One year ago, I was standing in the freezing cold at the “Extreme Makeover: Home Edition” jobsite in Oklahoma. By persevering for hours after the rest of the media left, one other interviewer (from a county paper) and I managed to score an exclusive interview with celebrity designer, Jillian Harris. I’ve been unable to sell the story to any magazine—so I’m releasing a transcription of the interview to the online world. Jillian was excited and delightful as she talked about her then-secret design for the Skaggs’ ranch house.
Jillian Harris, a Canadian who landed a role on an American reality show called The Bachelorette, is an interior designer by trade. When the opportunity arose to use her skills as the celebrity designer for a 2010 episode of Extreme Makeover: Home Edition, she tackled the task with alacrity (and very little sleep). In an exclusive and emotional interview at the construction site, Jillian explained why it was personally important to her to design the perfect home for a struggling rancher in Oklahoma.
Jillian Harris Interview:
Amy: How did you “get into the heads” of the Skaggs family to design a home that they would love?
Jillian: What was great is that we got to spend time with (the) family, interviewing them, and took a little tour of the home. Because I’ve done design in the past, it was so easy to see what really was special to them. I think Audra did great job of managing with what she could and could see little bits of her in the house. I could tell she loved teal, and loved the family, and had that rustic cowboy taste, but still with polished charm to it. Walking through the house, talking to Audra and talking to Merritt gave me such a good indication of how to design it.
Amy: Are there any specific treasures you can tell us about that will be featured in the home?
Jillian: I can’t tell you specific treasures, but can already tell you that this will be such a tear-jerking episode in the happiest ways possible. The house will be beautiful. I’ve watched the show since day one, and I can already tell that this home is going to capture the family beautifully (I’m already tearing up).
Amy: How did you volunteer to do this?
Jillian: I’ve watched the show forever, so I’ve been a huge fan, but having this crazy life in the last year–appearing on the Bachelor and Bachlorette–my life has changed a lot. And I realize how fortunate I am (I’m such a baby, I’m tearing up again). I’m so, so fortunate for the things I’ve been able to experience, and love the support I have not only of friends and family now, but my fans.
I’ve always loved interior design, obviously, but I love being part of charities. I love giving back, I love family, I love design, I love construction. To me it’s a perfect fit. I’ve been here a couple days now, and I’m having the time of my life. It feels so good to see everyone else giving back and for me to be able to give back.
I said to my mom the other day, it seems like the world needs a lot of love right now. People aren’t giving enough love, so with this, you see how people are giving back and it’s so inspiring. Makes you want to pray for strangers. And smile at strangers and ask them how they are doing—and go back to the good old days.
Amy: Is there something you will want to say to the family when you see them?
Jillian: If I can keep back my tears and keep from sounding like a baby—I’d thank them for inspiring me. I think sometimes we take life for granted and we think we’ve got it tough, and then you see a family like that who clearly is so strong and has so much love to give, and is just having a tough time, but they still keep their heads up and are still proud. Very inspiring, So if anything, I would just thank them.
Other Interviewer: Has this been a good time?
Jillian: I think anyone who has the opportunity to volunteer, this is something that sticks with them forever, an incredible opportunity to be part of it.
Other Interviewer: Would you do this again?
Jillian: I hope so, I said to them earlier, Yep, I’ll take the job, where do I sign?
Other Interviewer: What do you think about this Oklahoma weather?
Jillian: As you know, I’m Canadian, so when we rolled out the other night, I said to a cab driver, “So, is this pretty typical?” He said, “No, not at all.” But I’m Canadian so I’m used to the weather. The only downside to that is that I’m thinking I’d be on the construction site wearing a cute little plaid shirt, my new little white boots and I’m in marine-type boots and jacket. But that’s not what matters. That’s not what matters. It’s cold, but people are running around, their blood’s pumping.
Amy: What will you be doing the next few days?
Jillian: In between building, you see we’re doing a lot of filming, but between filming, we still have to do a design. You stay awake late at night to make sure the design is being done right and you’re working with the right people to get it done. Because it’s my first time, so I want to be very, very involved and to make as many decisions as I can. I’m not sleeping much because I’m so excited for the family—just energy everywhere. Hard to lie down and fall asleep.
Amy: Are people out buying [decorator] things for you right now?
We actually went yesterday. We bought a lot of stuff. I think, well, I hope someone’s out there buying stuff–otherwise this interview is over and I have to go!
Other celebrity photos taken at the Extreme Makeover: Home Edition site
JILLIAN HARRIS: AN EXTREMELY EXCITED DESIGNER