The Truth About That Hidden Microwave

My Controversial Microwave

Have you seen my built-in microwave reel on Instagram? It’s been viewed one million times and a lot of people loved it, but even more people hated it! Well, that’s my “hidden” microwave in the above photo. On the inside of the kitchen island, you can’t see it upon entering the room, and it’s not in sightline from the dining table or island seating.

I had this same set-up in my previous home. In both houses I built a range hood where there used to be a microwave. So I used a countertop microwave with the matching trim kit designed by the manufacturer to make it “built-in”.

I included this little hack in my “Five Kitchen Renovation Secrets: Get That High End Look for Less” and when I posted it on Instagram, many comments were along the lines of “Too low” or “That’s the worst idea!”

Cafe Microwave + Trim Kit in my previous kitchen, during installation

The honest truth? The height has never been an issue for me or my taller family members. But one thing was made clear from all that feedback: Americans love their microwaves! We bend to reach pots and pans in our lower cabinets, to open our ovens, and to load the dishwasher, but do NOT mess with the microwave! The microwave is sacred.

Shop Built-in Microwaves

So what if you want a range hood above the oven, and need to move that above-range microwave? I still maintain that any under-counter microwave works just fine, even if you’re tall, but if this fills you with dread, here are some other options and the pros and cons of each.

Hidden Microwave Options

1. The Microwave Drawer

Pictured: Bosch 800 Series 30″ 1.2 cu. ft. Built-In Drawer Microwave

The microwave drawer was the inspo behind the built-in microwave hack. It is still an under-counter option, but the ergonomics work better than with a swing door microwave. In fact, you only need to press a button (at the top) to open it. You’ll still have to bend a bit to place your food within, so for the “no bendy bendy for me” people out there, this one might not be for you.

I have yet to come across a microwave drawer for less than $1200, hence the trim kit hack.

Pros:

  • Under-cabinet means mostly out of sightline
  • Ergonomically superior to lower swing door microwave

Cons:

  • One of the more expensive options, ranging from $1200-$2500 from mainstream appliance brands.

2. Above A Wall Oven

Pictured left: GE Profile 1.5 Cu. Ft. Countertop Convection/Microwave Oven 

Of course, this only works if you have a wall oven. Builders often install wall ovens near the refrigerator, creating an appliance wall. All the stainless steel in one place, and the rest of your kitchen can be all pretty cabinets! Plus, it doesn’t get more convenient than a chest-level appliance.

Be warned, it can be tricky to retrofit this set-up. I had double wall ovens in my last house and planned on putting the microwave there. It was so complicated to move the ovens down and rearrange the electric, that I scratched the idea, even though I’d already lost money on an appliance handyman.

You can use a countertop microwave + trim kit (like mine) just as you would in a lower cabinet. You can also opt for a fancy pull-down convection microwave oven, but these are even more expensive than microwave drawers.

Pros:

  • Appliances gathered in one place
  • Perhaps the most ergonomically superior

Cons:

  • Difficult to retrofit, even more difficult to DIY
  • Not as “hidden” as other options
  • Can be expensive if paying a handyman, even more expensive if you opt for a pull-down model

3. Within A Countertop Cabinet

Countertop cabinets are just that – cabinets that sit on top of your counters. This oozes English country style, and I’m a sucker for it. We are seeing more of these in designer kitchens recently, and they offer an ideal spot to stow smaller appliances.

Not only is it handy at waist level, you can also easily transfer your food to the counter. This type of cabinet is not standard in most kitchens, so if you don’t have one already, you can build one.

This is perhaps the most hidden place for a microwave, and fortunately, you can easily use the low-cost countertop microwave here too.

Pros:

  • The most hidden option
  • Waist level means no bending or reaching
  • Easy to transfer hot food to counter
  • A low-cost option (if you already have a countertop cabinet)

Cons:

  • Most people will need to build a countertop cabinet since they aren’t common
  • Somehow I can still hear the masses cry out “You want me to open two doors to heat up my food?!”

