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July 22, 2019

Appliance Placement

As a residential architect, I am very opinionated about the placement of appliances in the kitchen. But let’s be honest, we all are. Many of my clients and their designers feel very strongly about the topic. One would think (or hope) that some sort of consensus would have been formed by now. Unfortunately, that is not the case, it would seem that everyone has a different philosophy. Instead of giving you rigid guidelines, I’ll lay out a few different schools of thought.

Center the sink in the island

When initially laying out the kitchen in floor plan, everyone centers the sink in the island. However, once the cabinet folks get involved, things start to shift – sometimes the shift is slight, sometimes more than that. Since most of us don’t view our built-out kitchens in plan view, it is visually less important where the sink sits in a sea of granite countertop.

More important is what’s on either side of the sink. It is a given that one side will have a dishwasher. Which side, you ask? Well, that depends. I prefer the side closest to the majority of upper cabinets to make unloading the dishwasher easier. On the other side is the pull-out trash can(s). The larger the island, the more opportunity to add a drawer bank, drawer microwave, etc. In the end, the pendant fixtures over the island become the focal point, not the actual location of the sink.

Center the cook top / range behind the sink or in the cabinet run?

When looking at a kitchen in floor plan only, it looks pretty to center the cook surface behind the sink. However, if two cooks are in the kitchen preparing the evening meal together (as is often the case in working families), it creates congestion. Furthermore, how do the cabinets look in elevation?

I find the hood to be the visually dominant element that looks happiest when it is centered in the bank of cabinets in which it is housed – especially if the hood is a featured element built of cabinets or a sleek stainless-steel model. But centering the cooking surface can get complicated when there is a “gourmet” cooking option or a wall oven.

In a production building world, mistakes are best avoided if the major appliances like the cooking surface don’t move – especially their electric and gas hook ups. But adding a wall oven to that bank of cabinets can mess with the beautiful symmetry created when the range was centered in the cabinet run.

Gang the tall appliances together

Speaking of wall ovens, there is a big debate on where to put them in the kitchen.

  • Some clients like to gang the tall appliances together for a nice clean look.
  • On the other hand, some of my foodie friends tell me that they want the oven in the same run of cabinets as the cook-top, allowing them to easily finish a their dish in the oven after searing.
  • I also have a client who wants an open countertop immediately adjacent to the refrigerator, so they can easily pull things out and set them down. Often, there are at least three things that must be removed just to get to the butter dish. But I have also found this is less of an issue with a French door style refrigerator that sits directly across from the island.

What about the Microwave?

The microwave is most frequently placed above the range. Combining the range hood and the microwave definitely saves space – because let’s face it, ever since the large kitchen island became the status quo, we have fewer upper cabinets to work with. So, giving up one of our precious few cabinets can be a struggle. But is above the range the best place for multiple cooks, kids, and short people? NO! If two people are attempting to cook at the same time, chances are they will be bumping into each other over this cooking surface. Do we really want our kids reaching over the hot stove just to pop some corn (assuming they can reach it in the first place)?

If there is a wall oven, the microwave can go there – right? Problem solved. That is, unless your buyer wants double ovens (and they do). It’s time to bite the bullet and give up cabinet space for the microwave. We’ve all seen the microwave shelf that sits below the upper cabinets. It works, but it’s not exactly a sexy look.

Now you can get drawer microwaves. Perfect for kids, short people and aging adults who don’t like to lift hot foods from the high up microwave. And it doesn’t take away from the precious upper cabinets. Pricey, but if a buyer is already splurging on double ovens, it’s the best solution.

Kitchens are the most important and most used room in our houses. With furniture grade cabinets, high end counter tops and hard flooring, they are also the most expensive space on a cost per square foot basis. Getting them right is absolutely critical.

As you may have gathered, appliance placement should be taken on a case-by-base basis. There is just too much to consider to paint with a broad brush and call it a day. A little healthy debate about where the appliances go during the design phase is always a great discussion to have with the entire design team! Remember to include the architect, interior design, cabinet designer, purchasing and construction team in the discussion.

I’d love to know your thoughts on where the appliances go. I’m sure the answers will vary!

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This post was written by Housing Design Matters