Microwaves may be as useful as all get out, but never have they been called beautiful. A closed drawer may, then, be just the place for them. Several notable brands sell drawer models, including Bosch, Jenn-Air, Thermador and Wolf. If like me you don’t know much about them, Boston-based Yale Appliances gives a very excellent overview on their very excellent blog.
In my world, microwaves drawers are in the news right now because they are part of a product expansion Sharp Electronics Canada is rolling through The Brick stores. Could that be a sign microwave drawers are poised to enter mainstream kitchen design? Possibly. Sharp was, after all, the first manufacturer to mass market microwave ovens, and it invented the widely-used spinning plate.
Ron Manger, Sharp’s consumer product sale/marketing director for Canada, explains that the brand’s manufacturing and design teams started collaborating on drawers about a decade ago, pushed by an overall “shift from traditional stand alone to built-in product that can give you flexibility in design.” Drawers, he adds, also free up valuable counter-top real estate, which creates the clean lines that define contemporary kitchen design.
There’s an ergonomic upside, too. “Above a wall oven is not ideal placement for a microwave, especially if you want to check the food inside, or stir it halfway through” suggests Manger, adding that it’s even more challenging for those with limited mobility, as well as for kids and shorties like me who have to stand on a chair.
Installation is typically no more complicated than that of a dishwasher, and not beyond the limits of the competent DIYer, says Manger, who points out that they only need 120V and can be topped with any material. The control panel is hidden in the top of the door, and a soft-touch close system make them easy to shut, even with the touch of a knee. The drawer can be locked open for easier cleaning, and there’s a child-lock setting.
Sharp does not do panel-ready units (ie: units that be custom-covered in the same material as other cabinetry for a more seamless look. ) At least, not yet, says Manger, explaining that many consumers still want to look and see what food is doing in a microwave.
Finishes for the 24-and 30-inch units are stainless and black stainless. Look for them at 35 Brick stories across Canada, or a specialty store than handles the brand. Prices at The Brick run between $950 and $1400. For comparison, a 24-inch drawer from Bosch sells for $2219 at Tasco
Points of View:
Scott Koehler, founder/president of the North Carolina-based design/build firm Dream Kitchen Builders, is a fan. Scott, who has designed and produced 500 projects in 28 years, and “loves microwave drawers” estimates he’s installed some 50 of them. Definitely Team Drawers.
Toronto designer Karl Lohnes says that while he loves the idea of a below-counter microwave, he’ll continue to specify wall-mounted units with swing doors. He worries, for example, that if you “slide open a drawer you get the heat rising into your face, (and that there is) no window to see how food is melting or bubbling,” he says. “My pessimistic side thinks that the drawer gliders will eventually give way with pulling and the weight of the food and dishes. Lastly, most drawer-style microwaves are built-in to the cabinetry which means no replacement options when the unit dies”.
Personally, I think they sound like a grand idea and would love to have one. Where do you stand?