Perhaps design professionals Ivy and Mark Pierce were designed for each other. The two maintain interests, careers and family histories that are strikingly similar. As a landscape architect, Mark Pierce creates outdoor spaces that are beautiful and functional. Ivy Pierce also creates beautiful, functional spaces for clients, but she works inside the home as an interior designer.
Both attended the University of Oklahoma, where they often noticed each other walking the College of Architecture halls. When Ivy hopped into a Norman taxi one night after a party and found Mark already sitting inside, it was as if fate nudged them to date.
“In college, so many guys would tease me, ‘Your major is coloring and playing with pillows,’” Ivy Pierce says. “Mark understood my career path. He had respect for what I was doing.”
After five years of dating, the two married.
“She’s a good, whole-hearted woman, and we both cherish family and design,” Mark Pierce says. “That’s when I knew she was a keeper.”
The millennial couple’s design skills came in handy in 2014, when they started searching for a home to make their own.
“Like Ivy, I can visualize, when we walk into a space, how making small changes will change the whole look and feel of the place,” he says. As they were driving down NW 60 Street, after touring another house that wouldn’t work, they noticed a homeowner placing a “For Sale” sign in the lawn. Homes in Belle Isle were selling quickly, so they immediately pulled over to look.
“We could see ourselves in this home, so we made an offer the next day,” Ivy Pierce says. “At 8 a.m., it went on the market. By noon, it was ours.”
The Pierces replaced the mismatched floors in the dining, living and kitchen areas with gray-stained red oak. They also took out a few walls to open the living space. The couple has collaborated on every project to fashion their ideal home, and it remains a continual process.
“With Ivy, I don’t know if you ever get it perfectly right,” Mark Pierce says. “It’s the same with landscaping. I’ll do a design and the job may not be installed for a few months. My brain is always thinking about it, so the design is always evolving. The same goes with interiors. Whether you see stuff online or around town, you think, ‘Oh I could do that.’ That’s why Ivy is always buying furniture at estate sales and rearranging our home.”
Ivy Pierce described their style as traditional with an eclectic twist. The Pierce home features rugs they personally picked out while traveling India and paintings sourced from local artists Marjorie Wetwiska and the late Michi Susan. The colorful rural scene by Susan reminds Ivy Pierce of her grandmother’s farm outside of Fort Worth, and was one of the first things the Pierces purchased for their home. Meaningful art and travel finds are paired with pieces from the ’60s and ’70s, as well as French antiques.
“I read this article about what is being called the ‘grand millennial,’ a younger generation loving that older traditional style,” she says. “There’s a resurgence of floral curtains, needlepoint pillows and Chinoiserie. I thought, ‘That’s me to a T.’”
Beloved hand-me-downs bring stories of past generations into the home. The Pierces share a common inheritance – an appreciation for antiques, passed down from their grandmothers. Ivy Pierce’s “Memaw,” Ann Moore, took her to estate sales as a child. She said she adored the experience. Now, as a young mother, she and one-year-old daughter Heidi hunt treasures every weekend, keeping the family tradition alive.
“It definitely runs in the genes,” she says, and attends sales regularly as a hobby, building her own personal collections of Rose Medallion China, English Staffordshire and Chinese Fu dogs, bamboo furnishings and vintage heavy cigarette lighters. She also finds plenty of whimsical accents to embellish her clients’ bookshelves. “I’m a major hoarder of accessories. I just grab whatever grabs me.”
Likewise, Mark Pierce grew up watching his grandmother, Betty Lou Lee Upsher, collect and sell vintage wares. She passed away 20 years ago, and her belongings are now a special part of many homes in the family. Today, her silver antique fire extinguisher sits on the Pierces’ fireplace.
“I remember that piece being in her home,” Mark Pierce says. “My grandmother furnished her house with antique furniture and cool Persian rugs, and her house was warm and inviting as well. It wasn’t like everything was so fragile the kids couldn’t come in and have fun.”
Mark Pierce says he and Ivy keep entertaining and comfort in mind as they make design decisions. Last spring, they completely renovated the backyard – they tore down the pergola, excavated 17 tons of dirt and installed turf. The project couldn’t have reached completion at a better time. When Oklahomans shifted to socializing outdoors during the COVID pandemic, the Pierces were grateful for a new backyard to enjoy with friends.
The Pierces are also similar in a “green” kind of way. Ivy Pierce is drawn to floral patterns and colors such as chartreuse and emerald, as seen in their furniture and window treatments. Even the nursery has green – a soft pastel ceiling layered behind a white garden trellis. Mark Pierce, meanwhile, works with greens every day as he selects specific trees, shrubs and flowers to complement a home.
“Because my yard is relatively small and I have a retaining wall, I play off those lines – and the lines of the home – to define the patio space and the yard,” he says. He planted boxwoods to visually separate the two elements. Jasmine vines, trained to grow along a geometric-shaped trellis, add interest to a white brick wall. “I want the space to flow, and I want it to age well.”
The Pierces build on their commonalities as they make the transition from one life chapter to another. These days, the home is extra lively, playing host to their rambunctious little girl, Heidi, two German shepherds and a cat.
“We’ve literally grown up in this house,” Ivy Pierce says. “We’ve gone from the phase of going out to the bars and having parties late at night, to having wine on the back porch with our friends with babies. The home has evolved with us.”