A Minimal Milwaukee Home Has Chic DIY Projects and the Coolest Rugs

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Dining room with peach-colored chairs, white spherical pendant light, and plants

Name: Marcel Dagenais and partner, Ben
Location: Milwaukee, Wisconsin
Type of home: House
Size: 1,200 square feet
Years lived in: 1 year, owned

Tell us a little (or a lot) about your home and the people who live there: My partner, Ben, and I had been throwing around the idea of purchasing a house in Milwaukee for a few years, but when the COVID lockdown happened last year, we finally went for it. We were doing the long-distance relationship thing for about four years, with him in Milwaukee getting his PhD and me in New York, working in the film industry. We were somehow making that work, but when COVID hit, I was out of work for almost a year with the industry shut down and just sitting in my Brooklyn apartment alone, so we decided to go for it.

I loved Milwaukee every time I visited, so I was totally down to have a spot I could escape to when I had some downtime in between jobs. We found an 80-year-old brick house that had a great vibe, but needed A LOT of work. It inspired me to start a YouTube channel called Brew City Builds (Brew City is what the locals call Milwaukee) and document the process of making over each room one-by-one. I’ve always dabbled in DIY in my rental apartments but was excited to be able to go all-in since I didn’t need approval from a landlord.

I think our home very much reflects Ben’s and my personality through the artwork, color palette, and pretty much everything in the house. Almost every inch needed some love when we moved in, so I wanted to create a blank canvas that could be tweaked and added to as years pass once the rooms were brought to a clean slate. I’ve always loved how art pops on the bright, white walls in a gallery, so going with that inspo to start was the obvious choice for me. I then can see where a feature wall with a different shade works. Most of the art I own is from my artist friends or has a personal story of how something was found or gifted. I’m also a big fan of going to thrift shops to fill a space, rather than say, a HomeGoods. I just like to find little treasures that are unique and that I probably won’t see in someone else’s home.

Describe your home’s style in 5 words or less: Mid-century minimalism with a pop

What is your favorite room and why? I recently finished the primary bedroom, so I’m going to say that room. I created a fun feature wall/headboard with a ton of pine 1x2s, and it’s now a nice focal point in the room. I also went a little more wild with the color accents in there, so it’s a nice contrast to the neutral tones of the rest of the house. I’m finishing up the main floor bathroom now and am super happy with it, so that will probably be my next fave.

What’s the last thing you bought (or found!) for your home? I’m a sucker for a good rug since they’re so specific and can dictate a lot of decisions about where the direction of the room is headed. I’m a huge fan of the Brooklyn company Cold Picnic. I just got a really good bath mat that is going to tie everything together in there. I wish I could put one of their rugs in each room of our house. They’re so good.

Any advice for creating a home you love? Whether you’re a minimalist or a maximalist, it’s all about putting things in your home that you love and make you happy. You’re the one who has to live there, so create a space that makes you feel cozy.

This submission’s responses and photos were edited for length/size and clarity.