My ideal microwave placement!
We have done ALMOST NOTHING to our kitchen since moving in 1.5 years ago, but one minor change that has had a MAJOR impact on my quality of life (only kind of exaggerating) is putting the microwave into a cabinet!
This was kind of a last-ditch effort to get it into a more functional place, but it's turned out to be my ideal set up! Conveniently located for easy use without taking up valuable counter space, but tucked away enough that it's not super visible.
The microwave saga
When we first moved into our house, there was an enormous countertop microwave taking up an impressive amount of valuable countertop real estate.
Look at that huge honker.
We quickly swapped it out for our smaller countertop one. One funny thing about this is that we have no idea where the microwave came from. It was in my parent's basement and they don't know how it got there. But it was the perfect size for our first apartment (7 years ago!), so they brought it to us and we've been using it ever since. Fancy, right?
But still! Even with a small microwave, it took up SO MUCH SPACE on this countertop. I feel like if you have a countertop width where you can't fit anything BUT your microwave, nothing clutters around it, but if you have any workable counter on either side, things will get in the way.
I tried the microwave by - and this is not hyperbole - EVERY OUTLET IN OUR KITCHEN. It didn't work anywhere. Either it was in the way or other things were in its way, but clearly the set up wasn't working.
So, we considered an over-the-range microwave. This also is not ideal because they are expensive for a short-term solution.
THEN, we had the idea to relocate the microwave in an upper cabinet. The one next to the fridge was the perfect width, and it was conveniently located right above the coffee pot. Which meant, I could do all coffee prep in one corner of the kitchen. No more walking back and forth what felt like a truly excessive number of times.
(This wasn't totally motivated by my desire to streamline morning coffee, but probably that has made the biggest difference in my daily life.)
Installing a microwave in a wall cabinet
Once we knew where the microwave was going, it was an extremely easy change to make! We had our electrician put an outlet in the back of the cabinet, then we removed the latch hardware from the bottom of the cabinet, and put our microwave there.
One hiccup was the location of the actual outlet had to be directly behind the microwave. This meant the microwave would protrude when plugged in, since the plug is quite large. We have used these flush extension cords in the past, and once we relocated one to the new outlet, we could plug the microwave in off to the side and have it sit flush in the cabinet.
My dad cut down the cabinet doors to cover the top of the cabinet, then Josh reattached the doors.
I initially had planned to paint the cabinets and maybe add some trim pieces to make it look more built in, but that idea has been scrapped since we're gutting the whole kitchen this year. But, I love this microwave placement so much, I may try to recreate it in the new kitchen layout!
More microwave placement ideas
- In a base cabinet - This would be harder to do with pre-existing cabinets, but could be possible!
- On the counter - I feel like this works best if you have a counter stretch that's the same width as your microwave and is specifically dedicated to the microwave. Otherwise, too much clutter can accumulate around it! This is (obviously) the easiest and most low-stakes to do. Try it out in different locations and see what works!
- In a microhood - A combination microwave/range hood. Lots of counter space and a cooktop below make this easy to use.
Keys for functional microwave placement
- In the kitchen triangle - the fridge, range, and sink make up the three points of the triangle. If your microwave is outside of that space, you'll probably be doing a lot of walking back and forth to it!
- Clear + accessible counter space - For safety if you take something out that's too hot and need to set it down quickly, and for convenience of having somewhere to put food while you stir it.
- An easily-reachable height - You don't want it too high or too low. Wherever it goes, make sure it's comfortable for you!
It has been SO NICE having the microwave in an upper cabinet! It freed up counter space, and I feel like it's the perfect medium of having the microwave somewhat hidden, while still being easily accessible. Plus, it looks very intentional and built in, versus haphazardly on the counter.