Special Nonexistent Furniture

by Susan Serra

Susan Serra CKD, CAPS, is president of Susan Serra Associates, Inc., the kitchen design firm she has owned and operated for over 20 years and business entity for her lifestyle brands, Scandinavian Made www.scandinavianmade.com and Bornholm Kitchen (www.bornholmkitchen.com.) An expert on kitchen design, with countless projects published in national media over the years, Susan is a speaker, a go-to source for the media on kitchen design issues, and a consultant to brands in the kitchen industry. She attends as many design shows in the US and abroad as she can during the year with eyes wide open. Susan thinks about kitchens…a lot!

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  • Photo Credit: Susan Serra
  • So, you need a microwave.

    Believe it or not, siting this everyday appliance can be one of the biggest challenges in the kitchen design process. Finding easy and ergonomic access for a microwave AND an aesthetically pleasing location are sometimes at war with one another!

    When you want to heat up food quickly, it's likely you also want efficiency as part of the process. Conventional wisdom says that placing the microwave close to the refrigerator allows you to get your food from the fridge and quickly pop it into that appliance. There you have it -- few steps, fast motion. But, microwaves come with, let's say, issues!
  • Photo Credit: Susan Serra
  • The first thing to look at when shopping for a microwave, is to be aware of the dimensions, particularly the depth (front to back) dimension. This is the critical dimension, in my opinion, as it has to do with potentially sacrificing counter space. If a microwave is 20" deep and you want to build it into wall cabinetry next to the refrigerator, it will stick out quite a bit, resulting in a sort of tunnel effect in the countertop area below. The result is a countertop area that may well be nearly useless as prep, and a wonderful magnet for accumulating clutter! Plus, it's dark and gloomy.
  • Photo Credit: Susan Serra
  • Some microwaves require the use of a trim kit that surrounds the appliance and allows it to vent properly. Disregarding trim kit requirements will void the warranty and bad things can happen (heat build-up, finish deterioration, appliance failure for starters!)
  • Photo Credit: Susan Serra
  • One great way you can avoid a trim kit is to use an under cabinet style microwave. I love these microwaves (the equivalent of skinny jeans) which are just 12" deep front to back.  Installed flush with surrounding wall cabinets and without the need for a trim kit since it vents from below (over the countertop) you have the best of all worlds. This installation gives you both a sleek, built-in look and full access to your countertop area below. Place it near the refrigerator and you're good to go!
  • Photo Credit: Susan Serra
  • Another great option is the under counter microwave drawer. It functions as a drawer, it's directly under the countertop so you don't have to reach up to a higher shelf, and it's much less visible in the kitchen. Great for children to use, this type of microwave has great style and function.
  • Photo Credit: Susan Serra
  • Another great spot to put the microwave is above a single oven in a tall cabinet. In this case, you have lots of room for the trim kit and the front to back depth dimension is no problem at all as the oven cabinet already needs to be 24" deep. Another advantage is that it can be installed at a convenient height -- just double check your oven height below to make sure they both fit properly.

    What will drive your choice for a microwave? Your search for the perfect appliance will include considering features, size, counter space impact, aesthetics, function -- these are real life design challenges for this otherwise small appliance! What will drive your personal choice? Where do you think a microwave would best fit in your kitchen?


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