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When it came time to decorate her home, Stacy Carruth started with her closet.

Not that she was hanging hooks or installing a shoe rack. Instead, Carruth looked through her closet to decide on a style for her new home’s decor.

“Your closet is going to tell you what your favorite colors are, what feels good,” she explained. “Whatever you are wearing every day, that is what you want to put in your home, because that feels comfortable.”

Carruth’s closet was full of calming colors – mostly gray, with some blue. She noticed she often wore only one color, relying on accessories or jewelry to add a little vibrancy.

She took a similar approach when decorating the home she and her husband purchased three years ago near Bessemer Bend. They’d gutted the house, giving her a blank canvas to work with. With the contents of her closet as a guide, she choose cool grays for the walls and used accessories and a rustic wooden floor – made from repurposed barn wood – to add warmth.

The process took a year, but when it was over, Carruth had a home that excelled in both form and function.

“Your home should bring you joy,” she said. “You should want to go home and hang out there because it feels nice. It’s worth investing the time.

“That’s my takeaway from this house: It’s worth taking the time.”

Despite what cable television shows might suggest, designing your home so that it looks good and is functional can be a challenging process. But Carruth and others who’ve decorated homes say you don’t need to be a professional or have a huge budget to make it happen.

If you’re considering giving your home a makeover, here are some tips from three Wyoming women who’ve done it.

Develop your style

To find a style, think about what you love. It could be a piece of furniture, a color or a pattern. Once you’ve found that one thing, the rest will follow, explained Lauren Griffith, an interior designer who’s renovating her 103-year-old home in central Casper.

“I think it’s all about finding pieces you like and then researching it, (asking yourself) do I like the lines, the period, and then mixing it up with other things too, because it just makes it more interesting,” she said.

Griffith traces her own style to a table she spotted in an Atlanta museum while attending college. It was a simple mid-century piece, with a glass top and wooden base. It took seven years to save the money, but she eventually bought the table, which now sits near her fireplace.

She realized there was a common theme in the pieces that caught her eye.

“These are from the 1950s. They are low. They have walnut. They have these great lines. A lot of them are Scandinavian,” she said. “I just kept looking at magazines and visuals and books. It resonated.”

Find stuff

Once you’ve decided on a look, you’ll need furniture and accessories to realize your vision. You can find them without paying a fortune, or even leaving town.

Carruth’s home is filled with stylish, older furniture, much of it with worn paint that provides a classic look. She bought many of the pieces at second-hand stores, then refurbished them with chalk paint, wax and some sanding.

“You don’t have to spend a lot of money,” she said. “I encourage people not to because it makes us more creative. It forces you to think outside the box a bit.”

Estate sales are another option for finding quality pieces on the cheap, said Lindsey Grant, who lives in a nearly 100-year-old apartment building that she’s refurbishing in downtown Casper.

Grant found other creative ways to decorate her apartment. A wooden cart that serves as her coffee table came out of an old warehouse. Two sets of wooden doors she placed near the entryway and in her bedroom came from an old building.

Other decorations came from her parents and grandparents, like a suitcase that her grandfather used to hitchhike with, or a card catalog acquired by her father.

“My style definitely stemmed from a love of the antique, and a well-crafted, well-done piece, not just something that was picked up in a big store, a big department store,” she said. “It was more (about) having some historical value to it, a story, some longevity.”

Remember function

While look is important, you shouldn’t forsake it for function. Consider how you live, Griffith said. She advises clients to think about the wear and tear inevitably caused by pets and kids.

“Because it is not going to stay pristine for long,” she said.

When it was time to move furniture into her home, Carruth started with a large dining room table. The size was important. She wanted plenty of room for children and grandchildren at family gatherings.

When it came time to add couches, she considered a few basic questions: Would it be easy for people to sit and talk? Was there a place to place drinks? A lamp for illumination?

“I don't like a pretty house that is just ornamental,” she said. “I don't want a house to just be pretty. I want it to be functional as well. So I try to be very mindful of that when I am decorating my own home.”

Avoid the pitfalls

Television shows leave viewers with the impression that a home makeover could be started and completed in a weekend. The reality, the women say, is anything but.

People who redecorate their homes tend to get into trouble when they underestimate the demands.

“Be very realistic with the amount of time it is going to take, because it is always going to take double the time you think it is going to take,” Carruth said.

You can also get yourself in trouble by trying to do too much too quickly. Griffith suggests people consider their available space, along with their needs, before buying a bunch of new stuff.

Instead of rushing, she recommends people take their time. Before painting, for instance, put up some of the new color, then look at it in all kinds of light.

“Realize your constraints,” Griffith said. “Realize the time it is going to take and the cost.”

Make yourself happy

Whatever style you decide on, make sure it makes you happy. Pieces with an emotional connection, whether it be a friend’s painting or a relative’s dresser, make all the difference, the women say.

Griffith started developing her style through the table that took her seven years to buy. Carruth has decorated her home with items she’s picked up while traveling. Grant hung portraits of people she photographed in college.

“(People) need to find, within their own personal interests, how to take those and put them into their living space,” Grant said.

“Objects that make them happy, that’s another thing I find: I like pieces that make me happy. Those are the things I keep around and use.”

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Contact Joshua Wolfson at 307-266-0582 or at josh.wolfson@trib.com. Follow him on Twitter @joshwolfson.

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