Visit a Barber’s Colorful Home in Milwaukee

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When longtime hairstylist Marcel Dagenais (he’s worked on shows like vast city and more recently with Natasha Lyonne on Russian doll) and his partner, Ben, bought their house in Milwaukee in 2020, Marcel wanted to start from scratch. So he set out to paint their red-brick house from around 1946 white. “I was blissfully unaware of what I was getting into,” he says. After hours of researching the best products (he settled on Romabio, a lime-based masonry paint that absorbs into the brick and can last up to 20 years), he patched some of the cracks, primed and s is put to work. His only regret? Using a roller instead of a sprayer. “I was in the best shape of my life – I was torn – but it was so hard,” he recalled. It was the very first renovation Marcel documented for his new YouTube channel, Brew City Builds, and he doesn’t mind that some viewers don’t like the transformation as much as he does. “People are like, you ruined the brick. But when I stop, especially in the winter when it’s snowing, I always think, damn, the house looks great,” he laughs.

With filming halted at the start of the pandemic and Ben busy pursuing his doctorate, Marcel threw himself into the role of entrepreneur – a job that came naturally to creation. Growing up in San Diego, he saw his parents move house. “My father is a carpenter and my mother drew the plans,” he says. When it came time to remodel the kitchen, his people helped guide him through the process, which began with an extensive demolition.

“I thought I was going to be able to easily chip away the mortar brick accent wall in the space, but ended up having to take it down to the studs and redo the drywall and glue everything on,” Marcel shares. While the kitchen had been under construction for a good month and a half, Marcel and Ben relied on take-out meals and did the dishes in the bathtub. But the end result was worth it: they installed sleek black-and-white cabinets with a wooden IKEA countertop and covered the newly flattened floor with adhesive tiles. (Marcel used a checkered roller when applying the squares to make sure they didn’t go anywhere.)

grid shower tile

The only major job Marcel has undertaken so far is to re-tile the bathroom in 2 x 2 inch squares (although he prepped the cement board floor and the outline of the bathroom himself). shower space, and that he has done all the waterproofing after the tiling). “Bathrooms are so complicated because there are so many little things that have to be perfect for it not to be right,” he says.

colorful stair runner

Instead of podcasts, Marcel prefers to work to the sound of Ben playing the piano (he is classically trained). “It’s a nice atmosphere when I’m tinkering around the house,” he says. The instrument takes pride of place in the living room, directly across from the button-tufted sofa they chose for its cozy bouclé texture and low window-height profile. Marcel admits he has an obsession with Cold Picnic rugs, and he pays particular attention to the one in this space. “It’s not the smartest decision to put a cream rug in such a busy area, given that we’re not a politics-free type of household, but we try to be very careful,” he says. Climbing the stairs on the hand-tufted wool runner by artist Trish Andersen is a more carefree experience. “When she started her rug line, I knew I had to have it,” says Marcel, who bought three 25-inch-wide ones, totaling 24 feet long, to accommodate all the steps as well as the top landing. .

The pop of color provides a bright juxtaposition to clean white walls and pops of black throughout the home – look at the hallway ceiling, the railing and the slatted accent wall in the master bedroom. “The theme for this house became 1-by-2s,” says Marcel. The thin, evenly spaced planks serve a purely aesthetic purpose behind the bed, but in the adjoining living room they help create a semi-private workspace for Ben and conceal the fireplace that divides the space in two. “We wanted a space where we could have cocktails or entertain guests, and this giant column was a problem for me,” says Marcel.

Surprisingly, of all the DIYs he’s tackled — building open shelving in the dining room, building a custom headboard for the guest room — Marcel says his favorite is mud drywall. “You have to have enough [compound on the wall] but not too much for a homogeneous and smooth surface,” he explains. “It’s something I never considered doing, but I guess because I sculpt hair and pay attention to small details, I’m really good at it.”


Local vintage shop: Antiques on Pierce.

Favorite Milwaukee Home Stores: BC Modern and URSA.

Where do I buy plants and gardening equipment: Maranta Plant Shop.

Online decor store I bookmarked: Coming.

Object in my house that is used the most: The CB2 sofa in the living room.

Biggest Backup: The recording console in the living room (I built it myself).

Textile in my house which is then me: The Cold Picnic rug in the living room: It has a neutral base with pops of color.

Who to know

I loved working with…Trish Andersen on the stairwell renovation.

The best entrepreneur I have ever met: My HVAC guys.

The Immaculate Painter (interior/exterior): Me (just kidding!).

The tile/grout master: Installation of quality tiles and flooring.

Other highly recommended artisans: Badger basements.

One thing I wish I had known before renovating: Everything takes twice as long and costs twice as much.

If I could turn back timeI would like to… Learn more about plumbing and electricity.

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