Microwave on an open shelf

crescent50May 2, 2009

I am in the final (?!) stages of designing my kitchen for a new construction house and have gotten lots of help from this forum.

My husband really wants to put a microwave drawer in the island but I think it would be better on an open shelf above the counter in the "snack area." I am visualizing a kid pantry below the counter with open space for prep and the microwave above it.

I don't want to spend the $ on a built in microwave and feel that if we do a trim kit and the unit breaks, I'd have to replace it anyway. My plan keeps the kids out of my prep area and as they get older, allows them to make a snack (popcorn, etc.) independently.

What do you think? Does anyone have any pictures of how this would look?

RHome410- if you are out there- isn't this the set up you have? If so, how does it work for your family?

TIA!

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brickeyee

I have used a couple of matching panels (ordered with the cabinets) to put together microwave shelves for a number of customers.

It eliminates the cost of a 'built in' kit.

If you need to change the microwave out, you just need to get one that fits on the shelf.

You can also get the models that hang from the cabinet above.
All you have to do is leave a gap in the cabinets if you want the bottom of the microwave to match the bottom of the cabinets.

    Bookmark   May 2, 2009 at 3:49PM
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creek_side

We have been planning to do the same thing for much the same reason. One kitchen designer went ballistic when we told here. :-)

I have looked into the over the counter type that brickeyee mentions. I was initially leaning that way, but the only current production models I can find seem to be the Sharps (R-1214 is the stainless version). Unfortunately, there are numerous reports of early failures and sensitivity to surges regarding these models, so we have decided not to go that way.

    Bookmark   May 2, 2009 at 4:03PM
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desertsteph

this is one option I've been thinking of using...so I hope some pics get posted! they really help with the decision making...

    Bookmark   May 2, 2009 at 4:14PM
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rhome410

Hi, I am here! :-)

I think your plan sounds great.

We do have a countertop model microwave in the bottom of our upper cabinet...No trim kit or anything. We did this in our previous home, too...The only difference is that we have cabinet on both sides of this one and it was only a shelf for the other. Either way, it works great for us. It's a tad higher than what I'd consider perfectly optimum, but it allows full use of the counter underneath, which is more important than mounting the microwave any lower. Our 2 youngest (9 and 5) need a step stool to use it, but from 11 up, we can all reach it and see into it fine.

We have gone through too many microwaves in the last 10 years to spend hundreds on a built-in. I also don't want my options to be limited by a replacement having to fit perfectly into a specifically sized space.

    Bookmark   May 2, 2009 at 4:20PM
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creek_side

Google found these.

    Bookmark   May 2, 2009 at 4:29PM
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cooksnsews

I also went with an open shelf for my microwave, also against my KD's recommendations. I purposely avoided any built-ins in my kitchen remodel, with the exception of the DW. I have absolutely no confidence that any of my appliances, even the outrageously expensive "pro-style" ones, will last as long as I hope the rest of the kitchen will. And I want to be able to simply replace any dead pieces, not to renovate again to make the right sized holes to accomodate whatever size and shape appliances of the future will come in.

    Bookmark   May 2, 2009 at 5:08PM
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gibby2015

I have a GE spacemaker on a shelf - recommended by my KD. I really liked the idea that I could just pull it out and put a new one in if it died. So far it's been great though - for four years.

    Bookmark   May 2, 2009 at 6:04PM
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rhome410

Some of the above photos seem to disregard side clearances for air flow around the microwave. Be sure you check into that for the one you're interested in. The advantage of a shelf as opposed to surrounding it with cabinet is that it can automatically provide more clearance and air flow without requiring more width.

    Bookmark   May 2, 2009 at 6:23PM
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morton5

I was glad to get rid of my microwave shelf because it was deeper than the surrounding cabinets (to accommodate the microwave) so it stuck out, which felt awkward to me. If you do a shelf, I would try to do it along with extra-deep uppers, so that the uppers and the shelf are the same depth.

