Designer Insider by Laura McCranner
Imagine working in the kitchen, dinner is on the stove, and somebody comes in to heat up a beverage in the microwave (an over the range microwave). This creates a conflict, now you’ve got two doing the cooking conga, a dance of sorts. There’s nothing wrong with dancing in the kitchen, I encourage it, but when you’re trying to cook it may pose a few problems…
The concept of mounting a microwave over the range, otherwise known as an “OTR,” was developed by someone who doesn’t work in the kitchen, I’m convinced of it! The OTR is a combination microwave, fan and light that is intended for over the range, to create efficiency in a kitchen and in the end, possibly cost savings. It’s a trifecta but not necessarily in a good way. It may be considered efficient in some cases, and necessary in others, but the concept is way overused, and we as a society need to take on the notion that just because you can doesn’t mean you should.
In the 1940s, before microwaves were invented, the work triangle was designed to create unobstructed pathways between the major kitchen appliances (see illustration A). It was also designed to spread those appliances apart, to create multiple work zones. With the microwave over the range, there are 3 major cooking functions stacked in the same location, thus creating something of a kitchen traffic hazard. Not-to-mention a cook’s frustration! By relocating the microwave and spreading the functions apart (illustration B), you can create more work areas and reduce the need to share that space.
Another reason to avoid locating the microwave above the range is for safety. There are some inherent dangers in leaning over hot burners to reach into a microwave. If the range is in use it can cause a burning hazard, and if you are pulling hot liquids out of a microwave that is at 57” above the floor, a spill can also cause burning.
The best thing about locating the microwave any place other than over the range or cooktop is that it allows for hood options which can be much more aesthetically pleasing. There are so many options (above are just a few), you may select from a plethora of materials and styles. You might choose something in a color that contrasts with the adjacent cabinets to create a casual, rustic or farmhouse feel, or in a matching color to create a formal look. Another option is a hood made of stainless steel, inherently a more contemporary or modern material. By highlighting the range in this way, it could become and often is the most beautiful focal point of any kitchen and that’s a reason to dance. <Que the music> Bring on the conga in the kitchen!