Jillian Harris, A Local Success Story

Lots of moxy, taking risks and working like crazy are the secrets to success for interior designer, Jillian Harris.

Like a whirling dervish, Jillian Harris is in perpetual motion. She has just finished taping Season 2 of Love It Or List It Vancouver for the W Network; flew to Toronto to launch Charmin’s Luxury Pop-Up Bathroom at The Distillery Historic District; raced back to her home in Kelowna where she has just completed renovations and is ready for some much needed R&R with her main squeeze, Justin Pasutto and family. She blogs on Jillian Harris Design Inc. and is continuously in demand on the do-it-yourself circuits. Participating in her home town’s [Kelowna] design industry, she’ll be the guest speaker at The Real Home Show, put on by the local Canadian Home Builders’ Association on March 29th – 30th in Kelowna. Does this woman ever sleep?

“I’m exhausted,” she readily admits. “It’s just been crazy taping the show in Vancouver with 13 houses a season and no break. I’m working on the set of Love It Or List It twelve hours a day - many times until midnight. There is a huge team behind me,” Harris credits, “and I’m very grateful that they take my design vision, then do all the sourcing to pull it all together. ”

Sharing co-hosting duties on Love It Or List It Vancouver with real estate agent, Todd Talbot, it’s the interior designer’s job to win-over homeowners with spectacular renovations, while pitted against realtor Talbot as he tries to lure them away to the house of their dreams. The duo’s on-air chemistry is a match made in TV heaven - much of the rapid repartee and off-hand zingers are from the vivacious, self-deprecating Harris, who is never afraid to literally get down and dirty (this is a reality show after all!).

No stranger to the reality show format, the 34-year-old, Peace River, Alberta-born Harris, first charmed audiences on ABC-TV’s The Bachelor, for which she was a runner-up in Season 13.

“I applied to be on the show even though the application said ‘Americans only’ partially on a whim and because I have a romantic nature,” admits Harris.

Then in 2009 she became The Bachelorette (Season 5). Lest you think Harris is just another pretty face, those shows (combined with her grounding interior design experience from BCIT, work with mentor, Scott Morison and Browns Restaurant Group) catapulted her into ABC-TV’s Extreme Makeover: Home Edition. For three seasons the show was a perfect match for her love of interior design and philanthropy. She also hosted Canada’s Handyman Challenge on HGTV for one season.

“I was concerned at first that The Bachelor/Bachelorette shows might have a negative impact on ‘Jillian the designer’, but quite the contrary - they acted as a springboard for many future projects. I did lots of interior design work for free afterwards just to get my name out there to remind people I was an interior designer first,” says Harris. “I’ve always felt it’s important to take risks. What’s the worst that could happen? Certainly nothing if I didn’t try.”

Ironically, she has become so busy with Love It Or List It Vancouver and commercial design projects that Harris has not had the time to develop an individual interior design customer base – something that she hopes to grow in the future. Her commercial design projects include the PNE Prize Homes she designed three years in a row (the 2013 model was a stylish 3,000 square foot modern country-chic home valued at $1.2 million) and the innovative Charmin Holiday Potty – a ‘Jilli-on-the-spot’ that incorporated her design elements for a powder room in a public setting.

Her business and design acumen have recently been channeled into Charlie Ford Vintage, (named after her nephew); a curated e-commerce venture she started with her cousin, Tori Wesszer and friend, Alyssa Dennis. From retro cookie jars to estate jewelry; antique steamer trunks, furniture and original crystal chandeliers and sconces, the site offers one-of-a-kind pieces at competitive antique store pricing.

“My Mom was a huge antiquer,” explains Harris, “and had an antique store in Peace River. We’d go on a lot of road trips together and I really liked collecting. I had accumulated so many vintage pieces in my own homes and I didn’t want such a huge inventory so we started Charlie Ford Vintage. We have formed alliances with about 15 antique stores across the country that we love, with a time-sensitive concept so that our beautiful pieces are available to customers online for a limited period only.”

Always committed to giving back to the community, Harris, for the second year participated in The Covenant House Sleep Out in support of homeless youth in Vancouver and helped raise $338,543. “Sometimes I take a step back from my life and think ‘whoa… how did I get so lucky?’ “With the near-freezing temperatures, it was quite possibly the longest night of my life and I have never felt so appreciative of the simple things I take for granted every day.”

Challenging herself to try new projects, Harris has recently inked a deal with Korhani Home Canada to design a line of rugs for Spring 2014. “I love antique Oriental carpets,” says Harris, ”and I’m really excited to come up with some unusual designs incorporating Navajo patterns, distressed, some geometrics and pastels for our new line.”

Constantly juggling work with travel and family (she owns a condo and house in Kelowna and condos in Vancouver and Hawaii,) Harris admits, “I’m actually a homebody and really just enjoy staying home with Justin and relaxing in my PJs!”

Visit The Canadian Home Builders' Association, Central Okanagan for more on how you can see Jillian in Kelowna, where she will participate in The Real Home Show this March. For more on Jillian Harris, visit her personal website and Charlie Ford online.