    Bookmark   May 2, 2009 at 6:28PM
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bluekitobsessed

I have a tall cabinet with a MW in the middle. Pic:

The cabinet was originally designed to fit, snugly, a specific Panasonic MW. However, we discovered at installation that the MW was 1/16" larger than its specs said it was. I decided that the original MW was just too cavernous and went with Panasonic's next smaller but otherwise identical model. I wasn't fond of the trim kit look, and instead I can take this out and move as need be. You probably can't see it in this pic, but I had the cabinet people add a piece of light rail trim at the top to even it out a bit (and a similar trim piece above the fridge). The height is just right for everyone in the family. Two very minor drawbacks: 1. There's nothing behind it to keep the MW from sliding or being pushed backward, so occasionally I pull it forward (if I cared, I could figure out something with a block of wood, but it's a very, very minor drawback); and 2. dust can get into the cavity, so very occasionally I pull out the MW and dust back there.

Blue

    Bookmark   May 2, 2009 at 6:33PM
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garden18c

Great question crescent 50. One that I've asked before but with added question about depth of cabinet to accommodate the microwave.

So rhome and bluekitobsessed, what make/model of microwave do you have and what is the depth of your cabinet? I would love to know what mw's you have.

Thanks!

    Bookmark   May 2, 2009 at 7:25PM
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zelmar

We did an open cabinet with adjustable shelves. Technology changes so quickly I wanted flexibility down the road for something new. I also wanted open shelves for jars of legumes, rice and nuts so it worked out well.

    Bookmark   May 2, 2009 at 7:54PM
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rhome410

Garden18c, We both have Panasonic Inverters...Mine is the 2.2 cubic foot one and Bluekitobsessed's is the next smaller version. Mine also says, "Genius Prestige." The model number is NN-SD987S.

We made that cabinet approx 19" deep, overall (for a sure 18" inside), but looking at it now, it could've been a little shallower and still fit the MW. We have a 27" deep counter under, which is nice...So having the microwave cabinet be deep isn't as noticeable in using the countertop.

    Bookmark   May 2, 2009 at 7:57PM
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dtchgrl

We have a micro shelf in the current kitchen, and we intend to keep the microshelf. Since we are getting a new larger island, my KD did mention a micro drawer in the island but I like my micro where it is - more in its own snack center. And as others have mentioned I want to be able to easily swap it out if it breaks. Pic below shows it will move down right next to the pantry (where the kids can grab popcorn, etc) and I plan to keep some basic plates, bowls etc in the lower cabinet.

    Bookmark   May 2, 2009 at 9:01PM
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crescent50

Thanks to all for the reassurance and especially the great pictures!

I am planning open shelves above for cookbooks and am looking forward to having a landing space below the microwave for setting dishes too.
So happy to hear how it works for families with young children :)

Funny- our KD wasn't so sure either- said it wouldn't look "custom" but practicality wins out on this one. I love knowing that I can replace a microwave without breaking the bank or having to redesign my kitchen.

Thanks again everyone.

    Bookmark   May 2, 2009 at 9:58PM
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creek_side

Zelmar, can I ask what brand cabinets you have? They are very attractive and in the style we are looking for.

    Bookmark   May 2, 2009 at 10:08PM
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writersblock

>I have looked into the over the counter type that brickeyee mentions. I was initially leaning that way, but the only current production models I can find seem to be the Sharps

They're the only ones with the fancy features like lights and utensil rails underneath them, but there are a number of smaller micros that can be mounted under a cabinet, like the GE spacemakers.

Someone here did a very clever shelf mount with a face frame that matched the cabs to make it look built in, and it just velcros off and on if she needs to get the microwave out.

    Bookmark   May 2, 2009 at 10:20PM
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zelmar

Thank you, creek side. Our cabinets are made by Crown Point.

    Bookmark   May 3, 2009 at 12:37AM
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desertsteph

aaahhh! those are nice! I too don't want to get stuck with a space for one size and then it'll die on me... my first MW (back in 81 or 82) last about 15 yrs... since then it's been about 4 yrs of life from each... the one I have (and will use until it also dies is about 3 yrs). there's a wall oven space there now that I'll put the MW in until I redo it - then i'll have to decide on a WO or stove/oven.
If I don't do the WO I might just put in another cabinet like that with a space for the MW - but higher up. If I go w/a WO I guess I could still put the MW a bit above it.

but having the shelf option is good - I don't want it on the counter top!

velcroing the trim into place is a great idea!

I like the one with a board pullout below it if in a cabinet like that... it's own landing pad!

zelmar - those are beautiful cabinets - and I love how you display the food goods! I've been thinking that I might put glass in the upper part of my cabinets for display. I'm too short to reach and use them on a regular basis so might as well show off / view some of the beautiful things i have packed away now! of course, with my eyesight i might not even recognize what is up there...

