Counterintuitive: Microwaves Don’t Need to be an Eyesore

In most kitchens, the initial plan involves the placement of the sink, range and refrigerator. Microwave placement options tend to be an afterthought, and while it shouldn’t take precedence over the major components, it does need some early consideration.

The majority of kitchens have microwaves, but they are usually used for reheating or defrosting only. Since kitchens are primarily for cooking (not reheating), the best option for your over-the-range space is a hood only, vented to the exterior. A hood will give you more space around the range, capture more smoke, steam and grease, and allow for more open backsplash area. Even if you are unable to vent to the outside, a hood is still a preferred option both functionally and aesthetically.

So back to the microwave.

I recommend looking for the smallest one you can get by with, making sure it has a turntable for even heating. There are three main types of microwaves: 

  • Countertop
  • Over-the-range (more on this later)
  • Built-in. 

They vary in cost, in that order as well, plus there are additional installation costs for the last two.  In this post, I will focus on specific benefits and features of a countertop style microwave and discuss a few methods for microwave placement options.

Microwave Placement Option #1: Below The Counter

An increasingly popular location is below the counter, and my preferred method is to put a countertop microwave into a finished opening. The cabinet can be customized to accommodate a variety of sizes, and if the microwave ever needs replacing there will be more flexibility in finding a suitable replacement. This can be made to look almost like a built-in.

Here’s an example with a drawer above and below and a matching piece of trim framing the microwave:

Microwaves fitted below the counter are an increasingly popular option for saving counter and cabinet space. We absolutely love the above example.

Microwave Placement Option # 2: Above The Counter

If you don’t want to reach below the counter, but also don’t want to see the microwave, it can be placed inside a tilt-up (or top hinge) wall cabinet. You will need to find a fairly compact microwave, and the cabinet needs to be a little deeper than normal to accommodate it. The door can stay open while in use, without being in the way like a hinged door would be. This type of cabinet is more often used in modern kitchens, but can also work in a traditional style.

The cabinets to the left and right of the stove hood open vertically for full access to any type of microwave.

Microwave Placement Option #3: On The Counter

This is not as bad as it sounds. When planning a new kitchen, most homeowners are looking to gain as much counter space as possible, even though there are areas in the kitchen that will likely see little use and mostly collect clutter (ex: near doorways, walkways or in corners)

In these places a countertop microwave may actually be a reasonable option. Searching for countertop microwave ideas? I would recommend something small, and ideally having an interesting design as featured in the image below.

This “half-pint” microwave is stylish, sleek, and fully-functioning. A great option for easy access and adding a pop of color or personality to a cramped kitchen.

Where Should A Microwave Never Go?

A microwave should never go above the range. By placing your microwave over the range you are potentially decreasing your home’s air quality. And as discussed in our article “Remodel an Environmentally Friendly House: HVAC Edition,” good air quality is key for the health and wellbeing of all who live there. 

Read more about the importance of a range hood and why a microwave range hood is a bad idea HERE.

Explore Your Options

Since there are so many variables even in countertop microwaves, contact the Bluestem team to help you sort through all the options to make your space the best it can be.

To get more microwave placement ideas and see photos for inspiration, visit Bluestem’s portfolio.

Looking for tips to avoid the horror stories and have a better remodeling experience? Sign up for our free Homeowners Guide to Successful Remodeling!