Mom’s console TV becomes flat screen TV cabinet | retro modern makeover

My mom loved her Zenith TV console. Me, not so much. When she died it became mine and, even though I thought it was an eyesore, I kept using it because it still worked. And for the most part I don’t like to get rid of things that are still useful. And that’s another thing I inherited from her.

zenith tv console
My mom’s old Zenith console TV

Anyway, one fine day the old Zenith finally pooped out and I was able to get a new 32 inch flat screen TV.

I was sure someone on Craigslist would love to take this precious relic off my hands for the bargain price of $10. A month later I officially gave up that dream and considered my options.

Option 1: smash it into little bits and throw it out, or
Option 2: convert it into a cabinet for my new flat screen

While Option 1 was very tempting, I still needed a cabinet for my new TV and didn’t want to spend $100 to $200, so I chose Option 2.

And so the transformation began.

Important: Wait before disconnecting the TV tube

It turned out to be a good thing I didn’t attempt this project sooner because I discovered that you need to let the electricity drain out to avoid electrocution or, at the very least, a nasty shock. But if you’re in a hurry, here’s a short YouTube video showing how to safely discharge the tube.

How to safely discharge a TV

Dismantling the old TV cabinet

I’m not gonna lie. If I had known upfront what I was in for, I might have gone for Option 1. There were so many things that were screwed into things, that were screwed into other things that were bolted here, there and everywhere…it just seemed endless. But I decided this thing was not going to defeat me so I kept on.

back of console tv
TV console back
inside console tv
Inside the TV cabinet. So many wires!

Then it came time to disconnect and remove the TV tube.

tv tube plug
TV tube plug

I braced myself and pulled the plug. I did not get shocked. But I did get some weird red stuff on me.

tv tube plug underneath
TV tube plug removed
red fluid under tv tube plug
Weird red stuff that got all over me

I don’t want to know what it was.

Then I took it down to Best Buy for recycling. That was an adventure in itself because a 25 pound roundish TV tube is not easy to maneuver. I put it in a box and made it safely down there.

Customizing my new flat screen TV cabinet

When I was done removing all the innards and taking off the fake plastic molding from the front, it was just a plain old wooden box.

plastic tv cabinet molding
Fake plastic molding
empty tv cabinet
Inside the empty TV cabinet
dismantling tv cabinet
Cabinet upside down to remove casters

My plan was to put in a shelf to hold the new TV with enough room underneath to place my satellite receiver, DVD player and CDs/DVDs.

And I wanted to add chrome legs to the bottom to make it taller and metal trim on the front to make it go with my retro modern coffee table.

Being a resourceful DIYer and not a carpenter, I made do with the few tools I have. I used my jigsaw to cut the metal trim and wood for the shelves. And then smoothed the rough edges with my mouse sander.

jigsaw cutting wood
Cutting wood with my jigsaw
cabinet bottom
Cabinet bottom after TV tube removed
gluing wood to cabinet bottom
Gluing wood to cabinet bottom

Tricking out the new cabinet

I put wood veneer edging on the outside edge of the shelf and at the bottom of the cabinet where I had added a piece of wood for reinforcement.

wood veneer and metal edging
Wood veneer and metal trim (Everbilt 3/4 x 1/2 x 1/16 x 48 in)

I spray painted the shelves, back and inside cabinet black with Rustoleum gloss protective enamel.

black spray paint
Rustoleum black gloss protective enamel
spray painting tv cabinet
Spray painting TV cabinet

On the bottom front of the cabinet I did some faux finishing.

before faux finishing
Before faux finishing, three strips of veneer with space in between

I mixed up some acrylic paint (black, brown, red and wine) to match the dark wood stain and painted the three wood veneer strips. For the spaces in between I used metallic silver acrylic paint.

faux finishing paint
Faux finishing supplies
faux finishing
Faux finishing, silver stripes

Then I coated everything with satin varnish.

I added the legs, glued on the metal trim and voila! My new cabinet was done! And it only cost me about $30 in supplies.

And here is the final result. I love my TV cabinet!

tv cabinet transformation after photo
Retro modern flat screen TV cabinet

Metal roof installation: Why I chose metal over asphalt

I’m flashing some new metal these days and it’s not around my neck or on my fingers. No, I’m talking about the new metal roof on my house and garage. And I love telling people about it. Sounds kind of weird, huh? But any time I can add value to my house and save money, that makes me very happy.

The first question everyone asks me is, “does it sound like a tin can when it rains?” And the answer to that is “no.”

But let’s back up a bit. I think most people around here don’t realize that metal roofing is an option. And I’m not talking about the standing seam roofs found on many commercial buildings. I’m talking about metal shingles that look just like asphalt, or even better in my opinion.

I’m going to give the lowdown on the money saving benefits, what options you may or may not need and what the installation process was like.

smart roofs for smart people

MetroShingles: smart roofs for smart people

How metal roofs save money

How can a metal roof save money when it costs more to install? If you think about how much money you would have to spend now and 20 years from now, it’s a huge savings.

For example, my old asphalt roof was installed in the early 90s and cost about $2,500. That same roof in 2017 was going to cost $10,000, four times more. Twenty years later it would need replacing again and it definitely would cost a lot more. If that cost quadruples again, a new roof would be $40,000. That means in 20 years I would have spent $50,000 for two roofs.

