Raise island height for a higher microwave shelf?

ILoveCookieApril 9, 2014

The best place for our microwave seems to be in the island. We decide to put it on a shelf under the countertop. The microwave we want is 14.25" high, and requires 2" clearance on the top. The control panel is on the right side, and the hinge is on the left side.

So if the island countertop is 36" high and the countertop material is 1" thick, the top of the microwave shelf will be 18.75" above the floor. I think that's a bit too low for easy access.

If we raise the island (or just the microwave shelf section of the island) to say 42" high, the microwave shelf will be about 24" above the floor, which sounds much more ergonomic.

Has anyone raised their island height to accommodate a microwave shelf? I wonder if it will look very weird? Our island will be long and skinny (about 6'-7' long, 26" deep). Here is the thread that discusses the layout of my kitchen.

Layout Sanity Check

We did consider getting a microwave drawer, but decided against it because we don't like to wait for the door to auto open/close, plus it will be more difficult to replace later on than a regular microwave.

Your thoughts will be highly appreciated. Below are the dimensions of the microwave we want to get.

Edit to add:

Here is a picture of our current kitchen. The microwave will be in the tall section of the existing island, facing the existing sink, either on the left side (close to oven) or on the right side (close to fridge). The microwave will be the only appliance in the island.

This post was edited by ILoveCookie on Wed, Apr 9, 14 at 12:05

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sjhockeyfan325

but decided against it because we don't like to wait for the door to auto open/close,

Just pointing out that you do not have to use the auto button on a drawer microwave - you can open and close it manually, just like any other microwave.

Raising the entire island to 42" would make the island fairly useless for most people.

    Bookmark   April 9, 2014 at 12:08PM
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ILoveCookie

"You can open and close it manually, just like any other microwave."

We tried the Sharp one in the store. It seems we can pull the handle to start the opening process, and the motor will complete the opening process. Our impression is, if we force the drawer to open, the motor will be damaged. Anyway, the unit seems a bit delicate (or fragile?) to us, and husband doesn't want to deal with replacing it later.

"Raising the entire island to 42" would make the island fairly useless for most people."

That's a very good point.

Maybe we could raise the island to 38" instead? Or just raise part of the island to 42" for the microwave shelf, and keep the rest of the island at 36" high?

We expect to use this microwave quite often, for steaming veggies and reheating. So I am trying to figure out the most sensible way of incorporating it into the island.

    Bookmark   April 9, 2014 at 2:34PM
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robynstamps

We are putting a microwave in our island in our new build and are doing the regular 36" height. I think if the island was any higher it would look and feel awkward. We are going with the Sharp drawer model. I know someone who has had it for almost 2 years and love it. You do not have to use the button.

Good luck!
Robyn

    Bookmark   April 9, 2014 at 2:40PM
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nycbluedevil

For what it's worth, we have a speed oven installed below counter. Really no different from a regular microwave except that the door opens down rather than from the side. My husband is 6'4' and he has no problem bending down to open the oven.

Unless you are very tall, a 38" counter will likely be unworkable. Take a few cutting boards and stack them and then try to prep on that space for a while. You will not be happy if you are not really tall. And if you care about resale, it could be an issue if a buyer is not tall.

You could do a taller portion of the island but you will likely really complicate the design of your island and maybe of the whole kitchen.

    Bookmark   April 9, 2014 at 4:12PM
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debrak2008

Our island is 37.5" and our perimeter is 36". I was worried about this and even asked about it on GW.

We don't notice it at all. I am 5' 5".

    Bookmark   April 9, 2014 at 5:57PM
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sjhockeyfan325

My friends moved into a condo with (unnoticed by them until they moved in) counters that are about 38" and they both hate it. I'm guessing they're 5'5 and 5'10" respectively.

    Bookmark   April 9, 2014 at 6:39PM
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fishymom

The new microwave drawers can be pulled open and pushed close manually or you can use the button. The microwave drawers they had on display at the stores we looked at were older models and the open/close mechanism was completely different from what is on the new models. As far as raising the counter, I think that you would regret it in the long run.

