On the set of Love It or List It Vancouver I meet with interior designer, Jillian Harris, although narrowing her down to a single title is unjust for the self-proclaimed busy-bee, who is also a lifestyle blogger with throngs of loyal fans – many from her days as a contestant on the Bachelor and then as the fifth Bachelorette.
In a preview of what’s to come in this interview: “It’s like…I hate showering. I don’t like wearing shoes, I don’t wash my fruits and veggies…”
Ladies and gentlemen… Jillian Harris!
A moment inside her mind is like confetti in a windstorm, there are so many pretty things flying around a million miles a minute.
It didn’t take long for me to realize that Jillian is a quirky, fun and remarkably enthusiastic women when it comes to her life, her love (boyfriend Justin Pasutto), her work and her boxer Nacho Cilantro. Wearing the cutest glasses, she hops on an enormous cozy bed and welcomes me to join her for the interview, the only thing missing is a mug of hot chocolate and a good book.
Jillian: I’m so embarrassed to say that I haven’t read any good books lately, these glasses are to tackle my e-mails, and I’ll take this one step further to say that even more embarrassing is that I hadn’t read a book in about 15 years and then I read the 50 Shades of Grey trilogy in like 3 days, and I haven’t read a book since.
While Jillian may not find her creative inspiration wedged between the pages of a novel, she finds much of what she is looking for right at her fingertips nonetheless.
Jillian: I read a lot of blogs, and I think just the way my brain works, I’m very visual – I love photography and pictures and pretty things. I love Brit + Co, Monika Hibbs, Pinecone Camp is great for photography; most of the blogs I like are local.
My career and my passions have evolved over time from design to food to fashion, back to design. I love business and I feel like Lauren Conrad (another blog she follows) has done a really good job of branding herself and her blog, I just love learning from it. To be honest, a lot of my inspiration comes from travelling and Pinterest.
Nicolle: Do you think it’s a statement to your success, in a strange way, when you launch your dog’s Instagram account and it instantly has more followers than some humans do?
Jillian: It’s actually so funny because we are looking into getting him on a raw diet (he has really bad allergies) and we were talking to someone the other day and they found out that Nacho has all these followers and they were like ‘oh maybe I can work with Nacho to hook him up’ and I was like ‘omg Nacho we are going to have to get you an agent!’ He’s had beds sent to him, jewelry sent to him, treats, fan mail. He would have those followers without me though!
The premise of Love it or List It Vancouver pits Jillian against West Coast realtor Todd Talbot in a dual of revival versus relocation. Jillian is determined to renew the current home and bring it a fresh perspective, while Todd lures homeowners elsewhere with the prospect of something new on the market.
Nicolle: Tell me about your experience working on the show Love It or List It Vancouver – I mean, even just walking through this house and you explaining everything that has been done, and all the wonderful things you have envisioned and been able to accomplish, do you find that you are continuously revamping your creativity?
Jillian: I will say that my general experience on this show is that I am very spoiled. I am so lucky because we have such an amazing team that takes care of us. The show is committed to making sure the homeowners are happy, and that we’re kept on time and kept on budget, but aesthetics, that is something that is really important to me. At the very beginning I felt like the spaces weren’t representing my style and that’s important to me as well because there are millions of people that watch the show, and so it took some time to refine our design team. It’s important to work really hard to communicate what I like and what I don’t like. I get to express myself and other people help me execute it.
Nicolle: It sounds like you live in a fairly “yes” world. So what’s some of the adversity you face?
Jillian: I hate to say it, but I don’t have a lot of adversity with this show. In my career there are always challenges to balance your brand, balance your time, balance your lifestyle and be present – which is something I am not, and I would like to be better at. My biggest challenge might be budgets, and a lot of time homeowners have issues with their home that they fail to mention or hadn’t thought through, so they give you a bunch of money and you go for it and then they have no siding on the side of their house and there is a huge leak and I have to fix it. You can only do so much research because they need these projects done in 6-8 weeks and we rely on the homeowners to communicate with us.
Nicolle: What is something that people might find surprising about the show?
Jillian: It’s so easy to be on the show! Every time I meet people and they say ‘oh I really want to be on the show, what do I have to do?’ I’m like ‘just apply!’ People do have to pay for their own renovations but there are major perks, some of those are in terms of free cabinetry or free furniture. Not to mention, there are no renovations that can get done in a month! People wonder if the quality suffers because it gets done so fast, and I think you can see for yourself that these are high end renovations, with good detail and good finishing, so although we move quick, our spaces are gorgeous.
Nicolle: I saw that you had put out an application for people to come work for your blog, and I felt that it was getting shared constantly on my news feed –
Jillian: We are so overwhelmed with applicants but I have narrowed it down to 40 people! And really what I need, and it’s really difficult because I physically don’t have the time to do it all myself, is to find the right fit, someone who is on brand. I mean, I could do what Martha Stuart does and hire a bunch of people and just say that I do it all, its actually what a lot of people do, but I’m not afraid to say that I don’t do it all myself. I have a team that helps me under my direction. At the same time, someone like Lauren Conrad has been really smart and has really great people and also gives them credit for it, which I’m more than happy to do.
