Kitchen Clarity Adventures in Kitchen and Bath Design

Microwave location – under the counter

06.21.2010 · Posted in Kitchens

You are probably already aware of my obsession with microwaves, and where they should be placed in the kitchen, I’ve certainly posted plenty on the subject (here and here, for instance). I’ve been thinking that perhaps my obsession started because there is just so much choice when it comes to microwave location – from front and center as a microwave/vent combo over the range, to tucked behind a door in the pantry, and just about everywhere between – you don’t get that sort of choice with any other appliance that I can think of.

One location I haven’t covered yet is under the counter – a longtime favorite of microwave-phobics like me:

Sandra Howie and Hardrock Construction via Houzz

via House of Turquoise blog

via featureroom.com

Of course, this is not really a perfect solution (if it were I wouldn’t need to be obsessed). Regular microwaves are just not designed to be used at below-the-waist height – you have to stoop to operate the controls, and you can’t easily see what is going on in the oven, either.

The industry has tried to solve some of the problems with the drawer-microwave. The first to reach these shores several years ago was by Sharp, and they are currently available from Sharp, Viking, Wolf, Dacor, and probably others that I’m not aware of.

Sharp Microwave Drawer

An early complaint was that the drawers were too shallow – you could not put a 20 oz take-out coffee cup in to re-heat, as you can with the latest generation. Still, the capacity is not huge, at about 1.1 cubic feet in a 24″ w x 15.75″ h x 24.5″ deep space. A 30″ wide option, like the Wolf below, can work nicely stacked in a column with an oven, putting both the controls and the drawer itself at a comfortable height for the operator:

Wolf Microwave Drawer

As far as I can see, the problem of difficult to see and operate controls is not really solved when the appliance is tucked under a countertop overhang, they are at least higher up than on a conventional microwave, and accessibility for seeing and stirring dishes in drawer is much improved.  I don’t know if anybody has tried putting the controls on the top of the drawer pullout, as they do in an “incognito” dishwasher.  An angled panel sounds like a possible solution, but this appliance from Sharp demonstrates just how dificult it would be to make that look really good:

via homewerkssa.com

On this evidence, I think I’ll just have to continue to be obsessed…

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7 Responses to “Microwave location – under the counter”

  1. Hi Joseph – a separate microwave counter is so great – you are lucky that you have space for it. I like to use something like that to create a place where kids can prepare their own snacks and breakfasts, without getting into the main cooking zone. WHen space allows, of course!

  2. That’s good to know, thanks Julie. I doubt that my obsession will be cured that easily. Things have become more difficult now that everybody suddenly wants/needs a huge micro/convection oven instead of the tiny little counter-top microwaves that were easy to tuck in to a corner.

  3. So much depends on your height, doesn’t it? Under a taller counter is great if your kitchen can take it, I like that solution

  4. It’s been about twelve years since I built a “temporary” microwave counter for our kitchen. When I finally do remodel the kitchen, it will be replaced with a permanent microwave counter. It is actually an addition to the kitchen itself, a counter on the other side of the room, so it works well for us. It’s a standard 36” high, and the microwave sits on top of it. We’re happy with it. Actually, we were equally happy with the microwave over the oven in the place we rented before we bought our home, so that may be why we’re fine with a microwave on a countertop! But, as I say, both locations work well for us, and as we are childless the microwave over the oven was never a hazard of any kind. I do like the idea of the microwave in a drawer, but they’re much too small inside. If that’s all the choices available, we will stick with what we have. We just use it for reheating items, but we do like the convenience of it.

  5. I love following your microwave-placement obsession. Sharp increased the capacity of its microwave drawer recently from 1 cu ft to 1.2. I think your suggestions for integrated design are spot on. Would that solve your obsession?

  6. My personal favorite m/w location – as a 5’2″ tall user – is under a 42″ bar height counter. That was in a previous home. I found that installation was a perfect balance between minimizing a relatively ugly appliance versus keeping it easily accessible.

    I now have one that is 36″ AFF – I like it pretty well also. It’s a much prettier microwave though (combo speedcook) so I don’t mind having it at eye height.