Kitchen remodel microwave angst- Help!

aandesmomMarch 24, 2013

I have been reading posts on the forum for a while but have just joined and am posting for the first time. We moved into our charming 1929 tudor this past summer. It was a big downsize for us and are remodeling the kitchen. We are using a kitchen designer who we like very much but I am unhappy with one aspect of the remodel. I should say we have a pretty small kitchen (about 13x19) with limited wall space because of multiple door openings (door to garage, door to dining room, door to back hall and glass sliders-soon to be french doors- to patio/backyard). The bottom line is the dreaded microwave placement. I cook and bake a lot and our last home had high end double ovens, a five burner gas cooktop and built in fridge. We use the micro for defrosting and heating up some things (we have two teenagers) but I don't use it for cooking much and we have always had a simple spacemaker which has gotten the job done. Our original plan was to have Bosch double electric wall ovens, a Thermador five burner gas cooktop, an LG french door fridge and again, a spacemaker microwave. We ended up redoing the entire floorplan as the total came close to 70k (too much for this little house). In order to drop the total price, we are going with simple painted cabinets rather than the glazed we originally chose, downgraded the level of cabinetry and are now going with the GE Cafe gas double oven range and the GE Cafe convection microwave over the range. I am sad, but resigned to the small cooktop (30") and small/large oven arrangement, but I hate the micro over the range. We had originally planned a beautiful hood over the cooktop but there just isn't any wall space for the microwave and this seemed like the only viable option. I feel like it's a low end look and, while functional, spoils the entire entire esthetic of the kitchen. Also, I had chosen a beautiful feature tile for the backsplash behind the cooktop I can no longer use because I only have 22" from the range to the bottom of the micro. I know I sound like whiny- and I am sorry about that- I don't mean to be- I just hate the thought of spending 45k and not being completely happy with the kitchen when it is done. We debated endlessly about putting a drawer micro in the island, but we would lose so much cabinet space and the reviews are not great) it just didn't seem like a great solution. Does anyone have any thoughts regarding other options for the microwave we haven't considered? Any thoughts are greatly appreciated!

Thank you for reporting this comment. Undo

When I remodeled the microwave was placed on a shelf under the peninsula, with a deep drawer beneath. I really like this. Shelf is wider than the microwave I have now - use the extra space to keep wax paper and hot pads.

Did this because I dislike the look of the spacesaver units and plan to someday have a great vented-out hood.

You don't sound whiny.

I have a four drawer steel file cabinet close by in the garage, use it to store seldom used things like pressure cooker and 4 qt. crockpot. IF you have room for a file cabinet, you'll be gaining 'cabinet space'.

Please let us know what you decide.

p.s. one fun thing about having the microwave lower, little kid friends are seeing one operate for the first time.

    Bookmark   March 25, 2013 at 9:03AM
Thank you for reporting this comment. Undo

I hope you are not too offended, but I think you do sound a little whiny to be honest, maybe spoiled is what is though because it sounds like you used to have amazing kitchen. My kitchen is 19 x 14" and there are people who think it is big. It is probably a standard size kitchen with roughly a 9 x9 or 10 x 10 cabinet section and an eating area. Our neighborhood is considered middle class. Sounds like you might have OVER down-sized without considering that you can't have your old kitchen in a smaller house.

It does not look "low end" to have the micro over the stove. Low end is not having the micro built in AT ALL and having it on a cart or the counter. Low end often has no eating area and definitely no island or peninsula. You could be way worse off.

French doors will cost you floor space unless they open outwards. Will your teens be leaving for college? You won't cook as much as often if they are gone so you should be ok with less burners.

I admit I have envy for the beautiful kitchens with cabinets to spare and gorgeous hoods, but you will be fine...really you will.
Get an amazing backsplash anyway, you just won't be able to have the feature behind the stove.

Are your cabinets a LOT of $? I have read that kitchen designers can have great prices on cabinets, and I have seen where they are WAY overpriced...Maybe if you spend less you won't mind the downsize as much.

I hope you can learn to love it. If you pick the right colors and finishes the rest shouldn't bother you in the long run. Good luck

    Bookmark   March 25, 2013 at 5:26PM
Thank you for reporting this comment. Undo

I don't think you sound whiny. I think you are realistic in what you had and what is possible in the constraints of the new space.

I currently have a small microwave under the counter in the island. No fancy trim kit, just under the counter in a niche. I have also seen folks put them in a pantry closet, or broom closet space.