I hope in the New Year we will have a regular contributor program, but for me I just want it to be a reflection of all the things I love – whether created by me or someone else.
Nicolle: The Bachelor and Bachelorette now seem like ages ago, but I guess to the outside world that’s how many people were introduced to you. People always say ‘oh you came out of nowhere,’ but you were doing stuff before and you had a life before. Obviously that has had to have worn off by now, that shock that all of a sudden all of these strangers know you, that you’re somebody to so many people who you don’t know, but in your every day life do you sometimes stop and go ‘man, I created this.’
Jillian: Actually yesterday was one of those days… I was on the plane almost crying because I woke up at this gorgeous hotel in New York, ordered breakfast in bed on somebody else’s dime, walked to Good Morning America, hung out with the GMA crew, and I’ve never done this before but I bought a pair of really expensive shoes for myself, a pair of Manolo Blahniks, and I was like ‘it’s my birthday next week, I’m going to do it!’ so I had this expensive pair of shoes and then we had lunch and it came to $150 and I was like ‘oh, this one is on the network, thank you HGTV!’ And then I got back on the plane and my car service stopped and Justin and Nacho were waiting outside for me and Nacho was so excited and he was wagging his tail. I was like ‘omg, today was a really good day’ and I’m really, really, really lucky because I haven’t done everything perfect and there’s a lot of things that I could improve, like being more present, so I just feel really blessed. I do think I work really hard and sometimes at moments I’m crazy and in all different directions…
Nicolle: …but that was a moment that you were present, you stopped and realized all that you have.
Nicolle: Sometimes being present every day doesn’t work for some people, for you it seems more like the impact comes if you just have a second to breathe and then you are able to go back to being your usual self.
Jillian: Yeah, and on the way from the hotel to the airport I asked the driver if we could make a detour because I had never seen the statue of liberty and I really wanted to see it, and it was a two hour detour to find it and by the time we did it was dark couldn’t even see it, and we were laughing so hard, and I got to chat with a stranger. I have had so many cool experiences because of the Bachelor and then Extreme Makeover Home Edition and then it’s brought me this show. Todd and I work really well together and sometimes things aren’t always perfect on set, we can get crabby and snippy, but for the most part I’m really grateful and lucky.
Nicolle: Any advice for Do-It-Yourself lovers out there? I know there were a lot of people who were sharing your application and I checked out some of their sites and they had a lot of DIY stuff, so any advice for those who are considered “Pinterest crazy?”
Jillian: Sometimes people can feel depressed when they go on Pinterest because they aren’t that skinny or they don’t have those nice clothes and then they try to make their Pinterest meals and then they fail at it, so people can feel negative about themselves. But this girl wrote this blog and she followed everything Pinterest told her to do for 7 days and then she took photos, and she said overall it enhanced her week.
For me, it’s more that…it depends on what kind of person you are. Some people truly like coming home at the end of their day and sitting down and watching TV. I feel like life is really short and I like to seize every moment, but I’m obnoxiously busy and I don’t know how to sit still. I always have to be creating something, or tidying something. For me, I want to make life worth it.
With DIY, as long you aren’t getting stressed out, and you’re enjoying it, no one has to be perfect. A lot of my DIY’s don’t turn out. I think the idea is do it if you’re passionate about it. If you’re passionate about sitting in front of the TV, then do that, and own it.
“It’s like…I hate showering. I don’t like wearing shoes, I don’t wash my fruits and veggies, so there are certain things I just don’t like. Sometimes people put too much pressure on themselves to do or be good at everything and sometimes it’s better to just not care.”
I have a funny saying, and I’m not an overachiever, but I just like to do a lot of things, and I always say to Todd: If you just try to get to 70% then you will always be happy with yourself, but if you try to get 110% I feel like that’s a lot of pressure.
People are always like ‘give it 110%’ and I’m like ‘that’s a lot of work!’ Just try to have fun, don’t set your goals too high or you will miss the journey and the point.
A leaf in the wind, the way paint peels off the side of an old house, a bird resting on a wire, a pretty girl walking down the street wearing floral print – these seemingly mundane things, the ones that may pass us by unnoticed, these are what inspire some of the most influential designers of our time – like Jillian Harris. A countertop is chosen as the culmination of visual stimulus on a cold winter day, the hard ice across a frozen lake, while you may find a light fixture hanging daintily over a perfectly assembled set of wine glasses, inspired by twinkling stars in a midnight sky. The way the sun glints off the rocks along the riverside may change the way she stacks the books in your foyer.
What Jillian creates becomes a part of her story, and all that is her story becomes a part of the homes she designs.
Oh, what the heck, here’s the dog’s Instagram too: @NachoCilantro
New episodes of Season 2 of the hit show Love It or List It Vancouver air on the W Network beginning Monday, January 5.
Interview with Jillian Harris
Feature image: Kris Por