Leaping (or lurching) into a kitchen remodel? If so, you're likely about to make an important appliance decision: whether to install a range or a cooktop-wall oven combination.
The good and bad news is that the options in size, configurations, and cooking functions of ranges, cooktops, and ovens are vast. This allows for better adaptability to your cooking needs and your kitchen's physical constraints. But it also makes the selection process complicated. Here are some key questions and tips from architects and designers to help you determine which cooking setup is best for you.
Made this decision recently? Please share your experiences in the comment section below.
Above: A San Francisco kitchen renovation by architect Mark Reilly.
What are your kitchen's space constraints?
The consensus among experts is that a range is the best option for a small kitchen with limited wall and cabinet space. Ranges are straightforward in their space needs: They come in standard widths (generally 24, 30, 36, and 48 inches) and fit into a cabinet opening. Cooktops take up counter space but leave the base cabinet space available for storage. A single wall oven's space needs are similar to a standard range and offer great flexibility of placement. It's the double wall oven that's the space hog—double ovens effectively remove 30 to 33 inches of usable countertop real estate.
How to decide which combination to go with? "The choice comes down to available square footage: a range usually takes up less space than a cooktop and a separate wall oven," says Alison Davin of Bay Area-based Jute Home (a member of the Remodelista Architect/Designer Directory). "Our first priority in a kitchen is creating good flow: ample space for working, relaxing, and entertaining. It's followed closely by storage. If these two boxes are checked and there's room to spare, I love the functionality of a cooktop."
Above: This Paris galley kitchen pairs a cooktop and wall oven in an over-under configuration that keeps the appliance impact to a minimum and the counter lines clean. Design by architect Anne Geistdoerfer via Afflante.
Do you need one or two ovens?
How often do you use your cooking appliances and how much capacity do you need? Be realistic about how you cook. Try keeping a log for a few weeks to track how many times you use the stovetop and the oven. Julie Lacap, owner of Contractor's Appliance Source in San Francisco, sees consumers often overestimating their need for an enormous oven. Call it the Thanksgiving turkey phenomenon. It can be a mistake to design the entire kitchen for that one annual meal.
- Are you an avid baker and don't want to wait until your roasted vegetable are done before cooking the tart? Then a double oven setup might be in order.
- Do you entertain every weekend and have friends bring food that needs to be heated while your main course is in the oven? Sounds like a double oven—or a warming drawer—is needed. See our post: Rediscovering the Warming Drawer.
- Do you have two ovens now and only use the second oven once a year for a family gathering? Consider making do with a single oven; as is, you're losing valuable storage space the other 364 days a year.
Because ranges are generally limited (though not always) to one oven, wall ovens are the way to go if you need two full-sized ovens. Or, if you love ranges but need two ovens, consider supplementing with a single wall oven. If you're short on wall space, it can be mounted in a base cabinet.
Above: Double stacked wall ovens in a kitchen by UK-based Mole Architects.
What are your cooking habits?
Your cooking habits also impact appliance choice:
- Do you tend to stand in front of your stovetop tending to your cooking? If so, you might want to avoid the heat radiating from an oven.
- Do you frequently move transfer dishes from the stovetop to finish in the oven? Proximity is important in this case.
- How close do you want your pots and pans to your appliance?
- Do you have back issues? Hauling heavy pots out of a range oven can be burdensome. A wall oven at arm and eye height is likely a better choice for those with bad knees or backs. Be mindful, however, of wall oven placement in relation to your height. If the oven is placed too high, your forearms are at risk of getting burned, and reaching into the oven might not be possible, forcing you into an awkward spot at the side of the oven.
- Is burner configuration important to you? Cooktops offer more flexibility in burner style, size, and options like induction burners.
Above: A cooktop is defined by a modernist hood in this kitchen by Netherlands-based Lodderkeukens.
How many cooks are in your kitchen?
Here's an instance where the number of cooks in the kitchen matters. If you're a solo cook, then you don't need to worry about competing for appliance access. If, however, it's common for your kitchen to have two (of more) chefs operating side by side, it's wise to consider a configuration that keeps you from getting in each other's way. Using a cooktop and oven allows for the creation of separate cooking and baking zones.
Above: Lodderkeukens installed a cooktop in the kitchen island and a wall oven in a cookbook niche.
Does your kitchen need a focal point?
"If a kitchen needs a focal point, use a range," says San Francisco architect Mark Reilly, a member of the Remodelista Architect/Designer Directory. "It adds visual heft to a space and can act as the anchor when other features are lacking." Alternatively, if a window, sink, view, and/or backsplash are the focal points, a cooktop is a good choice. It will let the other features stand out.
Above: Architect Mark Reilly's Belvedere kitchen remodel won the Remodelista 2013 Best Design Professional Kitchen Award. "Adding a stately hood over a cooktop can give it the heft of a range when a strong focal point is desired but a range won't work," says Reilly. Another tip: "When possible, center the range/cooktop on the kitchen space, island, and doorway. This helps organize the space, and creates a strong visual connection between adjacent rooms."
What are your aesthetic preferences?
Because there are so many options, the choice between a range and a cooktop-oven combo may come down to looks. Do you like the impact of a pro-style cooking setup? Then a range may be for you. Do you prefer the sleekness of built-ins? Wall ovens and a cooktop are the way to go. Even those who prefer the over-under setup of a range sometimes opt for a sleek fitting cooktop with a wall-oven mounted underneath.
Above: A walnut island crafted by Henrybuilt incorporates a cooktop. The design team at Henrybuilt note that a benefit of using a cooktop is that "the countertop line can carry across for a much more streamlined and linear look." This is often an important consideration in setups where the kitchen and living areas blend together.
Above: Instead of the double-height wall oven duo, this kitchen uses two wall ovens installed in the base cabinet space on either side of a pro-style cooktop. Image via GE Monogram.
Are there significant cost differences?
The two cost factors are the appliance and the installation. Generally, ranges are the way to go to keep costs down. There more options at the lower end of the budget spectrum, and they're also easy to install. That said, top-of the line ranges are not more affordable than cooktop-oven combos. If you're replacing existing units, it's obviously less costly from an installation standpoint to stick with the same type of appliance. If you're building a new kitchen, your options are varied.
Another cost consideration is replacement. If one cooking component of a range breaks, you have to replace both functioning parts (stovetop and oven). With a separate cooktop and oven setup, you can replace them individually. That said, separate cooktops and ovens vary in size from brand to brand and since they integrate closely with the adjacent cabinetry, you might have fewer options when it comes to replacement. Ranges are more standard in size and easy to replace.
Range vs. Cooktop/Oven Recap
Benefits of Ranges:
- All cooking functions are in one location
- A design statement good for kitchens needing a focal point
- Can be more affordable
- More space efficient for small kitchens
- Easy to install
Benefits of Cooktop-Wall Oven Combos:
- Easier for multiple cooks
- Oven cooking can be more ergonomic: at eye and arm level
- Dual full-size oven capability
- Adaptability in kitchen configuration with separate cooking and baking zones
- Flexibility in cooktop configurations and sizes, and you can have different sized stovetop and oven widths
For information on specific makes and models, see our posts
- 5 Favorites: Freestanding Electric Ranges
- 10 Easy Pieces: Freestanding 36-Inch Ranges
- 5 Favorites: High-Style Italian Ranges
- 10 Easy Pieces: Cooktops
- 13 American-Made Appliances