Ellen Cheever, CMKBD, ASID, CAPS, CLIPP, a major force in the residential design world for more a half-century, died unexpectedly February 13 at her home in Wilmington, Delaware. She was 72.
A designer, author, educator and mentor, Cheever was an influential figure in the 1980s in her role as Director of Educational Services for the National Kitchen & Bath Association, and as a Certified Master Kitchen & Bath Designer (CMKBD) and principal of Ellen Cheever & Associates. In 2018, She donated the body of her professional work to the Virginia Tech Apparel, Housing and Resource Management department, titled, “The Ellen Cheever Kitchen & Bath Collection 1971-2018.” The library is housed within the Virginia Tech Center for Real Life Design, on the campus in Blacksburg, Virginia.
"The industry has lost a great icon,” said Suzie Williford, executive vice president and chief strategy officer of the NKBA. “Long before ‘influencer’ was a term tossed around so easily, Ellen had tremendous impact on our industry, as an educator, an author, and for her exceptional legacy to the Virginia Tech residential design program. She was an outstanding contributor to NKBA, writing the technical manuals that serve as the foundation for the industry standards in kitchen and bath design. She was inducted into the K&B Hall of Fame in 1992. More than that, she was a role model for aspiring young professionals and a dear friend.”
Cheever first gained national recognition in the Seventies and Eighties when she published several textbooks and conducted training programs across the U.S. and internationally. She also held positions as Design Director of Heritage Custom Cabinetry and St. Charles Cabinetry. Her focus from 2000 onward was leading her private consulting business based in Wilmington. In 2017, Cheever was named to the inaugural KBDN Innovator 50 list, which honors the kitchen and bath industry’s most innovative dealers, designers and leaders. Additionally, she was brought into the KBDN staff as a presenter/consultant to develop a dealer seminar series originally sponsored by Plain & Fancy Custom Cabinetry.
“Ellen was an inspiration to generations of young designers, through her work at Virginia Tech, her contributions to NKBA and the many books she authored,” said Bill Darcy, CEO of the NKBA. “We were honored to have established the Ellen Cheever Student Certification Scholarship as a tribute to her vast contributions to the industry in 2019, granting students in NKBA Affiliated Schools scholarships to help them along their journey to become certified designers.”
“Ellen Cheever played such a critical part in the establishment and success of Virginia Tech’s program in kitchen and bath design,” Dr. Julia Beamish, head of the Virginia Tech Apparel, Housing and Resource Management department. “In 1989, she conferred the endorsement of our program from the NKBA and we have been involved and affiliated with the industry since then… We will miss her energy, support of excellence and the influence Ellen held as a teacher and a designer to us and our students.”
She is survived by her husband, Pietro “Pete” Giorgi, CMKBD, and his family. She also worked in the family’s Giorgi Kitchens & Designs in Wilmington, a K&B design and build firm, which was founded in 1960.