Former 'Bachelorette' Jillian Harris eager to put spotlight on design skills

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TORONTO - Former "Bachelorette" star Jillian Harris says she's eager to put the spotlight on her design skills, instead of her dating skills.

The bubbly brunette returns to TV this week as co-host of the real estate series "Love It or List It Vancouver" and says she's hoping to establish herself as a serious designer, despite her sensational TV past.

Since gaining fame on "The Bachelor" and "The Bachelorette," Harris says she turned down several offers to expose her love life anew.

"There were a few things that came to the table but they were often like web series or they were to do with finding love again and I just wasn't really interested in putting my personal life on display again," Harris says by phone in a recent interview from California.

"I was kind of frustrated that I would only be known as 'The Bachelorette' and I would never live that title down."

Viewers have gotten a glimpse of Harris's design sensibilities through post-"Bachelorette" appearances on "Extreme Makeover: Home Edition" and "Canada's Handyman Challenge" but she notes that her reputation is still tightly associated with "making out in hot tubs."

"I couldn't live that title down," sighs the Alberta native, who says her long-term goals include being known as a young, hip, off-beat Martha Stewart.

"When ("Love It" producers) came to me I was like, 'Oh that's awesome. You actually recognize the fact that I'm a designer and that I could be good in this field.'"

Starting Monday, Harris will showcase her interior design sensibilities as the resident renovator on the new W Network series.

As the title suggests, "Love It or List It Vancouver" is a West Coast spinoff of the Toronto-based series "Love It or List It," which returns to W Network in the spring.

And as in the original show, homeowners who are bursting at the seams are asked to choose between buying a new house or staying in their current home after a televised renovation.

But it differs in showcasing the competitive real estate market of Vancouver, says co-host and realtor Todd Talbot, who takes the potential homebuyers on a tour of properties in their price range.

He says budgets on the show are several times that of the Toronto-based version, pointing to one family who had $2.4 million to spend but still had a hard time finding what they wanted.

"Vancouver real estate is synonymous with being high-priced, (having) lots of competition — especially over the last 10, 12 years — and being the most expensive real estate market in the country," says Talbot, a former child actor.

Harris says she, too, gets hefty budgets to work with, noting it's not unusual for a homeowner to hand over $100,000 to remodel their home.

And so far the experience has been a blast, she gushes, noting she's glad to be back in the spotlight even though her most famous TV foray wasn't nearly as breezy.

"Being on 'The Bachelorette' was actually quite hard on me and so I didn't know if I wanted to stay on television," admits Harris, who split from her TV suitor Ed Swiderski after the show.

"I was sort of thinking about leaving television altogether and when it came to me, this opportunity, I kind of felt like this is an incredible opportunity, I would be stupid to turn this down."

Despite her eagerness to launch a professional name for herself, Harris hasn't completely shut the world out of her personal life.

Photos of her latest love Justin Pasutto, a professional snowboarder she met at a bar last June in Kelowna, B.C., can easily be found on Twitter, Instagram and her website jillianharris.com.

"I, at first, was a bit nervous about that just because of what happened with Ed and I but I've also realized it's hard to hide it," she says.

"If I'm going to shut it all off then I have to get out of this industry, you know. And he's been great. He's also a professional athlete so he's used to being in the spotlight but he's incredible and he's a great part of my life and I love sharing that part of my life because it's what makes me happy, it's what makes me tick, you know. And if I ever find that it's starting to complicate things then I'll change things up a bit."

"Love It or List It Vancouver" debuts Monday on W Network.

Organizations: W Network

Geographic location: California, Vancouver, TORONTO Canada Alberta West Coast Kelowna

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