It sounds as though your cooking style is a lot like mine. The microwave is a "melter", a "leftover reheater" a "coffee warmer" and a "plate warmer".

We are considering downsizing, and I will regret leaving my wonderful family kitchen. And we have a pretty good idea how large our future, smaller kitchen will be. So I can relate to what you are going through.

Do you have a drawer stack somewhere in the kitchen that you might prefer to have a top drawer, and then a microwave niche, and then a bottom drawer?

And I agree with Rosie to put the crock pot and roasting pan in the garage, to make room for the microwave where you want it.

Have you looked at "Kitchen Design with Cooking In Mind"? Its a book written by a chef and kitchen designer that is a great resource to help figure out what is function vs what is just decoration. Just google it.

I also suggest looking at Houzz for city kitchens in NYC. Many have clever placement of appliances.

    Bookmark   March 25, 2013 at 7:00PM
Thank you for reporting this comment. Undo

If the OP's kitchen is similar in size to mine, and is an eat-in kitchen, there really is not going to be drawer or cabinet space she will want to give up to put the micro. There may be, if she has a floor to ceiling pantry, instead of the sliding door pantry like I have. If there is somewhere convenient to store staples then maybe she can give up a few drawers. I just doubt it because being a cook she likely has a lot of "stuff" to put in her cabinets and drawers. My house has the basement stairs right next to the kitchen. That is where I could build shelves to hold extra food (cereal boxes, snacks etc) and bulky appliances. Still trying to get hubby to agree it's a good idea.

I think it is more practical just to put the micro up above the range, where it isn't costing real usable space but just the sacrifice of a decorative hood. She'll have to weigh functionality of not giving up storage against the aesthetics she is sacrificing.

    Bookmark   March 25, 2013 at 8:07PM
Thank you for reporting this comment. Undo

Not to stir the pot, but I stand by my answer, which includes the strong suggestion to study kitchen design with cooking in mind. That will help evaluate the best utilization for where to store items in the kitchen based on frequency of use and importance. Not just by their size, or where they have always been kept.

Just because someone has a lot of "stuff" that is used in the kitchen from time to time does not mean that this "stuff" should be kept in the kitchen. This book recommends keeping items used once or twice a year in the basement or garage.

Which goes back to what Rosie was suggesting.

Once the homeowner evaluates how things are used in her kitchen, it may even turn out that a microwave on the counter is functionally a better configuration overall than a microhood. (or it may not)

And you are most certainly entitled to your point of view that a microhood is the best for function given the space under discussion.

I do disagree about saying someone is spoiled when their opinion or first choice differs from yours. There is not just one right answer to these choices.

    Bookmark   March 25, 2013 at 8:56PM
Thank you for reporting this comment. Undo

I don't think you sound whiny, and I agree that over-the-counter microwaves can bring down the space a bit. And they're oftentimes not used for things other than simple reheating and defrosting. I'll give you an example. My house has a small kitchen (actually small, not like yours: approximately 8.5' x 14'). When I bought it 2.5 years ago, the prior owners replaced the kitchen. Unfortunately, they had ordered the materials already so I didn't have much say. I lived with it for about 2 years and then switched out some of the appliances, added a wall unit/counter, new backsplash, and, relevant here, ditched the OTC microwave.

The main problem with the OTC microwave is that it takes up so much visual and actual space. There is not enough cooking headroom and really even space for them, in my opinion, and they almost always have inadequate or overly loud fans (sometimes even unducted). So I replaced it with a modestly priced professional-looking stainless hood and bought a small Whirlpool microwave others on these boards have used too (WMC20005YD) and put it into one of the 18" pantry cabinets in my new wall unit (after having an electrician wire an outlet to it). I don't regret it at all. My kitchen looks far better than it did, and for not a lot of money.

Your $70K seems high. Thermador is expensive, but the rest of what you've mentioned isn't too pricey. Your costs must be buried somewhere else. I'd get a second quote on the cabinets or go with a different brand, especially if you're just going for a painted finish.

Anyhow, here's an example of why I think you're on the right track:



This post was edited by KevinMP on Mon, Mar 25, 13 at 21:48

    Bookmark   March 25, 2013 at 9:46PM
Thank you for reporting this comment. Undo

That sure is a teeny microwave!

