It’s James Deakin versus licensed interior designers this time

The TV host offended some designers for working with an unlicensed decorator and then asking:

The TV host offended some designers for working with an unlicensed decorator and then asking: ‘Do you really require a license or law for choosing fabrics, colors, and furniture?

Sometimes, there comes a necessary—if a little aggressive—conversation that shines a spotlight on a long brewing issue. Social media has certainly accelerated how we’ve pushed certain topics to the fore. 

The hot topic issue of the coming week—James Deakin being called out for working with a “decorator” instead of a licensed interior designer. He is certainly not the first person to do that, but as one of the more famous personalities, many designers felt it was an affront and an endorsement to hire non-licensed interior decorators.  

On Sunday, Oct. 4,  the TV host on Facebook defended his decision to work with YouTube vlogger Elle Uy, who has recently rounded up her followers to 700,000 strong, on his place.

Elle is not a licensed interior decorator, but is well known on YouTube and in social media for her budget decorating tips. 

James’ first post was of him sharing a photo of his living area, where he shared that Elle was helping him choose the valance for his curtains.

A poster, who shared Deakin’s post, but whose name has been blurred, reposted this post with this caption: “When someone like James Deakin promotes unlicensed practitioners, we should do something about it.”

Another one also wrote about how this “blatantly disregards the profession,” coming from a long line of what they perceive as attacks due to publications publishing DIY stories of home renovations this quarantine and how this can come off as saying that interior designers are not essential. One post ends with, “Our collective voices need to be heard. There is a law for interior design. RA 10350.”

RA 10350 is an act to regulate and modernize the practice of interior design in the country. 

This irked Deakins enough that he shared the posts and then gave a lengthy reply: 

“So I’ve just been called out in an interior design group by a licensed interior designer who demands something be done about me using an unlicensed decorator to help me arrange my furniture and hang prints on the wall…. This is targeted toward my decorator, a very popular online personality Elle Uy, who has been doing budget makeovers on her YouTube channel and presumably stealing all the love away from this person and her exclusive circle of entitlement.”

He continued: “The licensed designer waxed sentimental about the years of study she has done and pontificates about how these backyard internet decorators have no business telling people where to put their sofa or what colors they should choose, and feels very strongly that they should be called out.  She also cites the law, RA 10350, and wields it like a weapon to protect this sacred space that only people who have studied for can enjoy and share with others—for a price.”

Deakins then praised unlicensed “backyard, internet decorators”:

“To all those backyard, internet decorators that have popped up like every other content creator, home baker, host, musician etc. that has had to pivot, thank you. Thank you for pursuing your dream and giving customers who cannot afford  (or who just want something different) an inexpensive option to dress up or maximize our personal or work spaces—especially now that they have become even more precious due to social distancing and lack of public options.”

He further lashed out at the poster, saying it was “unbecoming” for an industry that prides itself in class and taste, and dispenses a reminder that times have changed: “But don’t get me wrong, I do understand how this may have affected you; but you also have to understand that times have changed. The internet has leveled the playing field and democratized this space just as it has done with, well, everything really. Not sure why you feel exempted by this disruption.”

He shared that designers shouldn’t feel territorial because it’s the talent that counts. “Cream always floats to the top. If you’re good enough, and you market yourself half as well as these YouTubers or bloggers like Elle Uy, you too will get your clients. I know this because Elle turns down far more work than she accepts. So it’s not a question of shortage. There’s plenty for everyone—or at least anyone that is willing to go out there and take it.”

But what really inflamed many other designers was this paragraph: “Now I get it if we were taking about architectural, structural, medical, health, financial, or any of the other sciences that require some form of license to develop and maintain standards for. But do you really require a license or law for choosing fabrics, colors, and furniture? That’s not a rhetorical question; I’m genuinely asking. I have great respect for your profession and the talent and schooling that go into it, but the way I see it, so long as you’re not signing off on construction plans or other building engineering concerns, this is purely a subjective and cosmetic service.”

He also jumped to the defense of his chosen decorator: “Insulting the decorator publicly and calling for mob support for her removal simply because she lacks a piece of paper that you have is as insulting to to her and anyone else who appreciates her work. If you are so hung up on accreditation, she has been accredited by 700,000 followers on her YouTube channel.”

The comments section was a mix of support and condemnation for Deakins. Some said that the poster was just sourgraping, while many interior decorators were up in arms over what they perceive is Deakins’ demeaning their profession.

“I just hope hundreds to thousands of interior design graduates around the country who spent four to six years of training about the technical aspects of designing interiors and about to take next year’s licensure exam won’t be discouraged upon reading this counter argument of James Deakin and all the hate from the comments section,” says one commenter.

“Why don’t you ask the Professional Regulations Commission why they require licensa sa ID Services if it’s just choosing fabrics or furniture. You are all missing the point here,” says another.

But there are many supporters, too—most of whom are not licensed designers and who have found decorating their hobby. “Is it the ‘unlicensed’ decorators’ fault that their taste and design are more preferred than those who are licensed? Is that even illegal?” chimes one in support of Deakin.

“As a licensed interior designer, this post and all comments made me sad,” another comment says. “This is very hurtful on our part, especially those comments that belittle the amount of time we spend on studying, on drawing, on memorizing every building code to make sure that every design we implement is safe and will better the lives of our clients. It is not entitlement, we are just protecting the hard work we built through the years from all these people who don’t see our value.” 

Many interior decorators who shared Deakins’ post are lamenting that this “degrades” the profession. One questions whether a fourth attempt at taking the PRC exam will be worth it considering this perspective on interior designers. 

James Deakin ends his lengthy tirade with a reminder about how talent trumps degree, and how gatekeepers in the industry should set their biases aside: 

“Forgive me for this lengthy piece. I normally wouldn’t even react because it doesn’t affect me or my industry. But the mindset does. It affects all of us. Especially those who have been forced to leave their comfort zones and join new industries, only to have the gatekeepers dictate whether they are worthy or not. Put that in your RA 10350.”

Read Deakins’ lengthy FB post here: 





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