A metal roof costs about one-third more than asphalt. Instead of paying $10,000, I paid $13,000 for a roof guaranteed to last at least 50 years and will probably last much longer than that.

You will also get a discount on homeowners insurance with a metal roof. Not a large discount but it adds up over 50+ years.

Even if you don’t intend to stay in the house forever, a metal roof adds value to the house. The 50 year warranty is transferable and is a good selling point.

Will a metal roof make my house hotter

No, it shouldn’t. This article says that heavier materials like slate or concrete hold heat longer than lighter ones. And metal is the lightest roofing material and will cool down the fastest.

However, I think attic ventilation and insulation are more important factors in keeping the house cooler.

Types of metal shingles

I got MetroShingles which are made out of steel for durability, rust and dent resistance. Shingles come in either high or low profile. High profile is raised up on the side about an inch and would be suitable for a cottage style house. I went with the low profile, flatter shingles.

The shingles have a stone coating and I think that’s one reason why they’re not noisy in the rain.

They come in many colors. I chose charcoal which is a classic black roof. The dark color could make things hotter but I actually haven’t noticed any difference.

Options when installing a metal roof

Removing the old asphalt shingles. I don’t think it will make any difference in regards to keeping the house cooler. So if you only have one layer of shingles, save some money and put the metal shingles over it.

Installing a radiant barrier. Do you really need this? The theory is that installing a reflective radiant barrier in between the shingles and the roof will keep it cooler. There has to be a little air space above the barrier for it to work. Sounds good…or does it.

The reflective material is supposed to reflect heat away from the attic to keep the house cooler. But once that material gets covered with dust, which will inevitably happen even if it’s installed inside the attic, it will no longer be reflective.

The title of this article says it all: Radiant barriers: a solution in search of a problem. It really breaks the whole thing down. I urge you to read it and pass on a radiant barrier as I did.

Adding more vents to the attic. I decided to add one more vent to hopefully cool off the attic. It’s really hard to tell how much difference it might be making. But it didn’t cost that much so I took a chance.

My attic would probably benefit from a fan to draw out the hot air but the high cost didn’t make sense. It would be cheaper just to run the air conditioner when it gets too hot.

MetroShingle facts, benefits and installation demo

Here’s a short video showing typical installation.

What happened during my metal roof installation

First they tore off the old asphalt roof. There was only one layer of shingles but the roof had been leaking so the shingles were removed and rotten wood was replaced.

Roof torn off to bare wood

Roof torn off to bare wood

Next the underlayment was installed (plastic sheeting).

Then the metal shingles went on top. My satellite dish was disconnected for a few hours at one point during installation.

Roof with some metal shingles installed

Roof with some metal shingles installed

Vents were installed. I decluttered the roof by replacing replacing the old mushroom shaped turbine fans with low profile vents. I also added an extra vent as I said before.

The garage has a small addition in the back which was considered a flat roof. That area was given a different underlayment. It was self-adhesive for the purpose of creating a seal around the screws used to attach the shingles.

"Flat roof" area of my garage before demo

“Flat roof” area of my garage before demo

The whole project took five days. And here is the before and after. It looks so sharp!

Finally, I’d like to give a shout out to Western Roofing for the great job they did installing my new roof! Anyone in the SoCal area should give them a call. They’re #1 in roofs! And I don’t get anything for saying that except satisfaction for helping someone find a good roofing contractor.

DIY hair appliance holder

When I was setting up my new makeup vanity, I wanted my hair dryer and flat iron handy. I had ordered a desktop appliance holder but it took up a lot of room and the cords looked really messy so I sent it back.

Then I decided it would be much neater to hang my hair appliances on the wall next to the vanity. The holders I found online were flimsy and poorly rated so I decided to use something else as my holder.

Wrought iron bar rack holder

Wrought iron bar rack holder

I just happen to have a small star wrought iron towel holder in one of the bathrooms so I checked it to see if my blow dryer and flat iron would fit on it and, guess what, they did! The holder sticks out 4 inches from the wall which is perfect. But instead of ordering that same design, I got this bar rack holder without the star because I also happened to have a pretty birthday card I wanted to use as a plaque behind it. (The star holder is longer though and would also hold a curling iron.)

These Amish wrought iron holders are very sturdy. (I also own star curtain tiebacks in addition to the towel holder.) They’ll last forever! The only drawback is the shipping but they do combine shipping if you get more than one item. However, even with the shipping the total was about the same as one of those cheap holders.

To install, the first thing I did was mark holes from the holder onto the card.

Birthday card with punched holes as backing for hair appliance holder

Birthday card with punched holes

Using the holder as a guide again, I transferred the markings onto the wall and made sure they were straight using a level. Then I put holes in the wall, inserted plastic anchors, laid the card on top and screwed the holder in place.

Holes drilled in the wall with plastic anchors inserted

Holes drilled in the wall with plastic anchors inserted

After that I got four little nails and hammered the corners of the card down.

Small nails to attach greeting card to wall

Small nails to attach greeting card to wall

And that’s all there is to it.

Hair appliance holder with greeting card backing tacked onto wall

Hair appliance holder with greeting card backing tacked onto wall

Except for one thing…there was a messy situation going on with the cords plugged into a power strip on the floor.