Love how Kevin put cabinets on that unused wall. They look great and so useful. I have a "dead" space in my eating section that we now have a bakers rack on. I hate it. I'm hoping to get new doors made for my cabinets and I hope I can eventually get something similar done in my dead space, but I can't have it as deep as yours.

I think the old micro did not detract that much. Depends how much you use it. My "kids" are 19 and 22. They eat micro food all the time from frozen things (lean pockets) to reheating. I just mention this as the poster does indeed have to evaluate her need for the micro. If her boys are pre-teens then realize they will grow and start "cooking" for themselves more. Mine never stop eating.

    Bookmark   March 25, 2013 at 11:57PM
Thank you for reporting this comment. Undo

Thanks for all the input. I received an email from my kitchen designer on Sunday and she told me she was reducing the height of the micro over the range to 19" (from 22") because she thought it would be too tall for me otherwise. After a lot of thought, I told her I would rather rethink the location of the micro- for starters, I have a 13" tall stockpot I use and 6 inches of clearance for cooking is not nearly enough. I told her I would reconsider sinking a drawer microwave into the island and nixing my mixer lift (although I think it's a real gamble- the reviews on their reliability are not great)-leaving my Kitchenaid on the counter (which isn't a problem for me aesthetically, just a matter of losing valuable counter space). I could, as juliekcmo and KevinMP suggested, put it into our pantry closet- but we do not have a tall pantry cabinet in our kitchen- it's a deep closet (which also needs to be re-done) in the back hall, adjacent to the kitchen. I will say, I am lucky because I have a good size walk in closet in the basement where I keep the items I don't use all the time (slow cooker, ice cream maker, fondue set, etc.) so I don't have to try and fit all that into the kitchen. I'm enclosing some photos of what the kitchen currently looks like- the basic layout will be the same (thereby cutting costs for moving radiators and electrical). I've also snapped a picture of our dreaded pantry- you don't think it would be an issue for resale (not anytime soon!) if the micro isn't in the kitchen itself?
By the way, KevinMP- your kitchen looks beautiful! I love the marble backsplash and countertop- the whole kitchen is so bright and it looks great!
Cindywhitall- I may be whiny and spoiled but just fyi- the kitchen currently has: an oven that needs to be duct-taped shut in order to stay closed (we've gone through four sets of heavy duty hinges but the door is too heavy and keeps breaking- Thanksgiving day it completely came off in my hands), a fridge that died within a week of moving in, a faucet that frequently stops working (which is just as well, since the sink continually backs up because of a problem with the disposal). Fortunately, we are able to laugh at the never ending issues because we know it will end soon!
We knew when we bought the house we were going to remodel the kitchen- who knew the placement of a microwave could be such an ordeal? Thanks for all your advice!
PS- I am having trouble uploading more than one photo at a time, so I will upload them in successive posts. Any tips for the future (it seems like when I click "choose file" after the first photo is uploaded, it just replaces the first photo rather than adding the second...)?

    Bookmark   March 26, 2013 at 9:54AM
Thank you for reporting this comment. Undo

picture of existing sink wall

    Bookmark   March 26, 2013 at 9:58AM
Thank you for reporting this comment. Undo

picture of current eating area/sliders

    Bookmark   March 26, 2013 at 10:00AM
Thank you for reporting this comment. Undo

picture of original cabinet (definitely staying!) with two of the many doors into the kitchen.

    Bookmark   March 26, 2013 at 10:02AM
Thank you for reporting this comment. Undo

fridge wall- door to the left is to the garage- sadly, there isn't enough room next to the fridge to put additional cabinetry (it would entail removing a large radiator and replacing it with a smaller one, plus it would make the dining space too cramped)

    Bookmark   March 26, 2013 at 10:04AM
Thank you for reporting this comment. Undo

Lastly, the pantry...deep with too few shelves but a possible location for the microwave. Thoughts?

    Bookmark   March 26, 2013 at 10:09AM
Thank you for reporting this comment. Undo

aandesmom, It's ok to whine about $ that you have to spend on your kitchen (and I agree you DO have to do some work) I just took issue with whining that your micro would be over the stove.

Can you get 42" cabinets? Even if you have some stuff in those soffits I have read some creative ways to still get some more cabinets in there. What about over the ovens? That looks like there might be dead space. With bigger upper cabinets you might not miss the space in the island where you'd put the micro. Wait, do you even have soffits? I hope you are getting 42" cabs. You could also consider 36 or 49" tall ones but raise them up, giving you more backsplash if you want it. Once again, consider your reach.

