Contrary to their size, small appliances are a big part of a kitchen. Use this guide to find small appliances that will suit your budget, lifestyle, and space.
Bring measurements with you when you shop to ensure you buy the right size of appliance -- especially if it's one that will be installed, such as a warming drawer. Certified kitchen designer Elizabeth Goltz also recommends bringing a dinner plate and a few other dishes with you when shopping for microwaves, warming drawers, and dishwasher drawers to make sure everything fits.
Because cooks are relying on so many small kitchen gadgets these days, homeowners are transforming their pantries into mini kitchens, complete with counters, lighting, outlets, and often sinks. These butler's pantries are perfect for storing the small appliances so they can stay out and ready for use at a moment's notice. Plus, if you close the door, all of the mess instantly disappears.
Newer models of microwaves can come with convection cooking and grilling capabilities, as well as more preprogrammed settings for things such as baked potatoes, pasta, and more. A drawer-style microwave makes it easy to transfer hot dishes from the microwave to countertop. Undercounter or wall installations also eliminate the need for a high reach and potential for spills -- or worse, burns. Another worth-it microwave feature is sensors that determine when food is done and automatically shut off the machine.
Dishwasher drawers are ideal for homes with small dish loads. For a seamless look, consider adding matching cabinetry panels to the front of the drawers. Super handy models feature adjustable racks, tines, and stemware holders and special wash cycles for different types of dishes. If you really want to splurge, consider purchasing two dishwasher drawers that operate.
Warming drawers are ideal for homes that see a lot of entertaining. Some models can do everything from slow cooking a roast and prepping bread for baking, to warming up plates for a meal. For added functionality, look for a model without sides so you can fit wide items.
Many homeowners have started taking small appliances beyond the kitchen, creating wet bars with compact wine and beverage coolers in basements and entertainment areas. Wine coolers that feature dual temperature zones ensure that reds and whites stay at their proper temperatures. Some ultraindulgent models help you protect your expensive wines and include an alarm feature that will alert you if the door has been open for too long.
Electrical outlet placement is key when it comes to operating countertop appliances. Outlets on an island, under a cabinet, or inside an appliance garage make it convenient to use small appliances where they are needed without attracting attention to a wall outlet. Another discreet idea: Install a pop-up outlet that hides below the counter when not in use.
Appliance garages are great for stowing small countertop appliances. But make sure the doors either slide side-to-side or up and down. Swing-out doors consume the most space and tend to get in the way.
If you use your coffeemaker regularly, make sure to run a mixture of equal parts water and white vinegar through the machine every three months. Also, when you do brew coffee, use filtered water, which has fewer minerals.
Compact units such as wine coolers often don't have fans, so when you install a wine refrigerator, leave room around the appliance for the condensing coil to cool. If you don't, the whole machine will fail to function properly. To increase efficiency, make sure the door seal stays clean. If you do spill, make sure to promptly wipe up the mess with a warm, soapy cloth.
Spills and splotches in the microwave can cause the cooking energy to concentrate, which can burn or otherwise damage the machine's interior. So clean messes immediately with soap and water. Quickly address any door problems, such as broken seals or latches, to prevent energy and heat loss.
These built-in units require very little maintenance. If you spot scale and lime buildup in your dishwasher drawer, simply use a standard dishwasher cleaner to remove it.