One Tail at a Time Dog Rescue Tour by Yellow Brick Home

It’s no secret that The Everygirl team is rather fond of our furry little friends (see The Everygirl co-founders Danielle and Alaina‘s instagram accounts for proof), so when Kim and Scott Vargo of Yellow Brick Home sent over photos of the (darling!) dog adoption center they designed for One Tail at a Time, we literally jumped at the chance to share them.

One Tail at a Time is a no-kill, 501(c)3 all-breed dog rescue committed to lowering euthanasia rates in the greater Chicagoland area. After operating as a foster based rescue since 2008, they were ready to take the leap and open an adoption center that would allow even more dogs to be saved each year. When it came time to design the new space, Kim and her husband Scott were the perfect candidates. As rescue dog enthusiasts, accomplished DIY design bloggers, and owners behind The Pet Shop and The Print Shop, they had the perfect balance of passion and expertise to transform this Bucktown house into a cheerful, quirky place for the rescue pup waiting for his forever home.

It’s easy to think that living with pets means not having nice things, but Kim and Scott turned that theory upside down with their use of a punchy blue vintage sofa, graphic rugs, and modern shell chairs throughout the space. Keep reading for how they merged form with function on a non-profit budget with ease.

Name: Kim Vargo
Age: 33
Current job/company: Creative behind Yellow Brick Home and its two e-commerce sites: The Pet Shop + The Print Shop
Education: University of Cincinnati, BFA with a concentration in Photography

Tell us a bit about One Tail at a Time and your role. What is the mission behind the rescue?
Our role with One Tail at a Time is volunteer, most recently with the design and execution of their new Adoption Center in Bucktown, Chicago. We worked closely with Heather, the Director of OTAT and we had the privilege of seeing the time and commitment the community pours into this rescue!

The ultimate goal is to make Chicago a no-kill city and with the passion I’ve seen from the board and their hard working volunteers, I believe 100% this is possible. With the addition of the Adoption Center to their foster program, One Tail will be able to increase pet adoptions while educating others about unnecessary euthanasia in Chicago. I highly recommend any pet lover to watch this heartwarming video about why they do what they do. It’s incredible.

How did you and your husband became involved in the design of the new adoption center?
Scott and I have four rescue pets ourselves (two cats and two Pit Bulls!), but it wasn’t until we adopted our first pup, Jack, that we understood what it meant to own a Pit Bull. Jack is our love and our hearts, and it’s because of him that we adopted our second Pit, Chocolate Chunk. Soon after adopting Jack, we began educating ourselves on raising positive breed awareness, and we quickly fell into a circle of like-minded friends. Many of those friends volunteer at local non-profit pet rescues—it’s really rad how tight the pet-loving community is and how closely those circles intertwine.

I had worked with Heather personally many years ago on paintings of her dogs. Through my pet painting business, I’ve set up booths at fundraisers and I’ll donate a percentage of my sales back into those rescues. Both Scott and I knew Heather from several of those events and when she reached out to see if we’d be willing to donate our time to design the space, I couldn’t say “Yes!” fast enough. I remember calling Scott and excitedly telling him about the new project and he was just as thrilled as I was! It really was as simple as that; I guess you could say we just really love the work that rescues do for the community. It was our way to give back to our own pets that have taught us so much.

How did you handle the challenges of designing a commercial space on a non-profit budget? 
When it came to budget, our motto was this: Spend as little as possible. Was it challenging? Absolutely, especially when quality in a place of business is equally as important! Because of the nature of our home/DIY based blog, we receive daily emails from companies that want to gift us with products—anything from rugs to lighting to furniture. It’s a delicate dance when we consider these collaborations, as it’s important to us that they’re a fit for our family and lifestyle—not to mention, we want to feel great about the content we put out into the blogosphere.

More often than not, we’ll have to politely decline these sponsorships as the timing may not be right, among various other reasons. That said, when this project fell into our laps, we couldn’t think of a better way to take on product for a cause so important to us! It’s because of these contributions that we were able to outfit the majority of the Adoption Center. Our list of sponsors that wanted to provide furniture and accessories to One Tail at a Time was overwhelming in the best possible way. We couldn’t have done it without them!

Where did you seek inspiration for the space during the design process?
While Scott loves visuals for our own home, I have to say, we made decisions based on how they made us feel. When we first sat down with Heather to talk about their needs for the Adoption Center, we asked her to describe the way she’d want it to feel when walking through the front door. Scribbled in my notes is the big, fat word QUIRKY. From that point on, if something made us smile, laugh or giddy with excitement, it was a fit. We made the decision from the very beginning that this would be a place that would give you all the happy feels!

Designing an animal adoption center provides some unique challenges! How did you keep all of the design decisions practical while maintaining your vision for the space? 
I don’t think that you need to sacrifice style or personality just because you have pets! Items were chosen based on washable factor and ease of clean up. You might notice that the dining/conference table is sealed with a clear coat, we laid down a rug that could be hosed off and puppy treat jars have tight sealing lids. Even the blue sofa was upholstered in a durable, fade-resistant outdoor fabric!

OTAT started out as a foster based rescue and remained that way for many years before moving into a physical space to help even more dogs. What were some of the key purposes that the new physical space needed to serve, and how did you take those needs into account when designing the space? 
The Adoption Center has a great open floor plan but each space needed to serve its own purpose. The entryway serves as a retail room and the dining room doubles as a conference space, for example. After the doors officially opened for business on August 1st, the living room now serves as the Adoption Room. Here, families will meet and interact with an adoptable dog they’ve had their eye on and when it’s confirmed that it’s true love, they’ll take their first photo together as a family on that ridiculous blue sofa!

