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Jillian Harris has designs on your home

03/12/2013 1:25 PM

03/14/2013 3:47 PM

If you need advice about hot tubs at the Great Big Texas Home Show this weekend at the Fort Worth Convention Center, maybe you should seek out celebrity guest Jillian Harris.

She was TV's Bachelorette in 2009. That reality show -- and the frequent waterlogged dates she went on -- made her something of a hot tub authority.

"It's true," Harris says. "When you're on The Bachelor and The Bachelorette, you end up knowing a lot about hot tubs. But it has been a while. I'm getting rusty on that particular subject."

Actually, Harris is better equipped to advise people about interior space and color schemes.

She was a designer before becoming a reality show personality, after all.

Since appearing on The Bachelorette, Harris has worked as a designer on Extreme Makeover: Home Edition and hosted such shows as Canada's Next Handyman and Love It or List It: Vancouver.

She will speak on the Lifestyle Stage at the Great Big Texas Home Show at 1 and 3 p.m. Saturday. Other celebrity presenters at the show include Christopher Straub of Project Runway Season 6 and Kelly LaPlante of HGTV's Design Wars.

Harris' design philosophy involves personalizing one's living space.

"Anybody can make a space beautiful," she points out. "Heck, just get a catalog and order everything that's on display and your space will be beautiful and current. But how do you get somebody to walk into a room and make their heart go pitter-patter?

"To do that, you have to figure out what the client loves most of all. What makes them happy? Where is their favorite place to travel? What is the one thing they own that they couldn't live without?"

Make it yours

Harris has found that many people, surprisingly, keep their favorite things practically hidden away. She advises people to showcase their personal treasures.

"Like, your favorite recipe might be from your great-great-grandma, and that piece of paper might be kept in a cupboard somewhere out of sight," she says. "It might be yellowed. It might have oil stains on it. It's probably falling apart.

"My recommendation is, instead of keeping it tucked away in a drawer, why don't you frame it and put it on the wall? It can replace that stereotypical picture of a Bartlett pear that has no meaning to you."

Here's another example:

"My grandpa used to give my grandma fur coats," Harris says. "When he died, my grandma was going to give them away, because they didn't fit her any more. Instead, we had those jackets turned into a teddy bear. Today, it's one of the things in my home that I couldn't live without.

"When you start to think this way, all of a sudden you've got something in your space that's not just current and hip and beautiful, but it's also original, one-of-a-kind and a conversation piece.

"It's exciting to have something in the room where somebody says, 'Well, that's interesting. Where did you find that?' Being able to tell a story about something in your home is very valuable."

Of course, if you prefer to ask Harris questions about The Bachelorette, she'll be happy to oblige.

"People seem to recognize me a lot more now because of my design efforts, which is great," she says. "But I don't think I'll ever completely live down The Bachelorette."

What people saw on The Bachelorette, she says, was essentially the real her.

"The truth is there are very few reality shows that are 100 percent real," Harris says. "It's more like this: If you took the craziest moments of your life, the moments where you cried, the moments where you're mad, the moments where you're sad, and if you compiled all those moments, then deleted all the boring moments, when you [lay] in bed all afternoon or stood in line for coffee."

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