Design Dilemma with a Heart: A Design for the Dogs

Interior designer Michele Ivanek turned a once dreary room at the Humane Society of Marion County into a vibrant meet-and-greet room for potential pet owners to spend time getting to know their furry friends. Before A playful mural dresses up a drab wall. Vibrant colors invite puppies and humans to stay awhile! Faux windows add dimension to a blank space. Michele Ivanek, Interior Designer and Owner, MSI Designs

Interior designer Michele Ivanek has always had a special love for animals. As a matter of fact, she recently adopted Chance, a lab retriever mix.

“When the opportunity came up to do something great for the Humane Society, I knew I wanted to be involved. My task was to turn a boring, jail cell of a room into a great doggie greeting area for potential adoptive parents,” says Michele.

And what Michele created far exceeded the expectations of the Humane Society staff, especially executive director Gail Leichliter and her financial secretary Mary Wrye.

What was once a drab, empty room has been transformed into a vibrant doggie resort.  It’s literally like a day at the beach for the lucky canines who get to spend time there.

“My inspiration was to create a happy, fun loving place for the animals,” Michele says. “I found out dogs are limited in the colors they see to yellow and blue, so I knew those colors would be the foundation of my design. My next step was a theme. I thought to myself, where does everyone like to go? The answer was the beach!”

Visitors and dogs alike are greeted by bright yellow and blue walls. A wall paper border composed of a reed fence and a beach scene set the whimsical mood for the room. Beach balls appear to be haphazardly tossed about on the walls. A yellow lab, nicknamed Sandy, watches curiously from one corner.

Michele added the look of windows to the space by placing ready-made shutters against the bare walls. To add depth, a cloud scene was painted behind each window.

“We were thrilled with the shutters,” Gail laughs. “But Michele wasn’t done yet. She went above and beyond and just kept adding unique elements to the room.”

Using floating wall shelves, Michele created the look of window sills. Metal roof shingles serve as decorative awnings.

“The materials used had to be chosen carefully since they had to be easy to clean and maintain,” Michele says.

Two vinyl and metal benches provide a cozy corner for guests to take a seat and get to know their new canine companion.

The flooring, a durable sealed vinyl, features a hardwood pattern.

“I chose this pattern because of its warm quality,” Michele says. “Plus, it’s the color of sand—the perfect addition to our beach retreat.”

To further brighten the space, Michele opted for bold splashes of red. A large outdoor umbrella provides the “shade” any day at the beach needs. Handcrafted wood surfboards, in bright yellows and reds, line one wall. To complete the look, Michele added a variety of colorful throw pillows and plastic storage containers for dog treats, files, and leashes.

When crafting her design, Michele kept in mind the dual purpose of the space—a doggie greeting area and a training area for volunteers to socialize and spend time with timid dogs, getting them ready for adoption.

“Everything in the room is functional,” adds Michele.

But Gail thinks that’s being too modest.

“Honestly, just the painting on the walls exceeded my expectations,” Gail says. “Before, when the room was plain concrete, it wasn’t inviting and people didn’t want to spend a lot of time here. Now, it’s warm and colorful and people want to spend time here getting to know the animals.”

Straight from the Designer
“My inspiration was to create a happy, fun loving place for the animals. I found out dogs are limited in the colors they see to yellow and blue, so I knew those colors would be the foundation of my design.”
— Michele Ivanek
Interior Designer and Owner, MSI Designs

Tips from the Designer — Michele Ivanek
Interior Designer and Owner, MSI Designs

  1. Research colors which are positive and emotionally stimulating to your project. In this case, we knew that dogs can see hues of yellows and blues!

  2. Select materials carefully. Think high durability and low maintenance.

  3. Make ample space for the purpose of the room and consider your traffic patterns.

  4. Just because a room must be functional, doesn’t mean it has to look that way. Dogs are people, too!

Special Thanks To:
A–Z Wall Covering

Benjamin Moore Paint

Pro-Source Wholesale Flooring

Lowe’s Home Improvement

Empire Woodworking

Office Furniture Express

Sue Tull, Painter

Special thanks to Lighting Unlimited
for graciously donating products and services
to multiple Design Dilemma with a Heart projects!

The Humane Society of Marion County

The Humane Society of Marion County houses and cares for hundreds of our area’s unwanted dogs and cats on a daily basis—and they do it without the help of state funds.

As director of a no-kill shelter, the ultimate goal for Gail Leichliter is to find suitable homes for her shelter’s furry residents.

“We’re always full to capacity,” Gail says. “It seems that when we send one out the door, two more show up. That’s why it’s so important for people to think of us when they’re considering adding a pet to their family.”

At any given time, the Humane Society averages housing about 150 dogs and anywhere from 60 to 80 cats. That’s full capacity. As a no-kill shelter, once they’re full, they no longer accept additional animals. Currently, the Humane Society is averaging about 50-50 adoptions per month.

The cost to adopt a dog through the Humane Society is $100. A cat is $85. And the Humane Society doesn’t make money off their adoptions.

“All animals are worm tested, micro-chipped, vaccinated, spayed or neutered, and are on preventative treatment for fleas and worms,” Gail says. “We care for our animals and we make sure they are going to quality homes. When we send an animal out our door, we want them to have a new home for the remainder of their life.”

On average, the monthly expenses to run the Humane Society equal near $100,000.

“We are always accepting donations,” Mary says. “The public has always been very kind to us with pet supplies, food, blankets, and more. It’s sad that we still need so much more to care for the animals. Unfortunately, homeless pets are a never-ending problem.”

One tactic for fighting the pet population is through low-cost spay and neuter vouchers.

“For $50 per dog and $30 per cat, pet owners can buy a voucher from us and take it to a list of approved vets to get their pet fixed,” Gail says. “We all need to make a conscious effort to care for our pets, and that includes having them spayed or neutered.”

Humane Society of Marion County
701 NW 14th Road, Ocala
(352) 873-PETS
Adoptions take place every day except Wednesday
from 10am-6pm at the center and Fridays-Sundays
from 10am-5pm at Pet Smart on State Road 200

Posted in Ocala Style Features

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