November 18

Where to Put Microwave in Small Kitchen? | Ideal Placement for Your Appliance

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So say you're like me, having just moved into a new apartment. And sure, you got a great living room size, but you had to sacrifice the size of the kitchen to keep the price point.  With the limited space, you have to get creative to make the best use of your kitchen layout.

When working with precious kitchen space, there are many ways to make your setup more efficient.  We will detail those space-saving ideas as we go along.  In a larger sense, that means: minimizing unused space, establishing your ideal placement of cooking appliances, utilizing your existing cabinet and counter space, identifying potential renovation work, and finding wall space to create open shelving.

All this is to say that when you are trying to find a good microwave oven placement in a small kitchen, keep in mind each category to get you closer to the right answer.

Microwave on a counter in a kitchen

Minimizing Unused Space

Each kitchen is built differently.  None are perfect, and each will inevitably have spaces that are not easily reachable.  When setting up your kitchen, look for the dark and unused corners of counter space and kitchen cabinets.

If you can find ways to place items that you rarely use - but still need every once in a while - in those areas, it will give you many benefits to find the best solution. 

Each person is different in regards to this, so to some, that item may be a blender or baking trays, to others that may be holiday items or waffle makers.  Figure out the priority level that each item in your kitchen has to you, and store the low priority items in the spare cabinet, upper shelf, lower cabinets, etc.

Doing this will open up space for your more crucial appliances, like your microwave!

Putting tortillas in a microwave

Establishing Your Ideal Placement of Kitchen Appliances

This section will go over a variety of options in microwave setups and build-outs that may give you some different ideas to ponder.  Additionally, we will talk about kitchen appliance placement strategies (oh yea, we're going there) that may give you some more food for thought. These are especially important if you need to save space while keeping your kitchen visually appealing.

Here are some different placement options for your microwave: on the countertop, in an upper cabinet, in a lower drawer, and over the oven.  Did you know all of those exist?  I didn't until my aunt opened her drawer-style microwave and blew my mind.

On the Countertop

On the countertop is a classic setup, and most microwaves have legs built-in standard.  Countertop microwaves are great because it is exactly that, a countertop microwave.  Meaning, it is already at waist (-ish) height for most people giving you a convenient option with easy access, plus an immediate place to move a hot plate of food straight out of the cook. 

Though it is likely the most affordable microwave option, the downside is that it will take up much of your valuable countertop space in a small kitchen.

Woman looking in the microwave on a counter

In an Upper Cabinet

Some would group in an upper cabinet and over the oven in the same category, but the functionality is slightly different, so we will discuss them separately.  A microwave cabinet is a more modern kitchen style and a great space-saving option.  By nature of being in the upper cabinets, it will be at around eye level for most.  It opens up more of your countertop space for another small appliance and meal prep. 

If you want to put the microwave inside the main cabinets, you may need to do minor cabinetry work with a professional or some know-how. In addition, you will need a trim kit to ensure that the microwave looks good after the install as you will be replacing a cabinet door or two.  Make sure to plan ahead for this kind of cabinetry work.

In a Lower Drawer

Similar to the upper cabinet style of placing your microwave, building it into your lower drawer cabinetry is another stylish, space-saving option for your smaller kitchen.  It matches the aesthetic that a wall oven brings, so if you have a wall oven, then this could be a good match.  The finished product would be below waist height and concealed within the cabinet space.

If you are struggling with enough space and have the means to do some minor cabinetry work, creating a microwave-ready base cabinet could be a great possibility.  It would also give you more space for other appliances on the countertop.

Some difficulties that could present themselves are getting an electrical outlet built into the lower cabinet and finding the right trim kit to make the finished cabinetry work look smooth and intentional.

Microwave over the oven

Over the Oven/Range Hood

Here's something you may have seen before.  Often in apartments, and many houses, placing a microwave above the stove offers a dual-use for that cabinet space, but you'll need to know how many inches to leave above the stove.  Over the range, microwaves will save you counter space for other appliances and maybe a great location to put your microwave.

Microwave sales have accounted for this where some companies have built models with attached exhaust vents to act as a range hood for the stovetop. There will be buttons built into the microwave front that control the range hood options, like fan power levels (see convection ovens) and lights.

You can see how an above-range microwave would be helpful to small kitchens, especially if you have a wall oven built-in.  The main drawback of over-the-range microwaves will be the height of the unit if you need it more at waist height.  And you may need a trim kit to ensure the aesthetics look great after install.

Utilizing Your Existing Cabinet and Counter Space

Having an unlimited amount of counter space is a chef's dream; having an unlimited amount of cabinet space is a tidy person's dream. Of course, we'd all love a kitchen island, a kitchen remodel, or an appliance garage.  But that will never be anyone's reality - so making the most of your existing space is all we can do!

Efficiency is the sub-name of this section, and we will go over some ideas to help place your microwave - and other appliances - in an optimal position for your personal preferences.

Electrical outlets are important to note because, unless your appliance is battery operated, you will need one.  Some kitchens are limited by the number of outlets available.  You may need to purchase extension cords and power strips to reach different parts of your counter.

Your own personal cooking methods are another aspect to consider.  Which tools do you use the most in your kitchen tasks?  Put those items closest and with easy access since you will use go back to those often.  Build your setup around those items so that you don't make things any harder on yourself.

Microwave on a white background

Then comes the other essentials like - where you put your silverware, plates, utensils, or in my case, the coffee machine.  These placements will affect where you put your microwave.

Identifying Potential Renovation Work

Say you find yourself in an older apartment or house, and the cabinetry reflects an older style of kitchen (see also retro microwave ovens).  Perhaps that older style doesn't account for modern appliances and newer methods of cooking. 

Maybe the electrical work doesn't have ground fault circuit interrupters or not enough outlets to power all of your appliances.  This could cause not only headaches but also potential fire hazards. Also, when it comes to how powerful ovens themselves can be, we recommend either low wattage ovens, or medium wattage microwaves under 1100 Watts due to their versatility and th fact that they are more economical.

Perhaps you have some extra funds and are looking for a change in aesthetic or efficiency in your kitchen setup.

These are all different and valid reasons to consider renovating your kitchen.  This will give you the ability to make one of the suggestions above a reality in your new setup.  Like, what if you put the microwave directly into the cabinets to help the microwave blend with the small kitchen even better?  You could place your microwave however you'd want at that point.

Man hands putting vegetables in a microven

Finding Wall Space to Create Open Shelving

This last section is dedicated to both efficiency and decor since it helps small kitchens maximize the amount of usable space as well as add flavor (possibly literally) to an open wall.

Look around your kitchen.  Do you see any blank wall space that isn't being used?  Make sure it's a large enough space that doesn't have cabinet doors opening into it.  This is all usable space with just a small amount of construction work put in.

For example, I ran into the problem of having too many coffee mugs in the cabinet, so I decided to make a mug wall with my open wall space.  I love the way it's made my kitchen feel cozier and also given me more cabinet space to work with.

Now think about how you could build shelves to store commonly used items, decorative items, or even a large enough shelf to place your microwave.  The possibilities are endless! 

Now get out there and enjoy rearranging your kitchen to fit that microwave.


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