Jillian Harris may have made a name for herself on ABC's The Bachelorette, but in the last few years she's had a lot more going on than dating drama. After stints on Extreme Makeover: Home Edition and Canada's Handyman Challenge, the designer from Peace River, Alberta, is now the host of Love It or List It Vancouver and runs her own eponymous design firm.
Her fun, eclectic style, which she describes as "traditional feminine with a vintage flare," and down-to-earth persona make her the kind of girl you can imagine becoming instant friends with — yes, I will openly admit to my girl crush on Jillian. At ease in stilettos or with a hammer in hand, her accessibility has made her a homegrown favourite.
From left to right: Charlie Ford Vintage co-owners Alyssa Dennis, Jillian Harris and Tori Wesszer.
I caught up with the multitasking design maven over the phone while she was en route to Kelowna, B.C. where she is currently building a home, to talk about her new project Charlie Ford Vintage. Harris collaborated with her cousin, Tori Wesszer, and friend, Alyssa Dennis, to create Charlie Ford, a retail website specializing in vintage home decor.
The dynamic threesome have worked with vendors across North America on a carefully curated collection of antiques that takes the hard work out of antiquing. As a huge vintage lover, I couldn't wait to ask her a few questions about the shop:
CB: Where did the idea for Charlie Ford Vintage come from?
JH: Tori, Alyssa and I have been shopping vintage since we were 10 years old. There's so many great vintage finds out there and there's not possibly enough room in our homes to buy it all! I wanted to share the things that I was finding. So we found a way to curate our best vintage finds from all of our favourite stores. Tori and I always wanted to go into business together, but with the e-commerce world ever-growing and really making a huge change in how people shop, we felt that a storefront was doing the community an injustice. I have so many readers and I want all those readers to benefit from this idea not just the readers in one community.
CB: How did you come up with the name?
JH: Tori had just given birth to her son, Charlie Ford. It's just such a classic, timeless name and we kept coming back to it. We figured it's a really great little legacy for him!
CB: Who do you envision as the Charlie Ford Customer?
JH: Anybody who is struggling to find that perfect piece for their space to give it that final touch, that wow factor. I think it will be a great resource for designers, too, who don't have time to drive out to Princeton, B.C. and rummage through all the rubble to find something perfect for their client. Also, people who want to be eco-friendly. A lot of the time we don't realize how eco-friendly buying vintage is. You're saving the resources and the energy it takes to make a new piece.
CB: How does your curation process work?
JH: For me, it's a feeling. It's walking by something... those pieces that jump out at you. All three of us are different. Tori loves to find things that are very gently used and very dainty — almost Parisian. I like things that are decrepit and falling apart. I love it when things are hanging on to their last thread. Alyssa is very traditional. She loves beautiful blown glass, china and silverware. With the three of us we have a really eclectic mix. We want there to be a piece for everybody.
CB: What kind of items will we be able to shop for?
JH: Lighting, rugs, furniture, decor, jewelry, accessories. Anything from chandeliers to side tables, old clocks, chalkboards, mirrors, definitely a lot of amazing art. We have some really incredible, affordable art. Some is one-of-a-kind, some are prints, but all of it is really fun and very unique.
CB: Where did your love of vintage come from?
JH: My mom used to own an antiques store and her and Tori's mom, who are sisters, have always been so passionate about it. I remember being a little girl and going to auctions. I remember road tripping and going to abandoned houses in the prairies and finding old mason jars and rolling pins. For me, it was being in those old empty houses and smelling that smell of mustiness. I looked at those pieces and I felt like it would be so awful to let those pieces go. You think of all the different stories that could be told if those pieces could talk and that's when I get really emotional about antiques. They're conversation pieces and they're so unique. I love the idea of history and of stories.
CB: What kind of quality does vintage give to a home?
JH: It's all emotional. As a designer, I believe that the design of your home should be 85% emotional. I love it when I can create a space where someone will walk into a room and hold their heart and say, "Oh my gosh, that is so me, how did you know?" With Charlie Ford, I think you'll cruise the site and your heart will start to pitter patter and you will think to yourself: I love this cookie jar; look at this vase; that's the most beautiful broach!" Buying vintage is just a bit more personal. People love getting something old that's coveted and curated.
CB: Do you mix old and new a lot when working with clients?
JH: Absolutely. On the second season of Love it or List It, airing this fall, I'm so excited about the spaces. We have an incredible design team and I wanted to teach them how important it is to bring some of the past into a new space. I think people will see that the spaces are new and fresh but they look like they've got a heart beat. Adding some old vintage pieces and making it look like it has had a life can do wonders for a new space.
CB: Do you have a favourite vintage piece?
JH: I have lots! My new favourite is a piece I picked up in Maui. I have a little condo there. I went to an antique store in Paia and there was an old glass buoy and it was still covered with the rope, which is hard to find. It was so big and so beautiful. I put it on a table underneath a framed piece of coral, styled it with some old nautical books and I've created the most incredible vignette. That's my favourite piece because it's very interesting, very beautiful, but it tells a story of my trip to Hawaii. For me, it's a reminder of a happy time in my life.
CB: We recently published our first Advice Issue. What is your best piece of design or decorating advice you could share with our readers?
JH: The funniest is the one I reiterate all the time that ties into my past as a Bachelorette, it's kind of a joke but it speaks the truth: A great piece of furniture, accessory or even a paint colour is just like going out and searching for the perfect guy. You might think it's perfect and you might love it until you get it home and after a few days you realize it's not perfect, but you can just return it for something new! People over-think their space and they stress out about it. You have to give things a shot and be drawn to what speaks to your heart. At the end of the day, when it comes to design we're not saving lives, we're being artists. Just go for it, and if it's not right it can always be changed!
Charlie Ford Vintage launches today. Happy virtual antiquing!