Hair appliances plugged into power strip cluttering up the floor

Hair appliances plugged into power strip cluttering up the floor

So I mounted it on the wall just under the vanity tabletop. I coiled up the mirror’s cord and tucked it in between the wall and the vanity. I also coiled up the power strip cord.

Power strip mounted to wall underneath vanity

Power strip mounted to wall underneath vanity

I’m going to be painting my room pretty soon and I’ll also paint those cords to make them blend in.

Now everything’s looking neat and tidy and I can sit there and fix my hair in front of my Hollywood Starlet mirror!

Makeup vanity with wall-mounted DIY blow dryer/flat iron holder

Makeup vanity with wall-mounted DIY blow dryer/flat iron holder

Do you have a clever solution for organizing your hot hair tools? Please share them in the comments below.

Get rid of gophers with a gopher fence

For most people, gopher control consists of setting traps or using poison. Those methods do not deter gophers and I want to keep them out of my yard altogether. An underground wire fence will do that as it creates a permanent barrier between gophers and plants.

I’ve previously documented my battle with gophers which led me to replace the grass with concrete and gravel. That worked extremely well and I now have a beautiful, low maintenance backyard. But there was one area left unprotected, my vegetable garden.

For many months the garden was undisturbed until the gophers decided to come back and see what’s up. And that’s when I knew the time had come to put an end to this once and for all.

One of the gopher tunnels in the vegetable garden

One of the gopher tunnels in the vegetable garden

Read on for the step by step instructions.

If you have raised beds to protect, you might want to check this out.

For gopher-proofing a new lawn, you might be interested in this article.

Materials for an underground gopher fence

½” x 4′ x 25′ 19-gauge hardware cloth (I got mine from Home Depot)
Tie wire for attaching pieces together
12″ concrete pavers
Wire cutters and pliers
Measuring tape

Hardware cloth and concrete blocks for making gopher fence

Hardware cloth and concrete blocks for making gopher fence

The most important component is hardware cloth. Nothing else will do. Don’t even think about using chicken wire because gophers can chew through that with no problem.

My vegetable garden is outlined with concrete blocks and my idea was to sandwich the hardware cloth between those and 12″ concrete pavers.

I figured that my garden would need three rows of hardware cloth that would overlap by about a foot. There doesn’t need to be that much overlap, six inches would be enough.

Vegetable garden before installing gopher fence

Vegetable garden before installing gopher fence

How to install an underground gopher fence

Dig a hole

The first step was to dig a very large trench to the depth of about 14″. I did this in three sections knowing that there would be three rows of hardware cloth to cover the entire area.

The worst part was trying to find a place for all that dirt. There were piles everywhere, sitting on top of tarps and cardboard to keep dirt from getting into the gravel.

First section dug out of garden about 14" deep

First section dug out of garden about 14″ deep

Measure sides and bottom to get hardware cloth length

Once a section was dug out, I got in the hole and used the measuring tape down one side, across the bottom and up the other side. That figure was for cutting out a length of hardware cloth for the section.

This process is very much like sewing where you measure, cut and attach pieces together, only using wire instead of fabric.

Measuring inside the hole for hardware cloth

Measuring inside the hole for hardware cloth

Cut matching piece of hardware cloth

Hardware cloth was rolled out and secured with concrete blocks. It wanted to curl up on itself.

I measured the correct length and cut across using wire cutters.

Measuring out a length of hardware cloth

Measuring out a length of hardware cloth

Bend hardware cloth into shape and install

The hole was about 14″ deep and I wanted the hardware cloth to start about 2″ below the concrete block edging. So I bent the sides of the mesh down 12″. After I bent the first edge, I opened it back up and bent the other sides down.

Bending it was pretty easy. I cut a notch in the side at the 12″ mark and folded the wire down on itself, making sure the edges lined up. Then I walked sideways all the way across to the end.

At the corners I cut down one side so the pieces would come together to form a right angle.

This resembles the way a cardboard box is put together. The photos below illustrate this process using a piece of paper.

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And here’s a photo of the real thing.

Hardware cloth bent to fit inside trench

Hardware cloth bent to fit inside trench

I put the finished bent wire piece in its place inside the hole and, voilà, it was a good fit!

Installation of underground gopher fence

Installation of underground gopher fence

Put concrete pavers around perimeter

Concrete pavers all around the perimeter will keep the hardware cloth in place.

Hardware cloth held in place by pavers and dirt

Hardware cloth held in place by pavers and dirt

Fasten rows of hardware cloth together

I used pieces of rebar tie wire every 3 to 4 inches to connect the sections and corners together. I started cutting the pieces longer to make them easier to work with.

Fill in hole with dirt

I thought this would be the easiest part but the dirt didn’t want to all fit back in the hole. It needs a lot of tamping down as you fill and I just did a little of that by walking on it. Then I watered it down thinking that would help it settle more.

Here’s a pictorial showing the project as it progressed:

It took about three days to put all the dirt back in and I still have some leftover!

Vegetable garden after installing gopher barrier

Vegetable garden after installing gopher barrier. Notice the pile of dirt leftover!

The whole project took about a week. Nobody can see any sign of the gopher barrier and pavers as I intended.