Not so sure the "feature" you want will stand out that much if you still have those ovens sort of cutting off the view, or do you walk into the room straight on to the stove where you'd really notice it?

I would NOT buy a house without an easily accessed microwave. Many people use them daily. My micro is 18" above stovetop, I think that's standard. I am 5'3, and it's a good height for me. If you are a little taller then YOU tell the designer where YOU want the micro if you want those extra 3 inches of backsplash.

Last, if you want more cabinets....this one might be expensive...maybe you could center one narrower window over the sink and gain cabinet space if you want it. I do like the big window though. OR, center a single window and tile up and around it (instead of adding cabinets) That will add an extra punch and maybe you won't miss your feature backsplash.

    Bookmark   March 26, 2013 at 1:38PM
Thank you for reporting this comment. Undo

The microwave is actually not small and is very powerful. It can fit like an 11-12" round plate or casserole dish. It's rounded in the back.

I'm with you on the clearance to cook with a large stock pot, and you also have to keep in mind where you head will be when stirring and tasting, etc. It's really not ideal.

If you can get rid of that goofy and gigantic soffit, it would help. You could just mount the microwave and the cabinet to which it's attached higher. My parents have a very expensive kitchen with a large professional hood, and they have their upper cabinets mounted at different heights. Most are 43" with clearance above, but the cabinet above the hood is mounted to the ceiling and the corner cabinet and the cabinets above the refrigerator and double ovens are all mounted higher than the 42" wall cabinets, but lower than ceiling height. It makes for great visual interest.

    Bookmark   March 26, 2013 at 9:47PM
Thank you for reporting this comment. Undo

Since the kitchen is being totally gutted, the first thing to go is that useless soffit! I don't know why it was put there in the first place (the only thing in it is the electrical for the light). I'm excited that when the kitchen is done I'll no longer feel like I'm cooking in a box! I'll also have counter space on either side of the range- not something I currently have (when I take things out of the oven or off the stove I have to turn around and put them on the island- and I have to plan ahead to have a trivet since the counters are Corian and can't take the heat of a hot pot or baking sheet!) Kevin, I love the idea of the different height cabinets, but my ceiling is not terribly high and the cabinets all go practically to the ceiling to maximize the storage space. I'll have the hood over the range with two 20" wide cabinets on either side of the hood, so the storage will be substantially better than what I have now (but not wide enough for a microwave, hence the plan to put it in the island). The cabinets to the left of the range will have three drawers (top drawer will be a spice drawer- a nice change from the canvas bag in which they currently reside, the middle will be a bread box and a third storage drawer). To the right of the range I'll have a cabinet for baking sheets, wire racks, etc. I'll end up losing my mixer lift in the island (which is very useful) but having it on the counter is definitely less objectionable than the micro over the range. By the way, I was watching "Bang for the Buck" on HGTV the other day and they were evaluating kitchens in the 55k price range and one house didn't have a microwave and that was a huge deal for both people evaluating the house and another house had the microwave sitting on the counter and that was also a huge no-no according to the evaluators. Their recommendations were to build in your microwave or at least have it on a dedicated shelf. So, I think I definitely am making the right decision given my wall space. Anyway, thanks for the advice!

    Bookmark   March 29, 2013 at 2:00AM
Thank you for reporting this comment. Undo

Out of curiosity, I'd like to know why you and many others leave things permanently on the counter, e.g., knives holder, mixer, toaster oven.

I have a magnetic strip inside upper cabinet door for the knives I use most frequently. Others are stored in utility drawer. How often do you use the mixer? And the toaster oven? Mine are in base cabinets, the oven has an outlet there, so is never on the counter. Mixer in base cabinets also. Also have most frequently used long handled spoons, whisks, spatulas in a canister in a pullout base. Easy access, less visual and actual clutter on the counters.

Mentioning these as food for thought.


