A Well-Curated Contemporary - 405 Magazine

A Well-Curated Contemporary

Notable furniture and art complement this 1974 home.

Photo by Emily Hart.

Notable furniture and art complement this 1974 home.

To some people, furniture is just furniture — merely the utilitarian means for seating, eating and storage within a home. Not so for Brent Swift and Alisse Ellis. They house a curated collection in Norman, in a 1974 contemporary, renovated and designed with furniture and art in mind. 

Among other highly sought-after items, their living room features a Florence Knoll credenza, a Warren Platner chair and rare architectural pottery by David Cressey and Malcom Leland. Edgy works by Luis Filcer, Purvis Young and Enrique Bascón decorate the walls, while unique finds — like a vintage Gucci ashtray — are scattered throughout.

“Maybe all of this doesn’t work [together], but I love all of it,” Ellis said. 

“It’s definitely curated pieces of art, furniture, fabrics, and textures,” added Swift. “The house is what it is, but we are collecting pieces that we love that can go with us to the next home.”

The home was built by Barry Switzer, but it’s the decor and interior designs that leave guests starstruck. Ellis worked closely with interior designer Nina Wadley of No Coast Design to select fixtures, wallpapers and fabrics. A longtime friend, Wadley knew how to blend Swift’s mid-century modern aesthetic with Ellis’ preference for maximalism.

“I’m familiar with their likes and dislikes and how they prefer to live, which is like starting on second base,” Wadley said. She felt this home was perfect for the couple right from the start. 

“Sometimes a house really steals your heart, and I knew this one was special from the second I walked in the door,” she said. “The low stoop of the patio through the front door, opening to the vast volume in the living room — it all just hits right.”

While Ellis and Wadley collaborated on interiors, Swift tackled construction projects like adjusting doorways and windows throughout the home to improve function and flow and extending the living room’s flagstone floor to the kitchen, den and dining room. With 25 years in construction and real estate, Swift has restored some 250 houses.

Swift also partnered with landscape architect Brent Wall of LAUD Studio to create an outdoor lounge, unearth Switzer’s 1970s pool (previously buried) and surround the home with landscaping details that harkened back to that era.

“Although the house is contemporary, it was very important to make it feel really warm and earthy,” Wall said. “We were really embracing the ’70s vibe as our measure of success.”  

As construction progressed, Wadley devised designs to highlight Swift and Ellis’ artwork collection.

“We made sure to leave opportunities to highlight art. Some items we knew from early on where they would probably end up, but the rest we pulled from at the end as the space dictated,” Wadley said.

The stories behind the art and furniture are as meaningful to Swift and Ellis as the items are. Ellis says she likes to collect pieces that resonate with her emotionally.

It’s not about the thing itself,” Ellis said. “It’s [about] the emotion; the feeling that you have when you first see something.”

“It’s really weird how you get attached to the things that are in your environment,” Swift said. “You have this great opportunity in your life to create the space that you want to live in, and if you have some skill at it, then all of a sudden it becomes a way of life.” 

For now, Ellis and Swift’s way of life is unfolding inside this 1974 contemporary. But tomorrow … who knows? They are constantly buying and restoring homes, including another 1970s contemporary located just across the street. Wherever they go, the furnishings shall follow — making it feel just like home.