October 1, 2012

Putting the power of personality behind energy efficiency

Designer Jillian Harris lets the light of clients’ lives shine through in her environmentally friendly designs

Leslie Paterson

The energy is palpable, the enthusiasm conveyed even over the phone from Kelowna. Jillian Harris describes herself as “not a workaholic, but kind of a busy person.”

Indeed. She’s been seen at the PNE, where she designed the Sun Peaks prize home, wrapped up three seasons of Extreme Makeover: Home Edition and has been preparing for her upcoming role as host for W Network’s Love It or List It Vancouver, to be launched in January.

She’ll also be a featured speaker at the 2012 Vancouver Home + Design Show, revealing how to infuse space with personality, sustainable elements and energy-efficient lighting solutions.

Harris incorporates all sorts of green practices into her work, most recently undertaking an energy-efficient home makeover for the winner of the latest Power Smart contest. “It’s been wonderful working with BC Hydro,” she says. “They’ve taught me so much about consuming less and adopting an environmentally conscious state of mind.

“It’s a fine balance to combine practical and responsible design, layering the fine points of your personality into it. Energy efficiency has to be included in a way that works, but it definitely doesn’t have to mean stark and utilitarian. It can be warm and cosy and multi-faceted.”

Lighting plays a critical role in home décor, Harris says, stressing the importance of choosing the right bulb for the right fixture and the proper fixture for the space. A cool bulb in a blue or grey room can feel dull and gloomy; conversely, too warm a bulb with reds and yellows can make the room appear dirty, she says.

The imagination and passion Harris brings to her work have been key factors in her success. “I do what I love. I wake up every morning and I’m so inspired. I try to balance work and play.

“One of my main design disciplines has always been less about being in style and more about designing with style, expressing yourself in a way that makes your heart go pitter patter, things that make you happy and really excited,” Harris says. “That’s the theme – bring out your own personality.

“I ask clients, what’s the favourite thing that you own, your favourite recipes or outfit? When were you born, where have you travelled, is your grandmother still alive? All the questions you’re asked when you go for marriage counselling. It might be the door key to your first home, so we put that in a shadow box and display it to create inexpensive, one-of-a-kind memories. Or mount a special recipe on the wall.”

The goal, she says, is to tell a story in your home that illuminates your life, using objects that create conversation. “It’s all about figuring out how to extract all the things that make you happy and turn them into design-conscious space.”

Jillian Harris will be a featured speaker on Friday, Oct. 12 at 6 p.m. and Saturday, Oct. 13 at 3 and 7 p.m., then will meet with audience members at the BC Hydro booth on Saturday following her presentations on the HGTV Main Stage. l

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