Jillian Harris on design trends, lighting, love and marriage


'You only live life once, so you might as well throw it all out there'

Rob Klovance

Oil rig worker. Hairdresser's assistant. Beer cart girl. Interior designer. Second runner-up on ABC's The Bachelor.

And that was just the start for Jillian Harris.

The self-described "polished redneck" from Peace River, Alberta, turned enough heads (and hearts) on The Bachelor to find herself as The Bachelorette fielding 30 wannabe beaus, including Ed Swiderski, the guy she picked, got engaged to, then split from. Then off she went again, dispensing her personality-first advice on design, food and fashion on Extreme Makeover: Home Edition. And in 2012, she'll be host of HGTV's Canada's Handyman Challenge.

Harris has been working with BC Hydro on promoting the latest and greatest in ENERGY STAR® LED technology, which hit stores this fall in B.C. She took time out during a break during shooting of some public service announcements to talk candidly with editor Rob Klovance.

Rob Klovance: I have to admit to being pretty much oblivious to the Bachelor, the Bachelorette and, to a certain extent, the whole Jillian Harris phenomenon. How do you explain your popularity?

Jillian Harris: I have no idea. I ask myself that question every day ... One day we were watching the Bachelor and I was trying to find a dress that one of the girls was wearing. I landed on the site's application page. I had been drinking some wine and I turned around to the girls and said 'Watch this'. I uploaded a picture and a funny little comment. I never thought that I would meet somebody — I just really thought it would be fun to do. And then I fell in love, did the Bachelor, then the Bachelorette, and I think what people are drawn to is human nature at its worst and its finest. ... I think just growing up in a small town, being Canadian, I really have no filters. I have no secrets in life, and I live that way. You only live life once so you might as well throw it all out there.

RK: Are you living the fairytale life now?

JH: I think so. I'm not with anybody and I'm not married. I can't wait to have kids but I'm still concerned about the whole concept of marriage. I think I need to find somebody who can keep up with me, because I like to keep very busy in life. I think overall, I'm the happiest I've ever been, and I'm living in Kelowna, of all places. I love Kelowna but I'm a city girl. I'm living in a small town and my family's there — my mom, my dad and my grandma and cousins come over for coffee every morning I'm not working.

RK: Why the move from Vancouver? Did it have anything to do with the guys here?

Jillian harrisJH: It does! (she laughs). I realize that I work away from home so much that when I do get home, my personal life is my family, and a lot of my girlfriends are from Alberta and I wanted to be a lot closer. I thought when I came back to Vancouver I'd immediately dive back into the books, get back to work. And I think one of the reasons I've had a tough time settling down with somebody is that I can't settle down. I think Kelowna will help me do that a little bit."

RK: What is it about your upbringing, your rural Alberta roots, that informs your design approach?

JH: Designing around personality. I think everything in life is around designing around some sort of history, whether it's cufflinks or the old moccasins, with tassles, that I wear. For me, designing is about evoking those emotions. I coin myself "a polished redneck" because I hunted my own prairie chicken when I was eight years old. I'm connected to where my food comes from, connected to nature. But at the same time, one of my favourite possessions is my $1,200 Pradas I got as a gift from a client.

RK: Of all the design trends out there, what's one worth watching, perhaps one you've put your personal stamp on?

JH: Reusing things you already have. I think so many people toss things away that don't have a purpose anymore. But everything can be repurposed. Everything can find a home. If you have it, it probably means something to you. Figure out how it can fit into your home.

RK: Is there any trend we should ignore, maybe run away from kicking and screaming?

JH: I still hate crushed velvet, but I've seen it come back a few times. And a super, super modern room is not for me. But I'm staying in a room at the Fairmont Pacific Rim right now, it's a modern room and I really love it. I would just suggest that anyone who's designing their own home to ignore the trends, the catalogues and the magazines and do whatever gives them the warm and fuzzies. I guess if you like crushed velvet, use it.

RK: At Power Smart, we know that education around the effective use of energy-efficient lighting is often as important as the products themselves. There are a lot of options out there. Do you feel like you're up to speed?

JH: I worked [as a designer for] the Cactus Club and Browns, I learned a lot about all the types of bulbs that existed and the different types of lighting and layered lighting. And when I first moved into my place here in Vancouver, I picked up a beautiful paint colour for the walls called baby fawn. With the wrong type of lighting it came off purple, then it came off yellow. But I found something that worked. Then I got into my environmental kick and thought 'What's going to be most energy efficient?'

RK: What should be the emphasis when shopping for energy-efficient bulbs. Colour temperature?

JH: Yes, I think so. This room we're in now I think really needs a warm bulb, but something more modern might really need a cool bulb.

RK: With the number of people from our office who wanted to accompany me for this interview, I could have filled a bus. And the one question that kept coming up was: Why Ed?

JH: There's just something about him. Even though it was really awkward with him and I — like even the conversation wasn't good, or our alone time wasn't that fun — when I pictured myself letting go of the other guys [on The Bachelorette] I could picture myself doing it. But I couldn't picture myself letting go of Ed. Even though we've broken up, we still have a hard time letting it go. For some reason, I bet we'll be in each other's lives for the rest of our lives."

Want more info on lighting? Here's some help

Learn about the latest in energy-efficient lighting by referring to the lighting comparison chart below, or see the larger, easier-to-read version here [PDF, 116 Kb].

See also:

Lighting comparison chart: Features, light output and cost

Rob Klovance is managing editor of