

  70. Not to get all semantics on the conversation, but are we really talking about interior design, or interior decoration? The two are often confused. For example, the "Top Design" show on Bravo is really doing interior decoration, not REALLY design. A friend who does interior design professionally (licensed with a degree and all) is basically doing some design and some architecture. It includes things like building non-structural walls and fixed furniture.

    I agree that licensing an interior decorator is retarded. Anybody should be able to charge money to recommend throw pillows.

    But when it comes to building walls and installing doors and so forth, the unfortunate truth is that there are usually federal, state, and local regulations to contend with. OSHA, ADA, fire marshall stuff, etc. The licensed design guys should theoretically know how to navigate all that. *

    Licensing decorators where the worst you'll do is waste money on something ugly is as retarded as licensing hairdressers. As long as the only considerations are aesthetic, it's a no brainer.

    But when you're dealing with spending $50k and a couple of months on construction, only to find out that some bureaucrat/inspector is going to require $25k in modifications to meet regulations and codes, it becomes a different argument altogether.

    *standard libertarian disclaimers about regulatory cost and so forth apply.

  71. No one expects the American Society of Interior Designers!

  72. "Another group implies that "confusing floor patterns" and other items installed by unlicensed interior designers cause 11,000 deaths per year."

    Are those the jackasses that laid out Ikea?

  73. Hmmmm....I should create an Underwriters Lab of blog posters. Test for proper their/there/they're and lose/loose knowledge and general IQ. If you pass, you get a little logo that appears next to your name on blogs that support my testing procedure. Same blogs could then allow filtering based on this.

    Quarterly factory/bloggery audits too?

  74. Thank you to lunchstealer for pointing out the very important (and often overlooked) difference between designers and decorators! I'm an interior design student and get exasperated when I tell people what I'm going to school for and they automatically assume I'm just going to be picking out paint colors, furnishings, and throw pillows.

    Although that can be (and frequently is) one aspect of the profession, there are also many codes and considerations that need to be accounted for when doing space-planning and dealing with the placement of fixtures and selection of materials. And there is a BIG difference between residential interior design and commercial/retail/hospitality interior design!

  75. 2:40 in the clip is hilarious.

  76. licensing per se is not a bad thing. It provides an almost heuristic means of evaluating the abilities of those you seek to contract with.

    That's certification you're thinking of, not licensing. If some private organization wants to hang out a shingle and say "we think this vendor is OK", I have no issue with that. If the government says "we'll only let you deal with vendors we approve of", that's an attack on our freedom.

    -jcr

  77. That woman at 1:56 is so full of shit, it's leaking out of her scalp.

    I'd like to see Penn & Teller give an episode of their show to this licensing racket.

    -jcr

  78. Man, Reason never seems to get tired of the fun to be had by confusing interior designers with interior decorators. Yeah, I know y'all are opposed to any and all government licensing, for practicing gum surgery, driving a tandem truck, whatever, but nothing beats the HAW HAW GUBMINT IS VENAL AND FUNNY like basing a rant on H'n'R every few months that interior designers simply color-coordinate drapes and furniture.

  79. Laugh all you people want, but the reality is that licensure for interior designers is a good idea. Especially as it relates to commercial properties. You see, an interior decorator is wonderful for color and texture selection, but if you need a person qualified to interpret blueprints, ensure fire and electrical code, you MIGHT want to hire a professional. The dealth-by-lousy-design is a reality, as people have died from unlicensed "decorators" placing furniture in front of fire escapes and over-loading electrical circuits. I used to be a strict libertarian, until I realized most have become as idiotic as the republicans and democrats when it comes to making choices based on reality, instead of political ideology. All I am saying is, base your views on your own experiences and what you feel is right and quit looking for the talking points put out by your political party.

  80. I saw a few responses questioning the "6 years and hunudreds of thousands of dollars" it would take her to get licensed. I am guessing she's referring to the fact that a college degree, in addition to 2 years of experience, would be required before sitting in on the 2-day exam. I do find this a little excessive, since I am an engineer, and my test was only 8 hours, but I digress. The only thing I can think of for costing hundreds of thousands of dollars would be the lost revenue, while she went back to school. An unlicensed designer in a residential setting is probably okay, but when it comes to government contracts or public buildings, it only makes sense to hire a professional, if for no other reason to eliminate lawsuits and ensure quality. I know libertarians hate to admit that, on occassion, government intervention actually helps people. If only people would do what is right in the first place, we wouldn't need a government at all!

  81. "An unlicensed designer in a residential setting is probably okay, but when it comes to government contracts or public buildings, it only makes sense to hire a professional, if for no other reason to eliminate lawsuits and ensure quality."

    Your reasoning is backwards. One would assume that those who build commercial and government structures are repeat players who have better information concerning the quality of potential interior designers. Because those purchasers of design services are knowledgeable, the license carries little informative value. If anything, one would expect the license to provide more information in a residential setting, where the individual purchaser has much less experience evaluating prospective designers.

    Of course, the hidden assumption here is that there is some relationship between having the license and quality of work. I doubt that to be the case and I don't know by what metric to evaluate the claim's truth. The real question is whether men with guns should be able to tell me who I can and cannot hire for a job without first demonstrating that there are real health and safety consequences that will flow that my decision.

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  83. Unbelievable. This is about the craziest thing I've ever heard. Does that now make me complicit in committing a crime because I order my Designer Pillows from DecoratorsBest and not from some government-license issued designer? Stop the world. I want to get off.

  84. Interior designers should need to be licensed

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