    Bookmark   May 3, 2009 at 4:08AM
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gibby2015

crescent50 - one more thing related to kids and micro on a shelf. My KD kept on about not having the microwave too high for safety reasons. I've always had an OTR micro in the past and no kids in the house so I wasn't too concerned about this. She still advised installing it lower than what it would have been if the upper cabinets were installed at the same height as the rest of my kitchen. So the shelf where my microwave is is a little lower and my counters below are a little lower also (so not to mess up the space for the backsplash tile). You'd never know by looking at. In any case, consider the height if you have smaller kids you want to access the microwave. Also if you do something like mine, make sure the outlet is placed in the cabinet above - if it's behind the microwave it would cause it to protrude.

Here's mine.

    Bookmark   May 3, 2009 at 9:42AM
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rosie

Crescent, our MW's on a shelf surrounded by 12"-deep cabinets. To make it fit flush, we borrowed stud space behind the MV to add an additional 3+ inches.

    Bookmark   May 3, 2009 at 9:59AM
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bluekitobsessed

To garden18c, my cabinet depth is a standard 24." Rhome has very good eyes, or maybe just a very good memory, in being able to identify my MW. It's the Panasonic 787 (model number just like Rhome's except 787 instead of 987). I found it at Target for $120, and I really like it.

Blue

    Bookmark   May 3, 2009 at 12:02PM
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garden18c

Thanks rhome and blue for the info about your mw's and cabinet depth. This particular element of our design is really troubling to me - we don't have a lot of room since this cabinet will be between a window and our refigerator cabinet. I think I need to choose my MW and actually purchase it and measure the outside dimensions. I'm concerned about how it will fit in the cabinet - one question, will the electrical wire stick out more so that the MW is actually deeper than they state on specs.

I also wanted a convection but that adds additional size to the MW. I don't believe either of your's is convection?

Rhome, love your hood (what make/model?) and cabinets above the hood too. I didn't find you in the FKB. Is there anywhere you have posted info about your hood and cabs? Wondering what is behind those doors, if anything?

Thank you so much!

    Bookmark   May 4, 2009 at 10:29AM
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writersblock

>I also wanted a convection but that adds additional size to the MW

This is a sticky point for me, too. I've pretty much decided to go with something like one of the cuisinart convection toaster ovens since there aren't any small convection micros (at least not any that I've been able to find) and just get a lesser functioning microwave.

    Bookmark   May 4, 2009 at 10:33AM
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holligator

Keep in mind that there are options for having the MW under your island other than getting a MW drawer. Having an open shelf under the counter eliminates the worry about depth, since it will be at least 24" deep. I planned to get a Sharp drawer, but knew I wouldn't do it right away due to the expense, so I had my cabinet maker build the opening to the specs of the 24" Sharp drawer with the intention of using it as a shelf for my cheapo MW in the mean time. Well, I have grown accustomed to the current MW and, unless I find an incredible deal, I will probably never get the Sharp.

I worried that I would find it difficult to operate the MW at this height, but it has actually worked out extremely well for me--and I'm tall. I use the excess space around it as a place to stash my cutting boards, which makes them ultra-convenient to my prime prep space.

My only complaint with my current setup is that I neglected to fully explain my plans to the cabinet maker. So, since he built the shelf with the idea that I would be getting the drawer, he didn't stain the insides. I still plan to get him to do that for me one day.

    Bookmark   May 4, 2009 at 1:17PM
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lisa_a

holligator, good to hear that you don't find the undercounter MW set-up awkward since you are taller than me. I wondered about that. Do you have to stoop to read the display?

writersblock, do you keep the convection toaster oven out on the counter? I'm trying to clear up counter space so I don't want to do this but figured hauling it up and storing it away would be inconvenient. Maybe I can put it on a MW shelf sort of thing? Need to figure clearance requirements, though.

All of the above are MWs on a shelf inside a cabinet. Would it look weird to have a shelf installed below a cabinet with tile sides and back? Sort of like a floating shelf in the middle of the tile backsplash? One possible reconfiguration leaves pretty tight space for a micro so I could use the extra width gained by having a floating shelf without wood surround.

