From the April/May 2015 Issue:

Maria Stapperfenne: Designer, Teacher, Encourager

    By: Ren Miller |

The first New Jersey resident to become president of NKBA looks forward to the next year

Article Photo
enlarge | NKBA President Maria Stapperfenne and Design NJ Editor Ren Miller at KBI
The heart of the nation’s center for kitchen and bathroom design, education and certification — the National Kitchen & Bath Association — is now under the enthusiastic care of Maria Stapperfenne of Tewksbury Kitchens & Baths in Oldwick. Stapperfenne, a certified kitchen designer and certified bath designer, is the first New Jersey resident to ascend to the NKBA presidency.

She shared her vision for her one-year term during an interview at KBIS, the Kitchen & Bath Industry Show, which was held in Las Vegas in January as part of Design & Construction Week. KBIS, held in conjunction with the International Builders’ Show sponsored by the National Association of Home Builders and several other shows, has thrown aside the pall that had settled during the recession and was a positive sign for the future of kitchen and bath design — and credentialed designers.

Stapperfenne says that will be a focus of her tenure as president. In addition to carrying out the NKBA Board of Directors’ initiatives, she wants to promote the value and benefits of certification, both to designers and homeowners. She’s particularly excited about NKBA U (a platform for kitchen and bath professionals to continue their professional development) and NKBA Voices from the Industry (a conference series that addresses topics relevant to today’s kitchen and bath professionals and their clients). “We now offer members the same level of education that Fortune 500 companies offer,” she says.

Not only is education important to Stapperfenne, a former music teacher. So is giving back. In fact that’s what paved the way to her presidency in the first place. “My parents taught my brother and I to volunteer, to have balance in our lives and to give back,” she says. “So after I entered the industry, I showed up at an NKBA chapter meeting and started to learn. That also allowed me the opportunity to network with trade professionals, who generously shared information with me. Then I started to attend board meetings and offered to help where I could.” Her volunteerism led to committee work, presidency of the NKBA North Jersey chapter and service on the NKBA Board of Directors. She eventually threw her hat into the ring for the national presidency. However, she asked the directors not to select her if her skills were already represented on the executive committee; she wanted the position only if she could bring something in addition to the existing skills.

They decided Stapperfenne, indeed, did offer needed skills, and earlier this year she took the reins as president. “I’m such a lucky girl with such a great NKBA staff,” Stapperfenne says. “I was nervous at first, but 2009 NKBA President Suzie Williford took me by the shoulders and said to just have fun. I decided to wear that advice like a dress.” That was evident as she made her way through the lobby of the Las Vegas Convention Center, the site of this year’s KBIS, as she happily chatted with strangers who stopped to wish her well — and as she took the opportunity to encourage a handful of noncertified kitchen and bath designers to begin the path to certification, always with encouragement rather than admonishment.

And what skills did the NKBA directors see in Stapperfenne that won their confidence? In addition to her design and organizational skills, perhaps her closing remark sheds some light. “I’ve read that the best executives bend down to lift people up,” she says. “I see that quality in the people I admire, and that’s what I want to do. Good karma comes from that.”