Hmmm…That Looks Familiar


I’ve been wrestling with the design for the island/counter/microwave shelf I want to make to fit the 22-3/4″-wide area between the door and window. While I quite like my decrepit antique farmhouse table, it simply doesn’t fit the space – I find it aesthetically vexing to have things hang over door and window trim and I don’t want to have a plonk a microwave atop the table or kitchen counters. I use mine so rarely (now that my gas stove is once again functional) that it makes no sense to have it taking up valuable flat surface area. Plus, I’d find that, too, aesthetically vexing.

The parameters are tight: 22-1/2″ is as wide as I can go (I figure a 1/4″ of wiggle room is a good idea), and it can be no longer than 52″. There must be a shelf for a decent-sized microwave, and I’d like a lower shelf for cookbooks and whatnot. But I have to avoid having a leg land in the floor vent area, and I don’t want to impede airflow from said vent. The final product also has to serve as a table, in order to call the kitchen “eat-in,” and I want to be able to store two stools under it, and get my legs comfortably underneath. (So yes, as soon as I finish the island, I’ll be obsessing over counter-height stools – whee!)

Here’s where I started:


I like the idea of a drawer in the apron, but that lowers the microwave shelf by 5″ – not a big deal to me, but probably weird to look at. I also had concerns about the whole thing falling over if I leaned too hard on the end. Or if a cat jumped on it. (JJ really needs to be put on a diet.)

Then I moved to this, thinking maybe the easier solution – one that allowed more leg room – was to face the microwave out on the end:

Iteration 1

Just awful. I abandoned this idea quickly, deciding I couldn’t make the shelf sides play nice with the tapered legs in the back. Were there room, I’d have played around with frame-and-panel construction for the shelf area, thereby using legs there, too. But no…not enough room (unless I got a uselessly small microwave…which, when I do decide to sell, would no doubt be unattractive storage planning to potential buyers).

So  I then took the legs away, with the intent to secure the top to the wall, and added a hanging drawer, a la Greene & Greene or a Shaker sewing table:

Iteration 2

Nope. Still ugly. What my antipathy boils down to, I think, is that I don’t want to see the microwave facing out into the center of the room.


iteration 3

But no. This unit, with a drop-down door that hides the microwave, undermines the open feel I’ve been trying to create in this rehab project. Plus, there’s very little room for sitting.

But this one, I like. Looks familiar, eh?

Roubo iteration

It seems I’ll be building a “Roubo Microwave Island.”

If you wish to discover the dimensions, cutlist and joinery, c’mon over and see me at my other blog.

About fitz

Woodworker, writer, editor, teacher, ailurophile, Shakespearean. Will write for air-dried walnut.
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20 Responses to Hmmm…That Looks Familiar

  1. runamokwoodworks says:

    I’m sure A.J. would be proud.

  2. AlanWS says:

    Make sure to leave enough room that the microwave door can actually swing open.

    I like the look of this version with slats running the same way on both shelves better than the version with fewer stretchers on your PW blog.

    • fitz says:

      Hmmm…I don’t need the additional stretchers for stability, and removing them lightened the look to my eye. But hey — it’s a work in progress…or actually, not quite yet in progress. I’ll take another look. (And yup – plenty of room for the door to swing free, but I’ll confirm that statement with the actual appliance before cutting any joinery!)

  3. Patrick says:

    That will make a nice island. (It would be more useful at 38″.). Ok, got that out of my system, but I have another thought for you to go along with the island. Take the curvy corner, extend the counter and scribe around the curve AND put a lower shelf in to hold the microwave. Gets it off the counter. It has it’s own space. You gain counter space( a good thing) You won’t see the back of it and it will finish the kitchen nicely. The cart/workbench will be even more useful without the microwave taking up space. Just a thought. Run it by a few folks (realtor, trusted friend).

    • fitz says:

      Ah yes…I considered that, and will, in fact, be building some kind of table for that space, with a curved top to follow the wall and some open storage underneath…but will leave enough room for the floor under to serve as the pet-feeding/ pet-food storage station.

      So why not put the microwave there and move the cat food? Well…I thought about it too late. There is but a single, dedicated plug for the stove on that plastered brick wall, and I’ve already installed the baseboard (no way will I be able to put up with a cord running behind the stove and up onto the counter to plug it into the receptacles above the counter).

      While it would, of course, be possible and perhaps even reasonable to remove the baseboard, borrow a hammer drill to cut a channel and receptacle location, run more Romex, install another plug, patch the plaster, paint the wall and re-install the baseboard…I just…I…no.

  4. Bartee says:

    Well, we got rid of our microwave completely. We now use the stove top and a pan of just put stuff for reheating in the oven in foil. Tastes much better and gets rid of clutter.

    BUT I love the roubo microwave bench !!!

  5. jimendo says:

    I like it. What wood are you planning to use?

    • fitz says:

      An excellent question…that I’m not yet prepared to answer. But probably a top, at least, that contrasts with the white cabinets and beech countertops.

  6. mcdara says:

    Your kitchen island is the perfect size and height of an awesome carving bench. Just sayin’

  7. John says:

    We were thinking the same thing:

    Not that you need any more ideas, but the reasons why I used the roubo foundation for my Wife’s kitchen workstation:
    – Keep it lower so that she could make doughs
    – Make it heavy so it wouldn’t move (solid french oak)
    – Leveling casters that select between rubber foot and wheel, mostly hidden by leg veneers
    – Workbench-like so she can clamp a marble pastry slab as a “bench hook”
    – If it didn’t work out, I got to bring it into the shop
    – Drawer under the bench top since she doesn’t need dogs or bench hooks, yet…

    She has been using several months and loves it so far.

    Good luck!

  8. Bill Leonhardt says:

    I like my microwaves (yes plural) at eye level. One approach might be to build a shelf above the proposed location and install the microwave there. Wire mold could hide the wires if necessary. Then locate the island underneath. If you used nice casters on the legs, you could move the island to other kitchen areas to assist in various kitchen processes and then tuck it back when finished.

    • fitz says:

      I like my microwaves (strike that S following our neighborhood yard sale in August, I hope!) to be as hidden away and unobtrusive as possible – I use it for melting butter, and that’s about it. (Not that I cook on the stove or in the oven a lot these days; I just eat a lot of cheese and crackers.)

  9. Hilarious but I’m not sure how well your microwave will hold up to the holdfasts.

  10. Tom Vanzant says:

    Just the drafting checker coming out, but…. the face of the legs extends all the way to the top edge of the top. The lower edge of the top does NOT cross the legs.
    I like the slats aligned the same also.

  11. Pingback: As Long as I Don’t Answer Back… | Rude Mechanicals Press

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