Kitchen Clarity Adventures in Kitchen and Bath Design

Practical Microwaves

09.29.2010 · Posted in Kitchens

If you’ve been following this blog for a while, you’ll know I have a thing about microwaves. Especially microwaves placed in the kitchen so that they accidentally become a focal point. Like this one, beautifully centered in the cabinet, with no visible landing space in reach:

Design Urban Nature, photo via Desire to Inspire

I think they are useful, alright, I just don’t think they are that beautiful. I know I’m obsessive, especially when you consider all the other appliances we have to fit into kitchens these days – steam ovens, speed ovens, warming drawers, built in espresso machines… I should just get over it. To that end, I thought I’d share a few photos with microwaves that are in the right places. Think of it as talk therapy, for me.

Here the microwave  is between the refrigerator and the sink. That’s a spot that makes a lot of sense, creating a snack and breakfast work area that’s convenient, yet separate from the main clean up and cooking zones.  The only worry I would have here is the height – the bottom of the microwave should be no higher than the user’s armpit for safety (the rules say the center of the chest – I think the armpit is more memorable). This would be fine for a tall family, but as the microwave is usually the first cooking appliance that children start to use for themselves, it’s worth thinking about how yours will work out when those rug rats you currently have are making popcorn for the entire fourth grade!

Microwave - between refrigerator and sink

Here’s another example – you can just see that microwave on the right hand side. I really like to put the microwave on a shelf like this -  no major rejigging required should it fail and have to be replaced. Just make sure it has the required clearance for air circulation, of course:

Design Molly Frey via House of Turquoise

Design Molly Frey via House of Turquoise

Here’s another great place to put your microwave – just above counter height, sideways in the corner. It’s tidy, it’s unobtrusive, and it’s easy to reach – of course you can’t really keep a big utensil jar right in front of it like this, or if you do you’ll have to keep moving it! This particular example is better suited to a one cook kitchen – more convenient as an additional tool for a busy chef than a separate snack station for the kids.

Kipps Bay Showhouse Kitchen - Karen Williams

Another similar placement (below) – definitely more space there for the breakfast work-station. Again, you have to consider the height of the users – many times it is better to bring the sides of that corner cabinet down to the counter, to make the microwave easier for smaller people to reach:

Staithe House via 1st Option

Of course, whether on the counter or at cabinet height,  this only works in right-handed corners – in the other orientation the controls would be hard to see, and get at, and you’d have to reach around the microwave door to remove your heated foods, definitely not a good thing.  Not a good thing in the example below, either, where the microwave door, though at the perfect height, would always be between the user’s body and the available landing space on the counter:

Joanna Simpe via seenandsaid

Wouldn’t it be nice if manufacturers would give us the choice of left or right swinging doors for our microwaves? Anybody listening?

While we’re on the subject, click here for the ugliest microwave location I have ever posted, and here is an earlier post with my absolute favorite outside the box solution – demonstrating, I think,  that I am not alone in this obsession.

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10 Responses to “Practical Microwaves”

  1. Aw Saxon, you’re so kind. Most times all it requires is some thought at the planning stage – though with tiny apartment kitchens the choices can be very limited, I’ll admit.

  2. This is a pet peeve of mine, Sarah: I just moved into my apartment in Brooklyn and it has that open shelf right in the middle of everything with gaping holes on each side of it (and worse yet, the sticky control panel on the front is already peeling off after a few months). God I wish more people had access to talent like you and the others I know from #Blogger19. The world would be such a better (and aesthetically more pleasing) place!

  3. Hi Julie – I really like the idea of MW drawers too. So far, clients are slow to bite – are they catching on for you?

  4. Hi Bob – I’ve done plenty under the counter for the same reasons – but the controls are really not designed to be seen and used at that height, are they? Except for the kids, of course. Controls on the top of the door, like incognito dishwashers, maybe?

  5. This is a great post – thanks. For us, the major consideration is almost always the mounting height. We are putting more and more of traditional microwaves in the island below the counter top. Good for kids and Mom’s (who aren’t 6’4″).

    It might just be the result of mounting our upper cabinets 24″ above the counter, but the idea of pulling down a bowl of liquid magma queso at face level or even higher sounds like a bad idea.

  6. I like the idea of microwave drawers. No worries about the swing, and they can be safely tucked below island countertops.
    Julie Warner recently posted..Refrigerators- freezers will use 25 less energy- DOE saysMy ComLuv Profile

  7. Hi Kelly – thanks! You are right, it must just not be profitable enough to make ‘em swing both ways. It would make our lives easier though, wouldn’t it?

  8. Good post. I think most of those microwaves are dangerously high in the photos, but maybe all the homeowners are 6’4″. ;-)

    We’ve been asking for reversible doors for years — the manufacturers keep saying it’s too costly (for the cost of them, I doubt anyone’s making a great deal of money manufacturing microwaves( I’ve also heard that there’s not enough demand but I have a sneaking suspicion they really don’t want to deal with returns for the wrong swing. What do you think?
    Kelly recently posted..Design Help- The 5-foot RuleMy ComLuv Profile

  9. Good point on reversible doors – I hadn’t thought of that. Also, that post on the ugliest microwave in the world made me laugh – it’s not even centered over that stove!!!
    Becky / @ecomod recently posted..Guest post on Building MoxieMy ComLuv Profile