common / Luxe Living

The Painted Ox brings new life to old furniture, Florida-style

That its logo looks like a big black bovine festively fashioned into a colorful cabinet gives immediate insight into an imaginative home-furnishings store that lights up the area south of Antique Row.

The Painted Ox purveys a plethora of pieces expertly refurbished in-house by a staff of designers, seamstresses and upholsterers, as well as professional lacquerers and painters who can turn something like a rusty wrought-iron patio table into an ornate work of art that looks gorgeous in the garden — and is reasonably priced.

“I know how to buy,” owner Lili Batista said, pointing to an impressive inventory cozily arranged in the 6,000-square-foot showroom. “And I like to pass the savings on to my customers.”

Ms. Batista also likes to pass her passion for vintage décor on to her customers through a series of new classes that will teach them how to paint old furniture — her vision when she opened the business five years ago.

“I wanted to paint old furniture,” she said. “That’s where the logo came from.”

Why an ox instead of another animal?

“We don’t know where the ox came from,” Ms. Batista laughed. “It just popped into our heads.”

The cheery, well-lit space on South Dixie Highway is filled with such funky finds as an orange-and-pink velour love seat, a faux fur hassock with a matching lampshade and a pair of Hollywood Regency chairs with button tufting. Throw pillows abound in fun fabrics depicting crabs, eels, octopi and other sea creatures.

“We make pillows here like crazy,” Ms. Batista said. “They are just great accents.”

Other eye-catching items include a nightstand in glossy green, a children’s chest in a carnation hue and a dinette set in a blush tone.

“Blush is the trend, it seems,” Ms. Batista said. “Everybody wants blush.”

The dusty shade associated with a dancer’s first pair of ballet slippers appears throughout the store on everything from a side cabinet to a picture frame to a sofa cushion.

“When customers come in, they always say, “I feel so happy when I’m here,’” Ms. Batista said. “I’ve had people stay for two to three hours.”

They travel from all over the county to shop the store’s selections or bring in their own belongings to receive The Painted Ox touch.

“Older furniture is so much prettier than new stuff and so much better quality,” Ms. Batista said. “It’s got good bones.”

She sources most of her stuff from estate sales in Palm Beach and sells it to homeowners who want a fresh Florida flair under their roofs.

“When they see the store, they see what my taste is — bright and beautiful,” Ms. Batista said. “I don’t have anything brown in here.”

The 63-year-old West Palm Beach resident said she always wanted to be an interior designer. As a young girl, she constantly cleaned the house, moved the furniture and decorated the walls. As a teenager, she redecorated her bedroom with red shag carpeting and black starry ceilings. She attended Palm Beach Junior College (now Palm Beach State College) and studied art and photography but never graduated.

“I had too much fear to follow my dream,” Ms. Batista said. “Fear that I was not good enough, fear that I had no schooling, fear that I was not licensed.”

So when the opportunity to own a Nature’s Way Café franchise presented itself, she took it. That was in 1988. She and her husband now own the company.

But nearly 30 years later, she is doing what she loves.

“The days go by like that,” Ms. Batista said, snapping her fingers. “That’s when you know you’ve found your passion. Nature’s Way Café was hard work. That’s when you know you haven’t found your passion.” ¦

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