    Bookmark   April 9, 2014 at 7:22PM
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andreak100

Personally, I wouldn't want my island to be higher. I'm 5'3" and for me, making the countertop higher would be inconvenient to work at. I had actually wondered about dropping it just a bit because at my height, if I'm using a thick cutting board, it starts to get a bit high. So, I guess part of it depends on your height and if you are planning on remaining in the home for a long period of time.

I'm certain that 42" would be too high. For me 38" would still be pushing it quite a bit.

    Bookmark   April 9, 2014 at 7:51PM
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ILoveCookie

Thank you all for your thoughts!

Husband and I are not tall (5'8", 5'2"). Our current island is 35", and we find it okay. We are going to heed your advice by not going higher than what we have.

In the meantime, we did a quick drawing with a raised microwave shelf in part of the island. The raised area is 42" and the rest is 35". Not quite sure if it looks weird or not... What do you think?

Thank you!

    Bookmark   April 10, 2014 at 11:19AM
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sjhockeyfan325

My suggestion would be to put the microwave on a slightly lowered shelf next to the fridge and keep the island all one height.

    Bookmark   April 10, 2014 at 11:44AM
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andreak100

Hmmm, not really loving that look...most here don't do the two level island - right now, it's considered looking a little dated. And I can't tell for certain, but is your island an L shape? If so, and you're thinking of elevating the MW, what about making the one leg of the L all elevated and make that a seating area on the side opposite of the MW.

Or can you make the one end cabinet to the left of the range a tall cabinet and put the MW there - conceal it if you don't want it to show or leave it open, possibly get a built-in kit if you like those (I don't so much)...whichever works better for you.

    Bookmark   April 10, 2014 at 11:52AM
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ILoveCookie

Thank you again for your thoughts!

andreak100 - Our KD thinks the island should be one long rectangle (parallel to sink run), while husband thinks it might be good to add a short leg to form an "L". I could elevate the short log to the same level as the microwave. Will try tonight. :)

Husband likes to have the microwave close to the fridge, so I think it has to be in the island, or to the left of the fridge.

Now I am thinking maybe we should move the dishwasher to the island, put the microwave on the countertop to the left of the fridge inside a shelf (like the picture attached below), and have some dish drawers under the microwave where the dishwasher was. I am going to try this layout tonight. :)

    Bookmark   April 10, 2014 at 12:29PM
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ILoveNaptime

How committed are you to the microwave you chose? A shorter one with less required clearance on top might allow you to position the shelf high enough for comfort. I have a microwave on a shelf about 21.5" off the floor. We use it a lot and it doesn't bother us. I'm 5'6" and my husband's a couple of inches taller.

    Bookmark   April 10, 2014 at 12:32PM
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andreak100

One thing to consider with the MW directly beside the fridge is that you may not have a convenient landing spot for things you get in and out of the fridge unless your island is coming over close enough...it's hard to tell with the elevation images instead of a birdseye view. But, make certain you have a good landing area for the fridge...our island end is almost directly in front of the fridge and it functions well for getting things out and pouring drinks, but if it were off from lining up with the fridge opening, it would be much less convenient.

    Bookmark   April 10, 2014 at 12:42PM
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greenhaven

I am totally voting for a shorter cab to the left of the fridge to accommodate a microwave shelf there. There would be a landing place right beneath and close to the fridge like DH likes.

I think the look that you shared in that photo above is a good one for your kitchen, minus the lower appliance. (Two MW's?)

    Bookmark   April 10, 2014 at 12:46PM
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ILoveCookie

`How committed are you to the microwave you chose? A shorter one with less required clearance on top might allow you to position the shelf high enough for comfort."

I think we are quite committed to the chosen microwave. But since we haven't ordered it yet, we can still change our mind (the chance is slim though).

The chosen microwave is quite deep (20.25"), and requires 2" clearance in the back, so the shelf will probably need to have the full cabinet depth, i.e., flush with the base cabinets.