At long last the war is over and I won!

In related news, my next door neighbor reports gophers have now started tearing up their lawn.

Front door privacy curtain

Privacy is hard to come by when you live in the city. People are always walking up and down the street, cars are driving by, the neighbors are always coming and going.

So when I’m sitting on my couch with the front door open, I feel like I’m on display and I don’t like that.

I already have a security screen to keep bugs and intruders out and now I can keep people’s prying eyes out with this quick solution—a front door curtain!

And if you want to put up a curtain at your front door, it only takes about five minutes. Here’s what you do.

Screw in a couple of cup hooks at the top of the door frame.

cup hooks as curtain rod holder

Cup hooks as curtain rod holder

Insert a cheap curtain rod.

Curtain rod fits into cup hooks

Curtain rod fits into cup hooks

Find a cute curtain to put on the rod, one that isn’t too sheer (because that would defeat the purpose now wouldn’t it). A regular curtain should work fine. No blackout curtains.

I happened to have the cup hooks and curtain rod lying around but needed a curtain. I found just what I wanted at Walmart. It’s white with sequins and silver threads running through it because in my world you can’t have too many sequins.

door curtain5

The only thing is the curtain is 84″ long and my doorway is 78″ tall. I turned up the hem 5″, zip zip on the sewing machine, and it was perfect.

Well, almost perfect. I took one additional step and created an elastic loop attached to the curtain that fits over the doorknob to keep it from billowing in the breeze and blowing my cover!

Elastic loop sewn to curtain

Elastic loop sewn to curtain

Slips over doorknob

Slips over doorknob

The curtain lets in lots of light and keeps me incognito.

Front door curtain for privacy

Front door curtain for privacy

How to survive during a kitchen remodel

Surviving without a kitchen starts long before the contractors show up with their sledgehammers. The more you prepare in advance, the easier things will be for you during construction and after.

Having been through a kitchen renovation before, I decided to do things different the second time around: mainly, no cooking and no washing of dishes. The only exception was for the coffee pot. Ah, there’s nothing like a fresh cup of hot coffee to make everything seem okay for just a little while.

I didn’t want to use dishes because I didn’t want to wash them in my small bathroom sink. Nor did I want to wash them outside with the hose because the water that comes out of it isn’t potable, so why would I want that on my dishes? It’s just very inconvenient washing dishes without a kitchen.

And I didn’t want to cook either because that makes dishes.

I also didn’t want to eat out because I normally cook for myself all the time and only eat out maybe two or three times a month.

I had about three weeks to prepare for my remodel in which time I had to pack and prepare meals to last a few weeks.

Packing up the kitchen

First off, I got rid of a bunch of things I wasn’t using. Some of it I gave away and some of it I sold.

The next thing I did was to pack up all the small appliances and things I wasn’t going to need for a while. I put like things together and labeled every box.

Now here’s a tip that saves time after the kitchen is finished. In order to avoid having to wash everything after unpacking, I wrapped almost everything in clean plastic bags.

Then I put all that stuff into an empty hall closet, packing it like I was putting a 3D puzzle together, filling every last inch of space.

Hall closet stuffed full of kitchen items

Hall closet stuffed full of kitchen items

list of kitchen items

Inventory of packed kitchen items

I also wrote up a list and taped it to the door so I wouldn’t forget what was in there.

Other things like my dishes, spices and packaged food went into my new temporary kitchen.

Here’s another tip. My refrigerator had space in it so I filled it up with pantry items. Canned goods can be kept in there with no problem.

Setting up a temporary kitchen during a remodel

I used the middle bedroom as my temporary kitchen. I set up a card table with a microwave, coffee pot, disposable plates, cups and silverware, napkins and snacks.

Temporary kitchen during remodel

Temporary kitchen during remodel

Boxes with my dishes and canned food were stored under the card table. Then I had another large box in the middle of the room filled with all the last minute stuff I packed. And on top of that I had a dish drainer, soap, windex, paper towels, etc.

The refrigerator stayed in the demoed kitchen for a while then got moved into the living room.

Meals prepared in advance

Want to know what I planned to eat? I had food for breakfast, lunch, dinner and snacks. I put individual servings into plastic bags. The sandwiches were individually wrapped and stored back in the original bread wrappers. Everything got frozen except for the cheese and nuts. Here’s the list of what I made:

  • Peanut butter half sandwiches, 20
  • Bacon, egg and cheese sandwiches, 24
  • Chicken parmesan, 4 servings
  • Inside out ravioli casserole, 9 servings
  • Tamale pie casserole, 8 servings
  • Hamburger pie casserole, 8 servings
  • Pot roast, 6 servings
  • Almonds, 30 snack bags
  • Individually wrapped cheese sticks, 12 pc

I also had individual servings of mashed potatoes and cooked vegetables. And I bought several boxes of protein bars.

Breakfast and lunch

I alternated between the sandwiches and protein bars for breakfast and lunch.


For dinner I chose one of the casseroles and a side of vegetables.


I relied on nuts, cheese sticks and sometimes a peanut butter sandwich between meals.

frozen meals for kitchen remodel

Freezer full of home cooked meals to eat during kitchen remodel

Every night I would defrost food for the next day. At mealtime, all I had to do was open a plastic bag, put the food on a paper plate and microwave.