    Bookmark   May 4, 2009 at 4:02PM
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rhome410

Hi, Garden18c,

We put the outlet for our microwave in the cabinet above just so the plug and outlet wouldn't push the microwave out further (cut a hole in the back of the bottom shelf and fet it through). And, no, ours is not a convection microwave. We do have a convection toaster oven, but we just don't have a use for a 'mini oven' at this stage in our lives, so don't use that feature.

There's a little story to our hood, especially since you ask what's in the cabinets above it... It's an Electrolux, a very nice Electrolux Icon that I do like. All the time I was looking for a hood it was important to me that I find one that vented out the back so that I could have storage above, and my favorite appliance guy recommended the Electrolux Icon hood. Great. It fit all my requirements including venting horizontally out the back.

When I got to the store on the day we were placing our order, I noticed that in addition to the 18" tall hood that I'd been planning on, Electrolux offered the same powered hood in a 9" tall one. I figured I could not only have more storage, but reach it better, so I ordered that one...Forgetting to check to make sure it vented out the back...Which it didn't! Of course, I didn't know that until it was unpacked in my house.

I wish I would've packed it back up and paid a restocking fee or sold it on Ebay and gotten the other hood, because now the whole cabinet above is full of vent pipe. I don't miss the storage, because I have enough elsewhere, but I think it would have been quieter to vent straight out the back...Especially because of the way Dh and his builder friend decided to join the 2 vent pipes into one cavernous metal box inside that cabinet. Not the hood's fault at all. Anyway, it does a great job venting, is easy to clean, and has good lighting. They don't seem to have my model any more, but do have the one I wanted: E488WV120S (link below)

My kitchen isn't in the FKB, because it's not 'F' yet! ;-) Maybe by fall...

Here is a link that might be useful: Electrolux hood

    Bookmark   May 4, 2009 at 4:17PM
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crescent50

Thanks for the great tips everyone- I will definitely plan to put the outlet in the cabinet above so the microwave doesn't protrude from the shelf.

    Bookmark   May 4, 2009 at 5:03PM
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writersblock

Lisa,

> I can put it on a MW shelf sort of thing?

I dunno about that. I think it would be dangerous, given how hot the sides and top of a toaster can get. I don't have mine yet, but for sure I plan to keep it on the counter, along with the coffee maker. I know most people like to make a kitchen look as though whatever it is that's going on there, it's not cooking, for heaven's sake, but I've always found that approach a little incomprehensible. :)

    Bookmark   May 4, 2009 at 5:13PM
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rhome410

Lisa, like writersblock, I'm not sure about putting a toaster oven on a shelf, but you could do the floating shelf with the microwave. You'd just have less room to work at the counter.

    Bookmark   May 4, 2009 at 5:16PM
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lisa_a

Thanks, writersblock and rhome410!

I'm trying to free up counter space so it sounds as if adding a convection toaster oven would defeat that purpose. Unless I chuck our current toaster and use this in its place. But then again, I'm trying to enforce the ol' "take it out when you need it and put it back in the cupboard when you're done" rule. I just can't see keeping something out that gets used just a few times a week.

rhome410, the cabinet would need to be redone anyway so I figured the MW shelf would be where the bottom of the cupboard would normally be with a cupboard above. I'd still have plenty of clearance below the MW shelf. Does that make sense?

    Bookmark   May 4, 2009 at 5:51PM
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rhome410

Yep, makes sense! :-) And is exactly the thing to do to get more clearance/air space around the microwave.

    Bookmark   May 4, 2009 at 5:59PM
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garden18c

Thanks rhome, for the tips on MW. And your kitchen looks pretty finished to me! It seems you've been using it for awhile. Looks like it functions well and beautiful too!

On your hood, what I liked about it was that it was shorter and had that extra "storage space" above. But I see that didn't work out for you. So what is in those 2 skinny tall cabinets over your hood? Were you able to use that space? Like your's, my hood will vent straight out the back as the range is on an exterior wall. It won't be very pretty on the side of our house but that is really the only solution. It seems that it would be less expensive since a short straight shot, but the question is will it be louder since it is close to the range?

I should start another post on hood questions which I'll do when I get a chance. I have to decide on remote blower, inline, external.... I don't even have a clue to where to begin. I've looked on appliance forum for advice but there are so many opinions on the right way to go. I am starting with the Prestige line hoods for our BlueStar range , on advice of Trevor at Eurostove. So many choices..

