As the co-owner of Landmark Homes, Debbie Clarke has seen hundreds of homes in her time. But even after 40 years of interior design, she’s always on the lookout for new ideas.
Design is part of Debbie’s life. When not poring over real estate newspapers or Home & Garden magazines, she’s trawling Pinterest and Trendsideas. She and Paul still love checking out showhomes when they travel, whether in New Zealand, Australia or Majorca.
“When you’ve got a real passion for something, you’re always looking at new things,” she says. “I have discovered watercolour art and I notice things like how the light hits the leaves on the trees and the colour of shadows. It just becomes a consciousness, I think.”
Debbie’s design career has come from the ground up; in flowers, in fact. From being a passionate gardener and floral artist, she went on to do an interior design qualification. When she and husband Paul established Landmark Homes in Tauranga, she became the design coordinator and interior designer for the early Landmark Homes and later, managing their frontline sales and fine-tuning the Design and Build process.
She says that much of the success of their original Landmark franchise in Tauranga came down to a very clever design philosophy. Their aim was to create not only a ‘wow’ factor, but for people to walk in and feel right at home. We wanted our home owners to be proud of what hay had achieved and love living in their Landmarks.
“Our showhomes over the years have been real trendsetters. We have had the privilege of having our Landmark ‘style’ copied by other builders – we take that as a compliment!”
In fact, it was one of their early Tauranga showhomes that pioneered the distinctive Landmark style: a 2.7m, high-pitched roof, detailed extra height windows and plenty of light.
“Most of our designs since that time have had 2.7m high ceilings. It just gives a nice sense of light and space in a home. Our homeowners really liked it and it just became a signature style after a while.”
Although they have retained that style, Landmark’s ever-evolving designs are very much client-directed. It all comes down getting a real understanding of what their clients want.
“First we have a conversation about how they want their home to look, and then we talk about how they want it to work and feel. It’s really all about their ideas: that’s the acorn of the oak tree. It actually results in a great outcome for the designer to have all the information and understand what they want right from the start of the design process. Those ideas and lifestyle choices then have the design skills applied and ‘voila!’ another Landmark evolves.
Over the years, design and living trends have changed. Different things become important as new products emerge and our lifestyles have changed. “Back in the’90s, walk-in wardrobes and walk-in pantries were on the wish list. Now it’s second living spaces and outdoor living areas. Kitchens have become the hub – island benches now double as a gathering point for casual entertaining.
Even Debbie’s own personal preferences are influenced by new ideas and products. Until recently, she had a hard and fast rule that she wouldn’t have showhomes with all white walls. She felt people love colour; it creates instant warmth and atmosphere. It is hard to create a sense of homeliness with all white. “But in recent times I’ve definitely relaxed on that point, because there’s such a trend to have a white and naturals look. It is vital however, to include lovely changes in textures and materials to achieve a memorable sense of comfort and style.”
In fact, she’s just signed off the interior design for an upcoming Tauranga showhome which is almost entirely white – inside and out.
“We’re very happy to accommodate new ideas in our designs. We love having a clear vision of what our homeowners want.”
Of course, she does have some favourite designs. She particularly loves the modern twist of adding a coastal flavor to the Central Otago style, as demonstrated in the current Whitianga, Coromandel showhome . She also fondly remembers another favourite: an “absolutely stunning” Tauranga showhome (Temuka Design) with ‘nearly black exterior and off-white windows. Many who visited it had their Landmark built exactly the same – right down to the same interior colours and fittings.
Debbie encourages franchisees to use local designers from their area. A number of our franchisees have an ‘in house’ designer on their team who designs exclusively for Landmark. Designers tend to incorporate local ‘flavours’ in their work. Central Otago, for example, has its very own style.
Many of their franchisees have come from careers in the building industry, which she says contributes to their expertise. “It allows them to have a good understanding of construction, so they’re managing the design process with economy and practicality in mind.”
If you’re ready to begin the journey to your very own Landmark Home, give your local franchise a call. They’ll sit you down, chat about your ideas and make your dream a reality.