New appliances function in a compact area

July 30, 2006|by CHRISTINE BRUN/Copley News Service

Appliance manufacturers seem to be getting the message about compact space and universal design. If you are planning a kitchen remodel in a very tight space or designing an accessible kitchen, this announcement about a new appliance will be good news.

Designers at Sharp Electronics Corp. have created the Cooktop-Microwave Drawer combination. This new product allows for a glass ceramic electric cooktop and a pullout microwave in only 30 inches of space. What does that do for your design concept? A lot.

Perhaps most importantly, the two-in-one concept eliminates steps between cooking appliances. Imagine melting butter in the microwave drawer that is right below your cooktop or steaming vegetables down below as you fry a pork chop on top. With just a few additional steps, the entire meal can be ready to serve.

The front-mounted knob-style controls are easy to see and clean, and the microwave drawer opens with the touch of a button. This is important for seniors who might have hand impairments and sight problems.


Whether you are designing a kitchen in a new situation or remodeling an older kitchen, this product offers easy under-counter installation without additional trim or venting, which can be expensive or even impossible to create.

Combine the unit with a pot drawer or deep pullout for other countertop appliances such as a blender, food processor or mixer to be stashed away from sight. Keeping a clean counter is critical if you only have 2 or 3 feet of it in the first place.

For an accessible kitchen, lower the entire unit to a 30-inch height to make cooking possible and comfortable for someone in a wheelchair. Then plan for a wall oven to be mounted at 36 inches above the floor, which is regular counter height. This would allow for the three typical cooking appliances in any kitchen to be in one spot.

For a person in a wheelchair, this means logical and functional design within a 60-inch length of wall. With a refrigerator on the opposite wall and a sink, the entire kitchen would be possible within just a few feet. An under-the-counter washer/dryer combo is also a possibility.

This invention is the latest in the appliances-in-a-drawer concept. Dishwasher drawers that allow for energy-efficient small loads are also available. Refrigerator and freezer drawers can be inserted into the tiniest kitchen in order to satisfy basic kitchen needs.

The design of such appliances demonstrates an increased awareness of how people really use their kitchens. The compact designs that roll out are also looking at the demographics of an aging population with reduced needs in shrinking space. A significant number of baby boomers will move out of their larger family homes into smaller places. Smart developers who build for this population will emphasize the realistic use of space and easy function.

When major manufacturers design with small-space function and accessible design in mind, they nearly always deliver many other terrific residual benefits to the public. Imagine using this unit in a family room or basement playroom. The combination is also perfect for a granny flat or small guest suite where more elaborate meals requiring an oven might be cooked in the main kitchen.

Christine Brun, ASID, is a San Diego-based interior designer and the author of "Big Ideas for Small Spaces." Send questions and comments to her by e-mail at or to Copley News Service, P.O. Box 120190, San Diego, CA 92112.

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