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Counterintuitive: Microwaves Don’t Need to be an Eyesore


In most kitchens, the initial plan involves the placement of the sink, range and refrigerator. The microwave placement tends 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 re-heating 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 and built-in. They range in cost in that order as well, plus added 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.

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.

countertop microwave set in lower cabinetry

Microwaves fitted below the counter are an increasingly popular option for saving counter and cabinet space. Here’s one of our favorite examples.

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. 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.

On the Counter

This is not as bad is 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; near doorways, walkways or in corners. In these places a countertop microwave may actually be a reasonable option. In this case I would again recommend something small and ideally having an interesting design.

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.

Explore your Options

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


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Mike Lotz Kitchen Designer Cabinetry Specialist Photo

Mike Lotz

Kitchen Designer
Cabinetry Specialist
Phone: (952) 926-0164
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