March 20, 2019

The Microwave: A Small Appliance with Big Impact

Sawhill Custom Kitchen and Design

Did you know the microwave is nearly 75 years old (patent filed on 10/08/1945), and was originally called a Radarange by the inventor, Percy Spencer, while working for the Raytheon Company? But the first prototype was 6’ tall and weighed 750 lbs! Eventually, Raytheon’s sister company – Amana developed a microwave for home use in 1967 and Sharp began mass production of microwave ovens in 1961.

Like most new technology the first microwaves were large and expensive.  Amana’s Radarange sold for about $1300 in 1967, which is approximately $11,500 in today’s dollars! The size of today’s microwave considerably smaller than 6’ and lighter than 750lbs. A common size is approximately 24” wide, 12” high and 13”-15” deep. And of course, there are units that mount above a range and include a ventilation feature. We’ll discuss that unit in a bit.


Kitchen Design with a Microwave in Mind

Studies indicate that over 90% of U.S. households own a microwave, up from 25% in 1986. So most kitchens need to be designed with a microwave in mind. Though the microwave is small, it’s placement in the kitchen is as important as the refrigerator and the other cooking equipment. Here at Sawhill, we like to place the microwave next to the refrigerator when we can. Why? Well, typically you remove something from the refrigerator or freezer and pop it into the microwave to defrost it or cook it.

In our designs, we typically install the microwave into a surrounding wall cabinet.  According to the NKBA (National Kitchen & Bath Association), the ideal location for the bottom of the microwave is 3” below the shoulder of the main cook, but no more than 54” from the floor. That may be too high for some people, and especially for children. We like to mount the microwave approximately 42” – 45” from the floor. This height seems to be a nice “universal height” and works well if the microwave being installed is a single oven or a 1 piece oven/microwave combination unit.


Microwave Drawers

Microwave drawers are becoming more popular and work great when there is limited wall cabinet space for the microwave. These units install into a base cabinet or tall cabinet and incorporate a touch-to-open feature – push a button and the drawer opens for you. Push the button again, and it closes the microwave drawer. A word of caution. Don’t fill liquids too high in the cooking vessel because it may spill out when the microwave drawer is opening or closing.


Over the Range Microwaves

We mentioned the over the range microwave earlier. Sometimes there is just no other good place for the microwave than over the range. However, the general rule of thumb is that the over the range model should be the last resort. Why? Well, first it’s somewhat dangerous to always be accessing the microwave over a hot cooktop surface, especially for children. Second, the placement usually requires the microwave to be mounted too high for many people. Finally, these units do not have a great ventilation system.  Too often people just use the “charcoal filter” that comes with these units.  Those charcoal filters are basically worthless for ventilation – we will discuss that in an upcoming blog post!


It’s The Details That Matter

So, if you are planning on a new kitchen make sure to discuss the microwave with your designer. A microwave may be one of the last things on your mind with a new kitchen design or kitchen remodel but, having designed hundreds of kitchens ourselves, we can tell you that it’s details such as these that make the difference between a satisfactory kitchen and an amazing kitchen.  This reminds us of our last detailed tip to share! Make sure your favorite microwave cookware will fit in your new microwave.


Your Minneapolis & St. Paul Kitchen Design Build Resource

Sawhill Custom Kitchens & Design is the Twin Cities expert in kitchen & bath design.  We offer a concierge experience to your kitchen or bath design/build/remodel experience, tailoring our process to your needs and taking care of the details from start to finish.  View our kitchen and bath project portfolio to see examples of our work. Then contact us or stop by our showroom at International Market Square to talk with one of our designers about your project.  We can’t wait to meet you!




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Sawhill Custom Kitchen and Design

March 20, 2019