Lisa Lowe has some of the prettiest trash in Dallas . Trash cans, anyway. She loves to decorate hers by painting them or covering them with fabric. And they fit perfectly into her Lake Highlands home, its many rooms full of unusual furniture pieces, fabrics and decorative items.


          The home is so well decorated, in fact, one look and you’d swear she spent a fortune filling it up. Ask her for a tour, though, and you’ll be surprised at what you’ll hear: things like “that’s from a garage sale,” “I got this for $10” or even “I found that in an alley.”


          Lowe has the gift. The gift of seeing unusual items, sometimes in very poor shape, and freshening, repainting or even taking them apart to create the perfect thing for that spot that just seems to need something.


          And when Lowe and her husband Bill bought their almost 5,000-square-foot house, there were plenty of those spaces.


“My main goal when we bought this house was to fill it up, to make it homey,” she says. “That’s one thing that’s hard with larger houses.”


Her main goal, however, couldn’t be realized right away.


“When we moved in, we found there were many more things that needed to be done than we thought,” says Lowe. “The balcony was rotted, we needed new air conditioning and heating units, we had to replace the entire fence, and we redid the pool … twice. We changed everything.”


Some of the changes included the landscaping, floors, paint, wallpaper, light fixtures and the hardware, including every hinge in the place. “Bill likes everything just so, and his pet peeve is when hinges are painted over,” Lowe says. “So they’re all new, too.”


The home originally was built for former Dallas Cowboy Tom Rafferty, so there were also a few unusual changes necessary, such as lowering the cabinets in the kitchen and removing several bushes and trees that almost completely hid the front of the house.


It all left little leftover funds for decorating, what Lowe calls “the fun stuff.” So she had to become resourceful.


“I started shopping garage sales and estate sales,” she says. “I learned how to find quality items by reading magazines and watching HGTV. Everything I buy has to be a great deal. If it’s not, I don’t buy it.”


Her six-year-old son Charles’ room is a perfect example.


“The only thing I bought in his room was the blue and white fabric on the pillows,” she says of possibly the cutest room in the house, centered by a picket-fence headboard she made herself.


The Lowes do have some very expensive items in their home, but they co-exist beautifully with bargain basement specials. Case in point: the master bath, in which several Waterford crystal pieces sit next to garage sale discards.


“For every splurge, I have a garage sale or alley find to offset it,” she says.


          But when it came time to decorate all those rooms, where did she start?


“I usually ended up doing it backwards,” she says.


The dining room started with a lemonade set from Bill’s grandmother. The living room décor began with a favorite couch. The TV room was decorated around a pillow she and Charles found when he was a baby.


“I found matching fabrics and literally pulled the room together around it in about 30 minutes. It all fell into place.”


          Other rooms, of course, didn’t work quite that easily.


“I looked for a year for some fabrics,” says Lowe, who uses a large amount of unusual prints and textures throughout the house. “I’d usually end up stumbling onto the perfect fabric. And I worked with Cindy Newman, a decorator, and she’d bring me samples. She knew just what I wanted.”


One overall thing Lowe wanted, and accomplished with great success, was to reveal the importance of family in the home. That’s why it’s filled not only with items from their lives today, but also with special items from their families: a granddad’s chair from his childhood, a great aunt’s light fixture, old family photos lining the wall along the stairs to the second floor.


Lowe’s impressive china collection comes primarily from family, such as the Franciscan dinnerware from her great-grandmother, the Haviland china and crystal passed down from Bill’s grandmother, and the Fostoria glassware passed down from both families. There’s also dinnerware and pottery given to her by Bill and sons Charles and Clay on Mother’s Day, Christmas and birthdays.


“We have many things to remind us of our families,” she says. “Everywhere I look, I see things that bring back memories.”


It all adds up to a home full of charm and beauty, a result of hard work and a couple of very determined homeowners.


          “I’ll be honest; the first two years here were just miserable,” Lowe says. “Charles was very young, and I was sick a lot during that time. Plus we had to spend so much money fixing things.


“But now I love it. Now I feel like it’s my home. I’ve put so much of myself into it.”