Thanks again

    Bookmark   May 5, 2009 at 10:37AM
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rhome410

Garden18c, I think external is quieter...But I also think a shorter run would be quieter. I do have cabinet space behind those narrow doors, but haven't put anything in them yet.

Not finished: window trim and backsplash that's waiting to butt up to it, island needs another cabinet or 2 and trim detailing, molding between cabinets and ceiling, and my entire dish hutch. (Right now I have a temporary melamine cabinet hanging on the wall. I can't call it finished with that there!)

    Bookmark   May 5, 2009 at 10:44AM
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lisa_a

rhome410, regarding your comment posted somewhere above:
Some of the above photos seem to disregard side clearances for air flow around the microwave. Be sure you check into that for the one you're interested in.

How do you find that information? I've checked manufacturers' and appliance sites and can't seem to find this information. TIA!

    Bookmark   May 6, 2009 at 1:54PM
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lisa_a

bump

    Bookmark   May 8, 2009 at 1:25AM
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creek_side

Find a trim kit for your microwave, if one exists. The installation instructions should give you enough information to determine what kind of clearances would exist if you installed the microwave in a cabinet. You may need to do some math. From that, you can extrapolate to an open shelf.

GE has their instructions in the Quick Specs on the product page. I've linked an example.

Personally, I'm pretty sure one inch all around would work fine.

Here is a link that might be useful: GE Microwave Quick Specs

    Bookmark   May 8, 2009 at 9:06AM
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rhome410

Sorry, Lisa, for missing that last question. Now I have to remember where I found that, since I know I found it before I bought the microwave...Must've been specs or a manual on line somewhere? I will have to do some checking and get back to you here later today.

    Bookmark   May 8, 2009 at 11:51AM
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cotehele

Zelmar,

The look of your MW cabinet is perfect for our kitchen. My Step-mom has a MW beside the sink in an upper cab, but it is mounted so low the counter is un-usable. How high is your? I need to be able to reach it. ;)

    Bookmark   May 8, 2009 at 12:08PM
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rhome410

Lisa, it was indeed because I found an operating manual online at an appliance store site (just now found it on www.abt.com), and it gave installation instructions, including how much air space was needed to the sides and top of the oven. Mine specifies 3" on each side and 1" on the top.

    Bookmark   May 8, 2009 at 1:46PM
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lisa_a

Thanks, creekside and rhome!

Had to laugh at my expense, creekside, at your suggestion. I doubt they make a trim kit for our 20 year old MW. :-)

3 inches on each side?! Ouch! That would really put a kink in my plans of where to install a MW if we move it from its current location. Guess I'd better do more homework.

    Bookmark   May 8, 2009 at 1:50PM
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zelmar

Hi cotehele. The bottom of the mw cabinet is even with other upper cabinets in our kitchen (18.25" above the counter.) It is 16.75" deep and 27" wide. I'm 5'7" and the reach to the mw is easy. I can reach the bottom of the jars on the third shelf (but I need a stool to get to the jars behind the front ones on that shelf.)

    Bookmark   May 8, 2009 at 1:57PM
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rhome410

3 inches on each side?! Ouch! That would really put a kink in my plans of where to install a MW if we move it from its current location.

All microwaves don't have the same requirements. I thought 3" was a lot, too...I think we fudged a bit and are getting away with a little over 2 1/2"...Don't tell! ;-) This is where having it on an open sided shelf would help a lot in getting it into a smaller width.

    Bookmark   May 8, 2009 at 2:14PM
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cotehele

Zelmar, thanks. I am 5'3" so a 15-16" bs may work. I still enjoy seeing your kitchen. You were one of the first to help me nearly two years ago when I started the kitchen design. I often look at it. It keeps up inspiration and hope.

Happy Mother's Day! Your daughter (who is looking through the pass thru) must be grown by now.

Judy

    Bookmark   May 8, 2009 at 2:15PM
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zelmar

Thank you so much cotehele. My daughter IS grown---she just finished her junior year in college as a communications & studio art major.

We'll be attending a baseball game Mother's Day night and I'm hoping for a good outcome. But it will be fun regardless of the score.

Good luck with your kitchen. Fwiw, I love the recent plans you posted. The mw next to the baking area is a great idea. It seems like I end up taking quite a few trips to the mw when baking for softening/melting butter and chocolate.

    Bookmark   May 8, 2009 at 3:59PM
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