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Remodeling 101: How to Choose Between a Range, Cooktop, and Wall Oven in the Kitchen

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Remodeling 101: How to Choose Between a Range, Cooktop, and Wall Oven in the Kitchen

September 20, 2018

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 comments section below.

A slim cooktop and under-counter oven keeps counters streamlined in Kitchen of the Week: A Minimalist Galley Kitchen in a Georgian London Townhouse.
Above: A slim cooktop and under-counter oven keeps counters streamlined in Kitchen of the Week: A Minimalist Galley Kitchen in a Georgian London Townhouse.

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 and 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.”

In a kitchen by a Cologne-based company, a countertop range keeps the appliance impact to a minimum and frees up storage space underneath. For more, see Kitchen of the Week: The New Old-World Kitchen from Noodles, Noodles & Noodles Corp.
Above: In a kitchen by a Cologne-based company, a countertop range keeps the appliance impact to a minimum and frees up storage space underneath. For more, see Kitchen of the Week: The New Old-World Kitchen from Noodles, Noodles & Noodles Corp.

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 vegetables 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.

And stacked double ovens (these are the Viking Designer Series wall ovens, now discontinued; the current version is the Viking Professional Custom Series 30-Inch Double Wall Oven) in Shop Owner Makié Yahagi’s Charm-Filled Loft in SoHo, New York.
Above: And stacked double ovens (these are the Viking Designer Series wall ovens, now discontinued; the current version is the Viking Professional Custom Series 30-Inch Double Wall Oven) in Shop Owner Makié Yahagi’s Charm-Filled Loft in SoHo, New York.

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 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.
A cooktop is defined by a modernist hood in this kitchen by Netherlands-based Lodderkeukens.
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 (or 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.

Not one but two cooktops in Steal This Look: Minimalist English Kitchen.
Above: Not one but two cooktops in Steal This Look: Minimalist English Kitchen.

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 and 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.

 Lodderkeukens installed a cooktop in the kitchen island and a wall oven in a cookbook niche; see more in Kitchen of the Week: Arjan Lodder Keukens Kitchen in the Netherlands.
Above: Lodderkeukens installed a cooktop in the kitchen island and a wall oven in a cookbook niche; see more in Kitchen of the Week: Arjan Lodder Keukens Kitchen in the Netherlands.

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.

Tip: Architect Mark Reilly, whose Belvedere kitchen remodel won the Remodelista 2013 Best Design Professional Kitchen Award, shares this trick: “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.” 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.”

And the design team at Henrybuilt notes 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.

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. Photograph via GE Monogram.
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. Photograph 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.

Stacked wall ovens in a kitchen in LA; see Let There Be Light: Habitat 6 in Los Angeles, Townhouses Designed for Brighter City Living for the full tour.
Above: Stacked wall ovens in a kitchen in LA; see Let There Be Light: Habitat 6 in Los Angeles, Townhouses Designed for Brighter City Living for the full tour.

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 stovetop and oven widths

Coping with a compact kitchen? Get much more info via our Ranges & Ovens Resource Guide. Plus, see our posts:

N.B.: This post is an update; the original story ran on May 1, 2014.

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