4. In An Upper cabinet

This is one of the easier installation options. It’s essentially my lower cabinet microwave, but in an upper cabinet. You will need to either remove cabinet doors for a cut-out, then replace with smaller doors as needed (see upper right image) or you can create a cabinet door with a lift mechanism (upper left image).

If installing within a custom cabinet door, you won’t even need to buy the trim kit, but you will need to make sure it’s raised a couple of inches off the shelf (trim kits usually include the brackets for this).

Pros:

  • Easier installation than some other options
  • Lower cost because you can use a countertop model

Cons:

  • Can be tricky to find an inconspicuous “hidden” place, without a custom door

5. In The Pantry or Butler’s Pantry

A lot of folks commented on my post that it would be better to put the microwave in the pantry. Some also messaged me that they did implement my design, except in their pantry. I love this idea, and I may have done the same if my pantry were larger. I personally would want a countertop to place the food on nearby, so I think a larger pantry or butler’s pantry is best for this set-up.

If you are lucky enough to have a butler’s pantry, there are so many ways you can install your microwave here. Sure, you want your pantry to look attractive too, but this area is less about beauty than the rest of the kitchen. In here, it could even work to put a countertop microwave… on the counter!

Pros:

  • Most options for placement
  • Lowest cost option if you use countertop microwave

Cons:

  • Could be inconvenient / out of the way if you use your microwave frequently
  • Your pantry may not be large enough

Which Hidden Microwave Option Is Best For Me?

Each of the above options requires one of three microwave types – drawer, pull-down oven, or the countertop microwave plus trim kit option I used.

You’ll need to consider:

  • Your own preferences for convenience of access (are you okay with walking to the butler’s pantry, are you okay with bending or reaching?)
  • Your kitchen’s size and layout
  • Your budget! Options range from $400-$2200

You can browse options in each category below:

Shop Microwave Drawers

Shop Countertop Microwaves

*Search the matching trim kit too, if not already included

Shop Convection Microwave Wall Ovens

I hope this little guide helps. Now I’m off to go heat up my coffee. Oh the back pain! Jk jk 🙂

Until next time!

2 thoughts on “The Truth About That Hidden Microwave”

  1. #1. Not everyone owns their home.
    #2.Not everyone should have to, to enjoy their
    “Sanctuary”
    #3. Unfortunately, others HERE (USA) or elsewhere save pennies to merely to own a microwave/ LET ALONE have the joy of being able to decide how to “decoratively hide it” and then HAVE TIME leave “those” comments (mouth open in shock; rolls eyes) Well they can all BEND over and be crammed into their “Butler’s Pantry(s)” til they get a sense of gratitude!!! Gratitude for the square footage..Butler included!! 😅 🤐
    Some of THE MOST expensive real-estate:
    86 million dollar Malibu home in California uses the island to harbor the microwave and California has-been TASTEFULLY (& I thought brilliantly) doing so for years now, freeing up precious countertop space etc where each square INCH matters! I digress… Seriously though, as housing prices increase and more people are living in Studios and Tiny Homes, ideas like yours (frugal options too) are SO welcomed🙏…thank YOU!
    I see where a couple of these options are also *Renter-Friendly* and this just might be what’s holding back/missing in my San Francisco kitchen that makes it have that “renter/builder/spec home” feel: re-work where the microwave lives (hides🤔) duh! 💡👏
    Thanks again!

    • Kimberly,
      Thank you for your comment (and sorry it took so long for me to see it!) I’m so glad you find some of this helpful. I definitely keep these things in mind when coming up with ideas. There are people out there who have a passion for interior design, but so many of the trends are out of reach financially for the average person. I’m a huge fan of hacks… as you can see! Thank you for reading my blog.. Oh, and I’m so jealous you get to live in San Francisco! 🙂

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