What you don’t see behind the scenes is a now organized storage room that is gloriously filled with donated kibble, toys, and event supplies. This was a more tedious part of the process, but it was crucial to make sure there was a place for everything. I will say that, luckily, we didn’t hit any roadblocks! Unless, that is, you count time. It was truly a race to the finish line, but isn’t that always the case?

Did you have a clear idea of how the space would look from the get-go, or did you let things evolve naturally throughout the process?
There was a fine balance between budget, sponsored product, and what Scott and I visualized the final room. I will admit that our ideas felt hazy at times, and I spent countless nights lying awake and going over tiny details, such as: Did those planters ship yet? I’ll have to get a basket for dog toys! or I sure hope I ordered the right size rug.

I can drive myself crazy over little details, but I think it’s those details that take a space from really good to really great. It’s those details that allow your personality to shine through! We told Heather that we hope she continues to find little surprises tucked away in the Adoption Center for weeks to come—from the bitty dog in the planter to notes scribbled in the stacks of vintage books.

How long did it take to complete the project from start to finish?
Our first meeting with Heather was in April, and the first couple of months were all planning, planning, planning! It wasn’t until mid-July that we were able to execute our ideas, and we were fortunate enough to wrangle in a few friends to give us a hand with unpacking boxes, framing art, and filling planters. All said and done, it was a very quick three months!

What distinct differences did you notice when designing the adoption center versus designing a residential space, and how did that change the process?
Easy: We had a lot more freedom! Think about some of your favorite restaurants or neighborhood shops. Why do you like them? A lot of times, a place of business can be loud and make riskier design moves because you don’t see it every day! As we made decisions, we felt more comfortable going bold. The wallpaper, for example, is so fun, and I can definitely see it in a residential powder or laundry room. However, not many people would want it to be seen from every angle in your home! (Well, maybe some people. I don’t think we’d mind, ha!)

Do you have a favorite part of the completed project?
This is tough. My first reaction was to say the wallpaper (hence, the above!), but I think I’d have to go with that blue sofa. The sofa, which we’ve lovingly dubbed #GarbageSofa, was pulled from (you guessed it!) the trash. It has been through a huge transformation (you can see the before right here) and it’ll be the backdrop and launch pad of every new family photo. Oh, garbage sofa, what a life that’ll be!

Kim Vargo is The Everygirl…

Happy hour drink? 
A stiff gin cocktail.

Favorite part about living in Chicago?
Everything! Can I say that? I love how every neighborhood has a different vibe, and I’ll never tire of the warm beaches in the summer and wandering downtown around the holidays. The green boulevards in our neighborhood are perfect for our dogs and, of course, there’s no shortage of great food, cocktail bars, and even late night dancing! Chicago has our heart in every way imaginable.

My next pet would be … 
Ten more Jack and CCs. Or a baby dinosaur.

Proudest DIY design project in your home? 
Our successful conversion of turning our two-flat building (meaning two apartments) into a single family home. We knocked down all those walls ourselves!

If you could have lunch with any woman, who would it be and what would you order? 
My mom. We recently reunited after not having seen each other for over 15 years, and we were absolutely cut from the same cloth! I guess that goes without saying, but our similarities are eerie. We’d eat in her kitchen, and she’d make a big batch of homemade kimchi.

Product Sources

Entry/Retail Room
Door color, Valspar Optimus Spring Gentian donated by Ace Hardware
Wallpaper, Best In Show donated by Osborne & Little 
Planters, donated by Modernica 
Dresser, donated by MegMade
Large print, designed by Ryan Duggan and donated by Framebridge
Welcome mat, Cintas
Small brass frame, West Elm
Small bulldog statue, donated by Wayfair
Dachshund lamp, donated by Wayfair
Shelving unit, IKEA
All hooks, IKEA
Dog gate, DIY

The Adoption Room
Wall color: Benjamin Moore’s Classic Gray
Sofa: Found and reupholstered by Covers Unlimited in Richloom outdoor fabric
Zerah rug: donated by Lulu & Georgia
Lisette chairs: donated by Lulu & Georgia
Large Dog artwork: donated and framed by Minted
Coffee and end tables: donated by Wayfair
Possini Euro pendant: donated by Lamps Plus
Window treatments: roller shades donated by Bali Blinds
Pink pillow: donated by Lamps Plus
Navy and yellow pillow: IKEA
Dog breed pillows: donated by Perpetually Yours
Dog statue: Thrifted and painted gold
Books: Tiny Confessions and Vintage
Gold planter: CB2
Toy basket: Lowes
Treat jars: Container Store

The Meeting Room 
Table, donated by Crooked Nail
Rug, donated by FLOR
Clock, donated by Lamps Plus
Heart light, IKEA
Pink planter, IKEA 

Bennie planter, CB2

The Kennel Room
Wall color, Valspar Optimus Warm Breezes donated by Ace Hardware
Dry erase paint, Rustoleum
Pillow, donated by Lamps Plus
Kennels, Mason Company
Chairs, IKEA
End table, IKEA
Ribba marker ledge, IKEA

The Yard
Astro turf, Installed by RugZoom
Flower boxes, Home Depot
All plants: Christy Webber
White outdoor furniture: IKEA
Picnic table: DIY by Mike Guajardo (rock star!)