While she may not have found her fairytale ending after searching for love on national TV, Vancouver’s most famous bachelorette has plenty to get excited about these days.
Jillian Harris, an interior designer, became a household name among fans of reality TV when she appeared on the 13th season of ABC’s The Bachelor in 2009, as one of 25 women vying for the heart of account executive Jason Mesnick.
Though she finished the courtship competition in third place, Harris was asked to return to the spotlight later that year as star of The Bachelorette, where the tables were turned and 30 men were now fighting to win her heart. The show concluded with Harris selecting technology consultant Ed Swiderski. However, while Harris received a marriage proposal from Swiderski, the relationship followed the familiar path nearly all the couple’s whose love bloomed in front of the cameras on the popular program; Harris and Swiderski called it quits last summer.
But what transpired since her rise to reality-TV fame has been far from disappointing for the 31-year-old, who calls Kitsilano home when she’s not travelling all over the continent.
And, despite hesitations to stay in the spotlight after the show’s conclusion, Harris is now back on primetime having landed her “dream job.”
“After The Bachelorette, ABC asked me if I wanted to continue in the industry,” Harris explains. “I was positive at that point that I didn’t want to continue on TV, but when they mentioned a guest spot on Extreme Makeover: Home Edition, there was no way I could turn it down.”
Her role as guest designer on the program – which provides full-home renovations and redesigns for families across the U.S. who have experienced hardship – has now turned into a full-time gig, and Harris says she couldn’t be more thrilled.
“The job has been more than I ever dreamed of,” she says. “It melds together my passion for design and helping others. I love every single aspect of it, from the travel to the team I work with and the small towns that remind me of home.”
For those who knew Harris growing up in the small, northern Alberta town of Peace River, it’s no surprise the feisty go-getter has landed her dream gig. As a teenager, she was an “entrepreneurial workaholic,” coming up with her own businesses nannying or cleaning houses or helping her mother run her gift shop.
“I was always super energetic as a teenager, and had to find outlets for my creativity and passion, much like I have with design today.”
Her eye for design was something that surfaced at an early age, but it wasn’t until she moved to Calgary after graduating high school that she realized there was a market for interior design work.
“My parents were both very supportive of my creativity, and encouraged me to decorate my own room, pick out paint colours and help decorate the house,” she recalls. “We didn’t have interior designers back home so it wasn’t until I moved to the big city that I realized there was a career out there perfect for me.”
After five years in Calgary, Harris moved to the West Coast and set up a home base in Vancouver. There she launched Jillian Harris Design, creating custom-made 18th-century-inspired furniture pieces.
She also regularly collaborates with architecture firm The Dobbins Group, designing restaurant interiors, including several locations of Browns Social House and Cactus Club.
Harris has also recently teamed up with Vancouver-based tour company Rocky Mountaineer, where she’ll be using her extreme makeover skills to redesign the company’s split-level GoldLeaf railroad coach.
What she describes as a “wonderful opportunity” isn’t the first time she’s been involved with Rocky Mountaineer; while filming The Bachelorette, Harris took eight of her suitors on an exclusive trip aboard the Mountaineer from Vancouver to Banff, showcasing the rugged beauty of western Canada.
When she’s not visiting all corners of the U.S. with her Extreme Makeover: Home Edition crew – they have filmed in small towns in South Carolina, Florida, Idaho and Kansas, to name a few – Harris is happy to get back to Vancouver and indulge in some relaxation… if she has the time.
“I get back to Vancouver about once every three weeks, but lately I have only been back for about a week at a time, which is hardly enough to unwind,” she says, adding that patio parties in her backyard or a stroll down to Granville Island are among her favorite ways to blow off some steam. “I’m looking forward to the spring when work slows down.”
Next to design, she lists cooking as a huge passion – something she’s been doing since she was young and that she describes as “therapeutic.” She also lends a hand to children’s charities, including Big Brothers and Big Sisters, although she admits that with her busy travel schedule, her involvement of late is mostly event based.
Her on-the-go lifestyle presents its share of challenges when it comes to her love life, and although she’s not currently dating anyone, she’s still optimistic about finding her happily ever after – just not on a reality TV show.
“My perspective on relationships has changed a lot in the last year,” she admits. “I think I’ve always had such high expectations of the quintessential fairytale relationship, but my lifestyle and personality don’t really support that. I think finding someone who is as passionate about life, travel and doing things as differently as possibly – it’s just going to be a little more difficult, but of course I still think I’ll find ‘the one.’”