“Examination for an Interior Design License,” by Barton Aronson

Dec 5th, 2012 | By | Category: Fake Nonfiction, Prose

“Successful completion of the [National Counsel of Interior Design Qualification] examination leads to the respected NCIDQ Certificate, the credential of choice for interior designers.”

—NCIDQ website

You have one hour to complete the following exam.

1. Your best friend asks what you think of her new yellow couch. Which of the following is not an appropriate response?

A) Pointing out that, as a licensed interior designer, you can’t comment until you receive a retainer.
B) Pointing out that the color is “goldenrod,” not yellow.
C) Pointing out that the piece is a “sofa,” not a couch.
D) Pointing out that it is late, and you must be going.

2. Rank the following colors in descending order of price:

A) navy
B) powder blue
C) periwinkle
D) cerulean

3. Following an expensive lunch for which you paid, a friend of yours declines to hire you, saying that she’s planning on “decorating” herself. When she’s done, she invites you to her open house. You:

A) Don’t attend, because you’ll inevitably be asked for your opinions, and your status as a license professional would require you to respond with honest, authoritative ridicule.
B) Don’t attend, because—having reviewed the history of your relationship up to this point—it is now apparent that your “friend” is, in fact, a horrible bitch.
C) Attend, and accidentally spill your plastic cup of white wine all over the gluten free cupcakes.
D) Attend, leave the water running in the bathroom sink with the drain stopped and the door locked behind you, and depart furtively through the back yard.

4. An hour after your client’s new chaise arrives in pristine condition, her 16 year-old daughter stubs out a cigarette on its arm. Your client asks you to tell the delivery company the chaise arrived damaged. Which two of the following responses are permissible?

A) Decline, and explain that state law forbids you from lying about the chaise’s condition.
B) Decline, and suggest that the daughter, whose trust fund exceeds your net worth by a factor of six, pay for a replacement.
C) Agree, in exchange for the exclusive right to decorate the daughter’s room at her next boarding school/rehabilitation center.

5. Jonquil or Saffron?

6. Under state law, interior designer fees must be:

A) The cost of materials, plus a markup no greater than 25%.
B) An hourly rate, agreed to in writing prior to the commencement of work.
C) Variable, according to each client’s class ambitions and net worth (to the extent determinable in publicly available documents).

7. Your client requests that the sitting area off the kitchen be “slimming.” Appropriate responses include which two of the following:

A) Painting the walls in vertical stripes.
B) Repurposing the crystal candy bowls as cigarette holders.
C) Gently suggesting your client could do without the confectioner’s oven.
D) Replacing the sofa in the sitting area with a pommel horse.

8. Despite the express terms of your contract, the client insists on referring to you as a “decorator.” You:

A) Say nothing, because you are at peace with the knowledge that you are a highly trained licensed professional.
B) Say nothing, but discretely add $250 to her bill in “expenses” every time she does so.
C) Say nothing, satisfied that the retro diner furnishings you miraculously “found” for the client’s breakfast room (total charge: $7,575.00) have in fact been in your aunt’s storage facility since 1962.

9. Write an essay on the history of tattersall (500 words or less). Use three swatches.

10. Your contract calls for a water feature in the great room. Which two of the following are appropriate?

A) A small boy peeing continuously into a wading pool.
B) A statue of a small boy peeing continuously into a wading pool.
C) An original signed poster of the Kevin Costner movie “Waterworld.”
D) A bidet.

11. Sconces. Explain.

12. Your client asks you for a fee quote for updating the kitchen and mudroom in her ski chalet in Aspen. Calculate the quote, using any three of the following four numbers. Show your work.

A) 17 (the number of years by which your client is younger than you)
B) 1 (the number of ski chalets in Aspen more than you your client has)
C) 3 (the number of second homes more than you your client has)
D) $135,000,000.00 (the reported gross box office of the last movie your client directed)

13. Your client’s husband called you the “fabric lady” one too many times. Write your lawyer’s closing argument for your trial on assault charges.


Barton Aronson grew up in Los Angeles, lives outside of Washington, DC, and works in sight of New York, but reserves some of his fondest memories for the night in 1988 he spent in WaKeeney, Kansas (pop. 1,862)—good people, friendly service, and really, really great fried chicken livers.

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