My Interior Design Facebook Group is full of burning questions from homeowners, and I love nothing more than jumping into the comments section and offering my advice based on my experience in interior design. The latest question – “Where should the microwave go?”
This is a fantastic question because it opens up a HUGE conversation about how our human behavior is changing, and therefore making interior design evolve to suit our needs.
In this post about microwave placement in the kitchen, someone asked whether putting a microwave over the stove is out of style. And the short answer is yes! This microwave positioning isn’t functional anymore, and that’s only the beginning of the story. It’s not out of style because it’s “ugly” or “unsightly”, it’s because there are better ways of doing things now to improve efficiency.
I’m sure if you’re reading this you can agree to wanting more efficiency in life! And this is how trends are driven – by human behavior, functionality, outside influences, and things going on around us – to improve the way we work within our environments.
You may have noticed that range hoods have gained huge popularity, and that is largely due to the need for better functioning ventilation over the cooktop. Microwaves with vents for cooktops beneath them, simply don’t offer the same functionality that a proper hood vent does. Range hoods are more efficient and are better customized to cooking needs.
And if that’s not enough, range hoods extend further out which captures more exhaust and cooking odors, whereas microwave vent units can be limited on this front. If the microwave is placed above the cooktop, the reach is at its highest level than other microwave placement options in the kitchen which makes food prone to spiling.
While this may not be a problem for some, it can be an issue for the older generations. Specifically, seniors because bone density decreases as we age, and more strength is needed to do the same tasks which isn’t always feasible. (This could lead to dropping a bowl of soup for example, and scalding oneself).
Hence, the need for alternative microwave locations in the kitchen! And options that are suitable for all sorts of people – seniors included.
So now that we know why the hood has replaced the microwave, let’s dive into where the microwave can go instead and weigh up the pros and cons.
I explained above that the reach for a microwave needs to be considered, and so even a microwave placed in an upper cabinet (not shown) is better than over a stove because the reach trajectory is better. In fact, it’s actually slightly lower than when mounted over the range.
This isn’t my favorite location for a microwave, but it’s still a lesser evil than over the range.
The microwave is off the countertop and not taking up valuable cooking preparation space.
It can be harder to reach, especially for kids and the older generation.
Another option is the microwave drawer. It brings it to a workable level and is great for an ADA compliant space, as well as a home with kids who can use the microwave.
This is an integrated appliance that operates in a similar way to a standard kitchen drawer.
Easy to access.
Can often have a smaller capacity
Watch out for flush handles to avoid catching clothing on them
Microwaves can also be placed in a cabinet, either under the countertop, or at arm level. This has many of the same advantages as a microwave drawer but with more capacity.
I’ve also designed kitchens where I place them at an intermediate height built into a pantry wall (see images above). This allows for easy forward reach without strain either way. Even in small kitchens, I have done this and it’s been a great solution.
Easy to reach
Need to coordinate with the cabinet company
Not easy to integrate into an existing kitchen
The Pantry Solution
Some people prefer to place a freestanding microwave unit on the countertop! Which is where most microwaves started when they first came out, and is still an option today.
I’ve actually just had a client request this in their kitchen, and so we did it. It’s not my go-to, but it is workable.
For larger homes that do lots of gourmet cooking, the microwave may not be used as much, so putting it in a separate pantry (or even scullery) is also a good place to keep it.
Completely out of sight
You need to go into another space to access it
Where is the Best Microwave Placement for Me?
The above options may have sparked some interesting thoughts for you, and made you question, “but which microwave location is best for me?”
This depends on lots of things!
Firstly, think about how often you use the microwave, who uses it, and where you currently have it placed. Does this location work for you? If not, why? It could be too high, too low, or too far away for the amount you use it, for example.
Also, it’s worth considering what size your kitchen is and which microwave location would be most appropriate, while taking into account the answers to the aforementioned questions.
The right microwave placement for you should work for you! And your family. Focus on what will function well for you all and you can’t go wrong.