Even the dog ate off of paper plates!

I began with about five weeks worth of food that I hoped would be enough. Right around week four my patience and my food were running out due to a couple of unforeseen delays.

So I had to make an emergency trip to Costco for prepared food which I don’t normally buy. I got cheeseburgers, cooked hamburger patties, tequila lime chicken wings and a bag of lettuce. I think I heard angels singing when I feasted on those wings!

Living with a kitchen reno: noise, dust and delays

My kitchen remodel took seven weeks. The contractors were there on 23 of those 49 days. There was a lot of time when nothing was happening.

When they were there, the builders were really good about sealing off the kitchen and cleaning up at the end of the day, so dust wasn’t a big problem. Noise was a problem at times so I would sometimes take the dog for a walk. The rest of the time I tried to work on the computer, but it was really hard to concentrate.

I also had to keep my dog on a leash in the house so he wouldn’t accidentally get let out.

With a kitchen reno you should always count on the fact that it won’t be finished on time. But knowing that doesn’t make it any easier when unexpected things pop up.

My breaking point came around the fourth week when they had to level the kitchen floor. I wasn’t allowed in that room for three days and that was the last straw because I couldn’t use the door to the backyard. I had to walk around the front yard to the backyard every time the dog wanted to go out.

It’s amazing how much little things matter at a time like that when your house is in chaos.

After that things gradually got better as the new kitchen came together.

Moving back into the kitchen

Before I moved all my stuff back into the kitchen, I had to clean the cabinets inside and out.

Then I took my time unpacking and trying to figure out where things would go. But at least I didn’t have too many dishes to wash having protected them during storage.

If you want to see my new kitchen, then check this out.

And please share your best tip for surviving a kitchen remodel.

My galley kitchen upgrade

Two years ago I did a complete renovation of my small galley kitchen. The house was built in ‘44 and my parents bought it in in the early 50s. Bits and pieces were updated a few times over the years with the end result being a hodgepodge of awfulness (sorry Mom and Dad). So in 2013 when it became my house, I decided it was time for a total teardown and upgrade which I documented in a time lapse video near the end of this article.

Every inch counts in a small kitchen, and I’ll show you what I did to make the most of this challenging layout while keeping the cost as low as possible.

Right now, before I get into the details, I’m going to give you the goods—a couple of before and after shots.

Galley kitchen before and after photos

And now on to the backstory. Read on to learn:

  • How I saved money
  • How I made the kitchen look bigger
  • How I changed the layout to improve appearance and function
  • What I splurged on
  • My design choices

Things that saved me money

Did not enlarge the kitchen

I decided not to put an addition onto the kitchen. Not only is there the cost of construction to consider, but also the taxes that are added along with new square footage.

Reused the nearly new appliances

the same refrigerator in the upgraded kitchen

Kept the same refrigerator in the upgraded kitchen

Even though this was a total teardown, there were four things worth saving: almost new stove, refrigerator, garbage disposal and sink. Everything else was ripped out: the cabinets, flooring and lights.

Originally I didn’t want to keep the white appliances because I prefer the look of black or stainless. But it just didn’t make sense to replace perfectly good appliances. This was a really good decision in the end.

I’ve discovered stainless is really hard to keep spot-free. White appliances have the advantage in not showing every little water drop.

Kept the same white paint color

I also kept the white paint job. White is about my least favorite color for walls, but the kitchen had been recently painted and I didn’t want to have to repaint everything all over again.

I actually ended up having to repaint most of it anyway once construction was done on the ceiling and walls. But as it turns out, white paint was a good color choice to minimize and coordinate with the white appliances.

Made the kitchen look bigger by taking out a wall

Today everyone wants open concept which is the exact opposite of what people wanted in the 40s and 50s. I didn’t even have to take down a whole wall. I just widened the doorway from the living room to the kitchen. Removing that three foot section of wall made both the living room and kitchen look bigger.

Rearranged the layout to better utilize the space

The kitchen itself is kind of a T-shape, with the galley kitchen in the center, a pantry at one end of the T and a small dining area at the other end. Connected to the dining area is a small laundry room.

There were two things that really bothered me about the layout:

  1. The refrigerator was on the wrong side. It extended past the countertop and blocked the view of the kitchen window. I had it relocated to the opposite side, recessed into the wall by about four inches.
  2. There was no dishwasher. To make room for one, I moved the stove down as far as possible to create a longer section of countertop. And that made room for a dishwasher next to the sink.

Gave my small galley kitchen the Wow Factor

These were all things I splurged on:

Dramatic black granite countertops

The whole kitchen makeover was designed around one thing I’d been dreaming about for a few years: sparkly black countertops. I was going to use a quartz composite but that was actually more expensive than real granite. So, real granite it was. Black galaxy granite. Even the name is dramatic.

galley kitchen upgrade granite

Dramatic black granite countertop

Full backsplash

I have a real pet peeve about skimpy backsplashes. A four inch backsplash is useless. I insisted on having a full one.

Originally I was going to do it in a different color, like silver or gray, but there would have been an extra charge to fulfill the minimum order requirement. So I just went with the black galaxy granite on that too. And I’m very glad I did because the countertops and blacksplash look like a sculptural piece of art.