Will that defeat the purpose of having an elevated shelf with a landing area beneath? I imagine we will have to reach under the shelf to set down a plate or bowl?

    Bookmark   April 10, 2014 at 1:04PM
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gabbythecat

You could put the MW next to the fridge and put a drawer underneath to "finish off" the space between the MW and counter. If your MW wasn't quite as deep, you could have room for a narrow (but usable) landing space in front. At any rate, that gives you a MW with *nearby* landing space, at a height that will be convenient for you/dh and most other people. We have that design and really like it.

    Bookmark   April 10, 2014 at 2:12PM
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annkh_nd

I've never used a MW under the counter, but it seems to me that it would be inconvenient. Folks here who have them say I'm wrong! I would rather go with a MW drawer, but I would have trouble spending that much on a MW.

I think a MW shelf next to the fridge would crowd the sink.

Looking at your plans - will you have room to open the fridge door next to that wall?

    Bookmark   April 10, 2014 at 2:29PM
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AJinNH

I had many concerns about getting a microwave drawer, one of them included the auto open and close mechanism that you mention. After much deliberation over alternate scenarios, we finally settled on a Sharp MW drawer that you can open manually as well. We love it! I now wish that I hadn't wasted so much time worrying about it. And, surprisingly, I use the auto open/close much more often than I thought I would. There's really not much wait time, and you learn how to take advantage of the second or two it takes.

Good luck with your decision. I know how even the smallest thing looms large because you expect to live with it for a long time. Let us know what you choose. And, I agree with the others that recommend against raising the height of the island.

    Bookmark   April 10, 2014 at 2:48PM
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sjhockeyfan325

My only problem with the microwave drawer is that I still don't know how to do anything except timed cook!

    Bookmark   April 10, 2014 at 3:03PM
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ILoveCookie

annkh - The fridge door does hit the wall on the right side. Our KD suggests that we move the fridge over to the left by a few inches to solve that problem.

Right now, there is about 37"-38" between the fridge and the outer trim of the window, and the 30" sink is centered on the 60" window (including trim).

If we steal 6" out of the 37"-38" for the fridge, we will still have enough wall space for a microwave shelf next to the fridge, and there will be about 15" (maybe 2"-3" more) of countertop between the sink and the microwave shelf.

Since the sink is centered on the window, my nose is / will be staring at the center brace of the window. It doesn't bother me, but I wonder, what if we shift the sink to the left side by 15", towards the range wall, and center it on the left pane of the window? Then we could gain 15" on the right side of the sink.

AJinNH - Yes, I totally get what you mean...I cannot believe a microwave could get so complicated!

This post was edited by ILoveCookie on Thu, Apr 10, 14 at 15:18

    Bookmark   April 10, 2014 at 3:05PM
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ILoveCookie

I just realized I posted my updated drawing for the microwave placement in a different thread of mine: Layout Sanity Check I am going to attach the updated drawing here too, so it's easy to track down the before and after.

The changes I made include: put the microwave shelf next to the fridge, moved sink towards range, and put dishwasher in the island. There is about 6" gap between fridge and the wall on the right side (I still need to add a narrow cab there), and the microwave shelf can be either 30" or 33" wide.

In my other thread, sjhockeyfan pointed out that it's better for the dishwasher to stay next to the sink so the water from rinsed dishes doesn't drip on the floor.

annkh pointed out that the microwave placement next to the fridge crowds the window and sink. (I think it might have something to do with not having wall cabinets on the other side of the window? I am going to play around more tonight with the layout.)

With wall cabinets added to the left side of the window:

    Bookmark   April 16, 2014 at 6:09PM
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ILoveCookie

I started a new thread to discuss my new layout. I thought I should add a link to it:

Ditch Kitchen Island?

Thank you again, everyone, for helping me figure out these difficult kitchen planning issues!

    Bookmark   April 18, 2014 at 9:02AM
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