Recently a friend, who is planning a new kitchen, asked me a simple question. What’s the best location for the microwave? Wow, simple enough question…not such a simple answer. The answer truly is “it depends.” The location of the microwave is best determined by how (and how often) you plan to use it, and whether or not you want to see it. In kitchen design we all need to make choices, and today nobody wants to bend down to reach anything — whether it’s the oven, a low drawer or an under-counter microwave. So, it all boils down to usage.
I decided to take an informal poll of several friends, all with new kitchens, to see what the current trend was (if any). While the microwave really isn’t the most attractive of the kitchen appliances, almost everyone has one. Locating it above or below the counter, or even out of sight in a pantry closet, really is a matter of choice. Microwaves located above counter height are often front and center and not always visually pleasing. The National Kitchen and Bath Association (NKBA) recommends that the bottom of a microwave placed above the counter should ideally be 3″ below the principal user’s shoulder, but no more than 54″ above the floor. For undercounter microwaves, the bottom of the microwave should be at least 15″ off the floor. For those who choose to tuck it under the counter and out of sight lines, there are a few drawbacks. Bending down to see what’s inside is simply inconvenient. And spilling hot liquids retrieved from under the counter is certainly a possibility. If, like most people, your main uses for the microwave are reheating coffee and popping popcorn, then perhaps visual aesthetics and available space should be your guide. If you cook in your microwave and need to peek now and again, then you might find a below-counter microwave somewhat of a nuisance.
And so, after my little research project, I have confirmed my initial suspicion that where you choose to place your microwave (assuming you have options!) depends on how you plan to use it and whether or not you want to see it. So, the bottom line is: it’s entirely up to you!