New funky chandelier in the dining area

new kitchen chandelier

My Supernova mini chandelier

My fabulous chandelier practically steals the show from the granite countertops. I love it so much I wrote a post about it.

Other design choices

My taste favors clean lines, somewhere in between modern and contemporary. With this kitchen renovation, I was leaning a bit towards retro modern.

As for the colors, there needs to be contrast between the cabinets, countertops and floors. Since the counters are black, I chose a medium brown for the cabinets and a slightly darker taupey brown for the floor.

Shaker cabinets

galley kitchen upgrade

Shaker cabinets with simple silver pulls

I wanted cabinets that didn’t have to be painted so I opted for wood cabinets in a shaker style. Then I chose very simple and inexpensive polished silver drawer pulls for them.

As for the cost, these are medium grade stock cabinets. They’re fine and much better than what I had before, but I wish I’d spent a little more and gotten custom cabinets. There would have been more storage space and less dead space than with stock cabinets.

Porcelain tile floors

kitchen upgrade tile floor

Porcelain tile floor in the kitchen

This was my second choice as I had originally ordered black and brown granite tiles online. The samples looked nice but on installation day my contractor discovered they were not perfectly flat.

They had to go back and I had to scramble to pick out new flooring locally. But I think the porcelain tile was a better choice. It has a very interesting texture and does not show the dirt. Very important.

Blanco sink

I reused the sink as it was still in good shape. It’s nice and deep. I had it mounted underneath the granite for a smooth look.

Simple kitchen faucet

I’m a bit of an oddball in that I don’t like single-handle faucets. The one I chose has a high curved faucet with two handles and a sprayer on the side.

kitchen upgrade faucet

Simple kitchen faucet

Stainless steel dishwasher

Notice I did not get a white dishwasher to match the stove and refrigerator. I think stainless blends in better with the cabinets and the other silver accessories. White would have been too jarring.

galley kitchen upgrade

Stainless steel dishwasher blends in well with the wood cabinets and tile floor

Modern silver track lights

kitchen upgrade lighting

New modern track light

These were inexpensive and a little bit funky with that curved bar. The polished silver goes with the cabinet pulls and faucet. And they provide lots of light.

Black outlet covers

Another one of my pet peeves is outlet covers that don’t match the walls. I usually end up painting them but fortunately black ones were available.

galley kitchen upgrade

Black oulet covers blend into the granite backsplash

More after photos of my galley kitchen upgrade

Let’s take another look around my new kitchen.


kitchen upgrade pantry

New pantry in galley kitchen

This is a case when less is more. The new pantry is slightly smaller (length and width) than the old one. It fits better in that narrow passageway.


galley kitchen upgrade stove

White stove against black countertops

The new kitchen has a black and white theme which is carried on as accents throughout the rest of the house.

Longest stretch of countertop

galley kitchen upgrade counter

Long countertop in new galley kitchen

The counter next to the stove measures seven feet long. The only things allowed to live there are the coffee pot, potholders, salt and pepper. That leaves plenty of room for me to cook.


galley kitchen upgrade sink

Sink in front of the kitchen window

I love how the sink is underneath the granite.

Short countertop

galley kitchen upgrade counter2

Counter to the right of the sink

The counter in between the sink and refrigerator is just over three feet long. There’s just enough room for the microwave and toaster oven. They’re mostly hidden from view by the refrigerator.


galley kitchen upgrade refrigerator

Refrigerator hides microwave and toaster oven

The refrigerator, being recessed into the wall, barely sticks out beyond the countertop, leaving more room in the middle of the floor.

Dining area

galley kitchen upgrade dining aea

Dining area with new chandelier, curtains and chairs

Time lapse video of my kitchen renovation

Watch this short video to see my new kitchen being built.

And that brings us to the end of this small kitchen makeover

Thank you for visiting today and please leave me your comments or questions.

Related article

How to survive during a kitchen remodel

Concrete backyard makeover

Grass is a high maintenance landscaping choice with very little payoff. You spend all week watering it so that you can spend all weekend mowing it. Just doesn’t make sense. And aesthetically, it’s ho-hum boring.

My lawn had also become an all you can eat buffet for gophers. I needed to get rid of both.

The design inspiration for this backyard makeover, since I happen to live in the city, was a concrete urban garden. I love rambling country gardens but I also happen to love the hardscaping in malls and industrial parks. So my thought was to combine a bit of both—modern concrete with bright, colorful flowering plants.

Because this is arid California, I wanted to use plants with low water requirements. I also wanted to keep the cost down by staying away from underground sprinklers, water features, gas or electric lines, or anything that would require a permit. And of course I wanted to do most of the work myself.

So now I’m going to show you the before and after photos, then I’m going to go through all the steps it took to get there. At the end there will be more after photos.

Before photos

My backyard was a sea of grass surrounded by mismatched walls. A real snoozefest.

After photos

The new concrete backyard has walkways, sitting areas and flowerbeds surrounded by my signature purple walls. The color scheme is purple, blue, pink and white. Vibrant and alive!

Concrete backyard makeover step by step

Tore out the lawn

The first thing I did was to remove the grass. This took about three weeks with just me, a shovel and two pairs of gloves.

