Sarah Robertson and Mary Maney have more than a few notable things in common. So do Henrietta Heisler, Emily Miller – and a slew of other topflight kitchen and bath design professionals who’ve captured the national spotlight thus far in 2023.
Each of those women, among their other commonalities, were among the 30+ individuals honored for their design talents and industry contributions at the National Kitchen & Bath Association’s annual Design + Industry Awards event, conducted in conjunction with the recent Kitchen and Bath Industry Show.
Robertson, AKBD, founder and principal of the Mamaroneck NY-based boutique design firm Studio Dearborn, and Maney, CKBD, of Crystal Kitchen + Bath in Minneapolis, were winners of the “Best Overall Kitchen” and “Best Overall Bath,” respectively, in the NKBA’s 2023 Kitchen & Bath Design Competition. Heisler, ASID, director of design for Lancaster, PA-based Henrietta Heisler Interiors, won first place in the contest’s category of “People’s Pick Kitchen,” while Miller, a CKD at Kitchen and Bath Concepts in Pittsburgh, captured the top award for the “People’s Pick Bath.”
But Robertson, Maney, Heisler and Miller have more in common than simply their design acumen, professional appellations and KBIS-related accolades.
All four women, along with a lengthy roster of other design-contest winners – including recent competitions sponsored by Kitchen & Bath Design News and major industry corporations – are also symbolic of an impressive, and ever-growing, vanguard of accomplished female designers, educators, authors, association officials and business leaders who are leaving an indelible imprint on today’s kitchen and bath industry.
Women, of course, long ago shattered the metaphoric “glass ceiling” in a kitchen and bath industry that once was decidedly male-dominated and drew both its design and executive talent primarily from the ranks of general contractors, home builders, cabinet shop owners and construction-industry tradesmen such as carpenters and plumbers.
In vivid contrast to its early years, however, today’s kitchen and bath industry is seemingly being fueled not so much by men as by the passion, instincts, intellect and talent of a burgeoning generation of youthful, energetic women – many of whom, unlike their male forebears, have entered the kitchen and bath trade armed with a college degree, specialized training and a distinct interior-design bent.
Women, increasingly, have proffered their talents in breaking new ground, setting new standards, establishing best practices and helping elevate the kitchen and bath industry into what is clearly the crown jewel of the nation’s residential construction trade – a sophisticated, vibrant, fashion-driven entity that combines glamour and high-tech with personal taste and cutting-edge design.
But while women have long been front and center in the kitchen and bath industry, both their presence and their impact have never been more pronounced – nor worthy of our attention – than they are in the wake of the recent “Women to Women Mentoring Conference,” a two-day networking, mentoring and social event aimed at bringing women together to learn, connect and assume increased leadership roles in the kitchen and bath trade.
Conceived by NKBA Executive Vice President Suzie Williford, the inaugural W2W Conference was aimed as an intimate gathering that encouraged honest and substantive dialogue about the personal stories, career achievements, challenges and goals faced by women on all levels of the kitchen and bath industry. Attendees of the two-day Louisville, KY event shared illuminating and inspiring personal stories, and spoke openly about setting goals, building careers, overcoming obstacles, finding inspiration, fulfilling dreams, avoiding burnout and establishing a healthy work-life balance.
It’s gratifying to see talented kitchen and bath designers like Sarah Robertson, Mary Maney, Henrietta Heisler and Emily Miller garner the accolades they deserve through major design competitions. It’s equally gratifying to see enlightened initiatives like the NKBA’s W2W Conference cast a spotlight on the issues faced by women.
What’s most gratifying of all, however, is to see women increasingly assume their rightful place as the movers and shakers who make today’s kitchen and bath industry what it is. ▪