    Bookmark   March 29, 2013 at 3:28AM
Thank you for reporting this comment. Undo

I have my knife block, toaster (which is my preferred appliance, but we have bought the Breville toaster oven since my oven needs to be taped shut and sometimes the door falls off) and crock of often used cooking utensils on the counter because I just don't have the space for them in drawers or behind cabinets. Every one of my drawers and cabinets is neatly organized and I am not one to cram things into a space just to get it off the counter. Our toaster gets daily use, as do the knives in my knife block. Neither of these items really impacts the counter space too much (if I had room for a knife drawer I'd consider getting one, but I don't so...) I can't imagine having the toaster oven in a base cabinet- bending over to make toast just seems uncomfortable to me. I agree having a mixer lift would be optimal but I've chosen to forego it in order to have the microwave in the island. I use my Kitchenaid at least weekly so it gets a lot of use and I wouldn't want to have to haul it out of a cabinet every time I wanted to use it, so on the counter it goes. I don't think my counters are particularly cluttered (except for the cat food/water bowls, but that's a necessity since the dog would eat the cat food if it wasn't out of reach :) they used to be in my butler's pantry but I no longer have one so there they are) The idea of a magnetic strip in the cabinet for the knives is something to think about. I have also considered putting the coffee maker away since we don't drink coffee daily, so that could go in a cabinet. Also, since I'll have more counter space next to the range, I will be able to move the knife block next to range and then I could move the Kitchenaid to the space where it and the coffee maker currently reside so it will look less cluttered. Thanks for the ideas!

    Bookmark   March 29, 2013 at 10:43AM
Thank you for reporting this comment. Undo

One of my goals for my upcoming kitchen remodel is to get stuff off the counters. Currently, I don't have the drawer or cabinet space to do so.

I have two knife blacks; I plan to have a dedicated knife drawer.

I have canisters in a corner; I plan to put all those things in a deep drawer.

I am replacing an OTR microwave with a compact one, and that will be on the counter, in a corner. Even after the remodel, I don't have enough cabinet space to put it in a cabinet or on a shelf. I'm having a diagonal lower corner, and easy reach upper, so the MW in the corner will be readily accessible, without taking up a lot of space.

I'm also keeping the toaster on the counter, because we use it daily, it is 50 years old, and it leaks crumbs. I'd rather clean crumbs off the counter than out of a cabinet.

    Bookmark   March 29, 2013 at 11:00AM
Thank you for reporting this comment. Undo

Thank you for this post and Kevin for your pictures! I was looking for opinions on OTC microwaves. I had not considered that by hiding it somewhere you get rid of the visual space it takes up. I often find kitchens to be so unattractive - even beautiful high end ones, and I think that hiding things like microwaves and thus leaving a more open space above the stove only adds to the look of it being a nicer room rather than looking like an appliance store.

For my kitchen design, I am realizing it will actually save me money because the former owners had no microwave in the kitchen. If I were to get a vented otc then I would need to modify the cabinets above the stove to make it fit. Now, thanks to the ideas here, I can just make do with the vent/hood above the stove, save $ in cabinet modification, hide my microwave somewhere (a shelf in the pantry - will have the electrician put an outlet in there), save money by getting a cheaper microwave, and have a larger backsplash area over the stove where I can show off our vintage subway tiles. Ye-haw. While I hate how cliche this phrase is I do think this is a win-win-win for us.

Though this works well for my particular situation, I can see how an otc works best for others and it certainly is not the end of the world. Ultimately kitchens are for cooking in and if it helps you to cook and you have no other place for it, then that is just fine too.

    Bookmark   July 7, 2013 at 12:06PM
Thank you for reporting this comment. Undo

Same problem here. I decided to use a 24" base cabinet, a 15" base cabinet side by side facing the stove and I'm sticking a 24"x12" cabinet on the end cap of the Island facing the sink. I'm going to stick a small micro inside the 12".

    Bookmark   July 10, 2013 at 3:09AM
Sign Up to comment
More Discussions
What decisions, materials, can cut costs when remodeling?
If you really have a budget to work within, how do...
prairiemoon2 z6 MA
Cost to build cabinets/shelving
I have two unrelated cabinetry projects I'd like to...
Designer vs contractor
Hi all, New to the forum here. Purchsed a 1960's bungalow...
I live in BC, so I realize the answer may not be the...
Help with exterior remodel!
Help! I want to remodel the exterior of my house. ...
Jeff Holmes
Sponsored Products
Armen Living Noho Arm Chair In Champagne Fabric
Beyond Stores
AHB Starletta Swivel Bar Stool - Graphite with Tobacco Leather - 130901GRA
$219.95 | Hayneedle
Red Beer Garden Dining Table
Cost Plus World Market
EdgeStar 6 Place Setting Silver Countertop Dishwasher
Quoizel Aliza 5-Light 25" Wide Bronze Chandelier
Lamps Plus
Steel Silvertone Side Chair (Set of 2)
© 2015 Houzz Inc. Houzz® The new way to design your home™