As a child, I spent more time at abuela’s house than I did at mine. Juliana, as she liked to be called, was a very handy woman for her time. At a very young age I realized that my abuelita was different from other grandmothers. She spent as much time in the kitchen as she did directing her construction crew. Looking back, I do not ever remember there not being some construction going on. Aside from her obsession with adding square footage to her home, she was also on a mission to rearrange and buy furniture.

She had great taste. Every piece of furniture made a statement, except for the outrageous china display that stood in her dining room housing dusty plates that no one ever touched. The china display never made sense to me, but it was a piece of furniture that every one of my friends either had at their house, or at their abuelas.

Until recently, I shuddered at the thought of even being in the same room as one. But my girlfriend Anna Dwyer made me change my mind.

I remember that first conversation as if it were yesterday. She was so excited about acquiring and redoing a 1970s china display. I listened carefully and for the first time in our relationship I made sure to think before I spoke. But deep down inside I was dying, what was she thinking?

I am ashamed to admit that for a person who considers herself to be so open-minded about design ideas, I was not at that moment. However, I now have new found respect for china cabinets, or at least for what they can become. 

As you can see (above), this china cabinet was not much to look at in its original form. However Anna had a definite vision moving forward. She broke it down into smaller pieces which made it easier to paint. She removed the hardware so it wouldn’t be damaged because she was reusing it. The areas that needed to be sanded were sanded and then it was wiped clean with a damp cloth. She primed it and allowed it to cure for 24 hours before applying the desired paint color.

After careful consideration she decided on black. Once the doors were taped she gave it two coats of paint with a built in sealer/primer. After it was fully dried she applied wall paper to the back of the upper portion of the cabinet. Had it just been painted it would have looked great, but what makes it so stunning is the addition of the detailed wall paper. This part was a labor of love. She had to carefully cut according to the existing supports within the unit, making it trickier and more time consuming.

But in the end, Anna proves that someone’s ‘old and ugly’ can become someone else’s beautiful and modern.

I have never questioned her taste again.

Marlene Pratt is the co-founder of Casa Latina, an interior designer and on-air television host on both English and Spanish-language television. Follow Marlene on Twitter at @CasaLatinaToday and Like her FB page

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