Here’s how it looked when I was done.

backyard with grass removed

Backyard after digging out grass

Created a landscape design drawing

I hired a landscape architect to design the new concrete backyard keeping these things in mind:

Backyard landscape drawing with concrete pavers

Backyard landscape drawing with concrete pavers

Modern design
Gopher and termite resistant
Weed control
Fencing around air conditioner and trash cans
Space for relaxing and entertaining
Herb and vegetable gardens
Low water plants
Color, color, color!

I ended up making a few changes to the plan as I went along.

Installed concrete pavers and gravel

This phase was one I couldn’t do on my own due to the size and weight of the 24″ x 24″ concrete pavers. You can read the details here.

When the work was finished it looked like this.

24" concrete patio pavers installed

Patio pavers installed

The rest of the gravel work I did on my own after planting the trees.

Painted concrete walls and planted trees

This was essential to bring color and uniformity to the walls. I painted them myself then planted trees, and here’s the end result.

concrete walls painted purple

Concrete walls painted purple

Made a fence to hide garbage cans

I’d never made a fence before but I figured it out. I like the look of the galvanized steel.

DIY garbage can fence made from roofing panels

DIY garbage can fence made from roofing panels

Created flowerbeds and finished graveling

I went to Home Depot and got 4″ x 2″ x 8″ gray concrete bricks to outline the flowerbeds. They cost 29 cents apiece.

I used a level, tape measure and wood boards to keep the lines going straight. It was really tedious because if you start veering off the slightest little bit, by the end it’s way off.

outlining flowerbeds with concrete bricks

Outlining flowerbeds with concrete bricks

And as much as I tried to avoid it, some of the bricks had to be cut. I learned how to do that using a hammer and chisel by watching YouTube videos.

As I was outlining the flowerbeds I also installed the rest of the weed block. When each section was done I spread gravel around.

The photos below show the addition of an air conditioner fence and a small privacy screen.

I moved all that gravel, five yards worth, using nothing but a five gallon paint bucket.

A mountain of gravel in my driveway

A mountain of gravel in my driveway

Bought patio furniture and umbrellas

The backyard started coming to life when I put the furniture in. I got it from, their Mainstays collection. I was really happy to find this shade of blue which just happens to match my house! The furniture is very sturdy and sleek.

New patio furniture and umbrellas

New patio furniture and umbrellas

The umbrellas were from Amazon. I really agonized over this decision. The original plan called for sail shades which would have been ultra modern but turned out to be way too expensive.

Then I considered a canvas patio cover and that was also much more than I wanted to spend. So I ended up with these umbrellas because I like the offset design and the solar lights. Oh, those solar lights are magical at night!

Umbrella with solar lights at night

Umbrella with solar lights at night

Here’s what I did to make the umbrellas look more like a permanent installation. I buried them under the gravel with four heavy tiles weighting down the stand. Altogether they weigh around 100 pounds. The tiles came from Home Depot.

Planted the flowerbeds

Along the side of the garage I planted herbs: oregano, thyme, chives, basil and cilantro. The vegetable garden in front of the trash can fence has lettuce, yellow squash, flat leaf parsley and jalapeños, along with some pansies for color.

I’ve already been harvesting the lettuce and squash, but the parsley and jalapeños are taking much longer to come in.

my vegetable garden

My small vegetable garden with lettuce, parsley, jalapeños and yellow squash

The other flowerbeds are planted with flowering trees, shrubs, annuals and ground cover.

Installed solar lights as hose guards

I got these wonderful color changing solar lights to put in the corners of the flowerbeds. They were installed in a way that also makes them work as hose guards.

hose guard from solar light

Hose guard from solar light

Added a fire pit/BBQ

A fire pit was not part of the original plan but I needed to put something in the center of the patio. Having one makes the backyard an inviting place to hang out at night.

fire pit in center of patio

The fire pit doubles as a grill

Besides being super affordable, the design adds a funky touch to the decor. You might have noticed I’m all about celestial art, so I was drawn to the cutout stars and moons. The color ties in with the rusty bougainvillea trellis and the cinnamon colored bark on my crapemyrtle trees.

And another really great thing is that it’s also a functioning grill!

Added a garden trellis as a focal point

Every room needs a focal point and outdoor rooms are no different. I couldn’t resist this freestanding trellis when I saw it and knew it would be perfect. Naturally I had to Lynda-fy it with color and bling. Read all about that here.

And that brings us to the end of the project after months of planning and labor. The total cost was just under $13,000 but would have easily been three times that much if I hadn’t done most of the work myself.

Now let’s take another look around my brand new backyard.

A picture tour of the new concrete backyard

Installing weed barrier

Prevent weeds from taking over your yard by installing weed barrier under a layer of gravel or mulch. Just a few of hours of labor done once will free up many more hours you can spend relaxing in your backyard oasis.

This is the type of project that one person can do easily as I’ve done in my new concrete and gravel backyard.

Weed block fabric topped with gravel makes for about the lowest maintenance yard you can have. Here are some tips for installing it.

Using weed barrier fabric effectively

First of all, I do not recommend using it in flowerbeds. In my yard landscape fabric is used everywhere else.

To work effectively it has to be covered with a thick layer (about 4 inches) of gravel or mulch to block light and prevent seed germination. I prefer gravel because it will always look good and will not have to be replenished like mulch does. And because it can’t be dragged into the house on my little dog’s fur.

