Ellen Cheever, an icon in the kitchen and bath industry as a leader, designer and educator, has donated her life’s work entitled, “The Ellen Cheever Kitchen & Bath Collection 1971-2018” to the Virginia Tech Center for Real Life Design in Blacksburg, VA. Cheever, a valuable contributor to Kitchen & Bath Design News over the decades as both the instructor of major design seminars and through her columns and Designer’s Notebook series in the magazine, was honored recently at the opening of the Cheever Design Library within the center.
Many prominent attendees were on hand to celebrate the design library’s dedication on November 1. During a presentation titled, “Reflections of a Career in Kitchen and Bath Design,” Cheever chronicled five decades of design styles as well as her career successes and challenges.
Eliot Sefrin, founding editor and publisher emeritus of KBDN, also presented Cheever with a bound volume of all of the designer’s written contributions to the magazine over her illustrious career.
As part of the celebration, an exhibit of her work created by Dr. Kathleen Parrott in the Wallace Hall Gallery showcased early-published works by Cheever as well as a series of posters highlighting her industry contributions and career challenges over the past 48 years.
Cheever, a Certified Master Kitchen & Bath Designer (CMKBD) and principal of Ellen Cheever & Associates in Wilmington, DE became an influential figure in the kitchen and bath industry in the 1970s and ’80s, serving as director of Educational Services for the National Kitchen and Bath Association and authoring several design textbooks. She was inducted into the NKBA Hall of Fame in 1992. From 2000 onward, she traveled the country, speaking and educating designers about all aspects of design.
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. She continues to consult with manufacturers in the kitchen and bath industry, and work with her husband Pietro Giorgi, CMKBD, at their design business Giorgi Kitchens & Designs in Wilmington.
The Cheever Design Library within the Center was also designed by Cheever, and will house the department’s historical files as well as the Cheever collection of publications and resources spanning her 48-year career in the kitchen and bath industry. The library space itself features products provided by leading industry firms including Plain & Fancy Cabinetry, Corian Quartz Surfaces and Hafele America Decorative Hardware and LED lighting system.
The collection contains her career overview, supported by 11 binders, each brimming with materials about the kitchen and bath industry over the past 50 years. All of her original consumer and trade publication columns are included, as well as each of the original editions of textbooks — 20 years’ worth of the CEU-approved full day, as well as her one-hour, in-person and online programming — have been digitized. Included in the collection are samples of her business papers and personal journals.
The Center offers students and professionals a laboratory for exploring residential design and technologies that address the demands of families and consumers. The center includes six operational kitchens, representing various price levels, product selections and space designs. The kitchens also reflect the diversity of today’s households and include features that accommodate young children, older adults and people with disabilities.
“I hope my experiences, both personal and professional, will help someone reading my story or studying these materials be better prepared for their professional life ahead,” said Cheever. “With all of life’s ups and downs, I learned from many great people over my career and this is my way of giving back.”
A reception completed the day-long series of events with Cheever and Dr. Julia Beamish, head of the Virginia Tech Apparel, Housing and Resource Management department, cutting a ribbon in front of the new library space during a reception in the Center for Real Life Design, housed in Wallace Hall.