The first thing to do is figure out the square footage (length x width) and add 20 to 25% to account for overlap. Then get a heavy-duty weed barrier. The one I used was Scott’s landscape fabric from Home Depot.

weed barrier

Scott’s landscape fabric

Preparing the area

Prepare the ground by weeding it and raking it smooth. I also think it’s better to plant trees and shrubs first before installing weed block. You can plant them afterwards but care must be taken not to leave soil on top of the cloth.

Rolling out the weed fabric

Lay out a strip of fabric leaving some extra at the beginning, end and side where it might come into contact with a wall or garden edging. The next row should be overlapped on top of the previous one by at least 6 inches.

Tacking down the fabric

sod staple

Six inch 11-gauge sod staple

Weed block fabric needs to be anchored so it doesn’t get blown away before you get a chance to cover it.

Sod staples can be pushed into the ground at one foot intervals all along the edges. You’ll definitely need those if you’re going to be using mulch as a topper.

But with a gravel topper you can just use bricks to hold the edges down until you spread gravel on top. The weight of the gravel is more than enough to keep it in place.

Working around plants

What I do is roll it down to the plant, fold it back then cut along the fold up to the plant. Then I snip the fabric all around the plant until the fabric is lying flat. Underneath the seam I put down a large scrap piece to overlap so that no ground shows through.

weed barrier

Mama’s little garden helper


Because there’s no such thing as 100% weed protection, eventually a stray one will pop up here and there. Sometimes they come up from the ground, and other times they grow on the surface. Either way, they should be removed before they have a chance to make big holes in the weed barrier.

I carefully push the gravel away from the weed until I see the root, then I pull the whole thing out. If it’s grown up through the fabric and the entire root doesn’t come out, I spray a little herbicide on that spot before covering it back up.

And that’s about it. You can now enjoy your low maintenance yard for many years to come.

My blinged out garden trellis

Trellises are mostly used for supporting plants without much thought given to their decorative possibilities.

But they can also be used to add layers of interest to your garden, especially if you customize them to complement your decor.

When I saw this trellis I knew it was just the thing I needed as a spectacular centerpiece in my backyard.

The catalog photo

Yardistry circle garden feature

Yardistry circle garden feature

I just fell in love with the unusual design of this trellis. My favorite part is the circle which reminds me of the full moon, and I’m all about moons, suns and stars.

This is a great photo, but the trellis is more of an accent in the background. My plan was to make it the focal point with a pop of color and some sparkles.

The before photo

circle garden trellis

So here it is after assembly and before painting. Let me tell you, putting this together was no easy feat. I did about half of it on my own and then my kind neighbor came over and finished it for me.

We put in place for painting on top of cardboard so the paint wouldn’t splash all over the rocks.

The original color to me is ho-hum and drab, almost blending in with the gravel. Definitely not the look I wanted.

Bring on the color!

I used two colors (blue and yellow green) to coordinate with my patio furniture, along with a dark purple which relates to my purple walls.

The main color is citron (yellow green) which really adds pizzazz. The front of the circle is blue and the inside is dark purple.

I used a small foam roller and brush to apply two coats of paint. The paint has a satin finish for a little bit of shine.

blinged out trellis

After painting but before bling

Hanging in the center is a wonderful sun mobile (there’s that celestial thing again!).

Okay, so this looked pretty good but I needed more.

Adding bling to the trellis

I’ve been dying to do a project using old CDs and I figured this was the time to try it.

blinged out trellis

Bling added to circle

I cut up three or four CDs and glued the pieces on with E6000.

The after photo

blinged out trellis

Definitely an eye catching statement piece.

The big picture

This is pretty much what I see from my bedroom window. Eventually when those trees in the background grow to their full size, the trellis will still pop.

blinged out trellis

Blinged out trellis as a garden focal point

I’m really loving my new backyard and my blinged out trellis!

Want to see the backstory? This is where it all began.

Quick outdoor fabric privacy screen

Using a shower curtain as a privacy screen

Most of the walls in my backyard are solid except for this one small six foot wide section of chain link fence. Even with slats you could still see right through it, and that bothered me.

I considered various options like attaching corrugated steel panels to the fence, planting a vine or attaching privacy mesh fabric. None of those appealed to me. I just wanted to keep it simple and find a way to make it work using something I already had on hand.

Instant solution

The solution came right out of my linen closet—a fabric shower curtain! It’s been there for a while since I no longer have need of one. I kept it with the hope I might find a use for it one day.

Turns out it was exactly the right size, it wasn’t see-through and the colors go well with my backyard decor.

What’s even more amazing is the shower curtain rings actually fit right over the top rail of the chain link fence!

Attaching shower curtain to fence

fabric privacy screen

Shower curtain rings snapped onto top rail of chain link fence

To hold the sides in place, I tied the curtain onto the posts with dental floss threaded through a needle.

fabric privacy screen

Using dental floss as thread

Hopefully the dental floss will hold up. If not, I’ll replace it with fishing line or plastic twine.

Before and after photos

I’m happy that I was able to repurpose the old shower curtain and really thrilled that it cost zero dollars!

See what else is going on in my new backyard.