Wednesday, November 26, 2008

New Pants, New Outlook

For the past few years, I have made the effort to workout each morning, Monday through Friday. I have come to really enjoy (and dare I say even look forward to) my morning routine, but lately I've been feeling a little "blah" about it all. I felt I wasn't feeling and seeing the same results from my workouts and consequently wasn't feeling as "pumped" and positive about my workouts and myself.

Whenever I feel that I'm hitting a self-esteem plateau, I've realized that what works best for me is trying something new and being especially kind to myself in my thoughts, words, and actions. For my birthday, I received a kettle-bell (a ball-shaped weight with a handle used for aerobic strength training) and a few pairs of very cute yoga pants. This past Monday I used my kettle-bell for the first time. It was challenging, and I broke a sweat in the first 5 minutes! I felt so great afterwards. I had tried something new, challenged myself, and re-energized my enthusiasm for my workouts.

Today, I sported one of my new pairs of yoga pants during my workout. They fit me much better than my old sweats, and I actually felt cute instead of slightly frumpy. This small, cosmetic change really affected how I felt during and after my workout. Really, it did.

If you are feeling tired of your workout routine or are trying to start one up, think about things that challenge you, sound like fun, and make you feel good. Never go into it thinking "I have to do this to lose weight" - that takes all the fun out of it and makes you feel like a prisoner of your exercise routine. Make a list of all the physical activities you enjoy (even if they're atypical, like gardening or window shopping). Anything is better than nothing! Lastly, take the time to nurture yourself. Buy new sneakers, sign up for a dance-aerobics class, or take a few minutes out of your day for a peaceful walk. It'll make a world of difference.

For more information about Cailen Ascher Design or my upcoming book, Well-Designed Living, visit or email

Tuesday, November 25, 2008

Fountain of Youth

I was watching Oprah today, and they were discussing "blue zones" - areas in the world where people are living longer, happier, healthier lives than is common. The four areas highlighted were Costa Rica; Sardinia, Italy; Loma Linda, California and lastly Japan. Though each area had unique elements that promoted happiness or wellness and therefore a long life, there were many commonalities that we all could learn from and incorporate into our lives.

1. Exercise! One thing all these communities had in common was regular exercise. Whether it was the result of their rigorous daily activities (such as gardening, cleaning or cooking), going for a brisk walk, or heading the the gym, all the elderly (yet thriving) people interviewed made time for movement.

2. Gather social support! All the areas studied had particularly high levels of family and community involvement with the aged members of society. Spending time with people you love, laughing, and having a sense of belonging all promote happiness and longevity.

3. Eat local! The communities shown were mostly small towns whose economies revolve around farming. Their diets were rich in natural, healthy, local foods. Eating fresh, organic foods that are produced locally is both eco-friendly and body-friendly. Local foods have fewer preservatives to maintain freshness than foods that have to travel to your table.

4. Seek purpose! Lastly, all the individuals on the show who were thriving in their 80s, 90s or even after age 100, felt they had a purpose and something to contribute. They filled their days with things and activities that they enjoy. They all had a self-identified reason to keep striving for health and wellness.

These tips may seem somewhat logical, but even so, many of us do not live by them. Think about small changes you can make to your routine to give you happiness and health; and perhaps make a vow to yourself to make some positive changes starting now!

For more information about Cailen Ascher Design or my upcoming book, Well-Designed Living, visit or email

Monday, November 24, 2008

My Ideas for the Designer Show House

Ever since this past Friday when I visited the May 2009 Designer Show House in which I'll be designing a bedroom, my head's been reeling with ideas. I've been going through endless magazines, catalogues, and websites looking for images and ideas that inspire me.
So far, I know that I want to go for (what I would call) a 1940s glamour look. In order to achieve this, I'll be sticking to a fairly monochromatic color scheme of ivory, cream, soft silvers, brushed golds, mellow metallics, and steely gray-blues...perhaps with touches of rich chocolate brown or even black for added drama. This color palette will infuse the room with an air of subtle sophistication. In the finishes, I'm leaning towards high-gloss, as well as many mirrored and metallic surfaces to reflect light and make the room sparkle like a piece of fine jewelry. Finally, I'll turn to silks, satins, taffeta, and even some velvets to enhance the luxuriousness of the room.

The sketch to the right shows some of my preliminary ideas for the layout of one corner of the bedroom. A small loveseat offers seating beside which a small side table stands with a lamp atop. Above the loveseat, a honeycomb mirror hangs and in front a tray-top table offers a spot to place a book or cup of tea. To the left, a small window seat is nestled between two built-in closets and offers additional seating. The whole idea behind modern glamour is sumptuous comfort paired with understated opulence - perfect for a relaxing bedroom haven.
For more information about Cailen Ascher Design or my upcoming book, Well-Designed Living, visit or email

Sunday, November 23, 2008

All Things in Moderation

With Thanksgiving just around the corner, I figured it would be an appropriate time to discuss how to survive the Thanksgiving feast. The holidays, though wonderful in so many ways, often get a bad rap when it comes to waistlines. With Thanksgiving ushering in the start of the holiday season, it's a great time to think about some new holiday mealtime guidelines.

1. All things in moderation. Deprivation is never the way to go...especially at the holidays. Denying yourself the apple pie you have been waiting all year to sample is not going to solve anyone's problems. (I guarantee, you'll find yourself at post-dessert clean-up scarfing down 1/4 of the pie while standing in the kitchen.)

2. Try your best to listen to true stomach hunger. So what if your Grandma just walked in with her famous cheese-covered appetizer, if you're not hungry (or especially if you're already full) don't have any. There will be plenty of others to compliment her on her extraordinary dish. If you really love it, make a small plate for later when you are truly hungry.

3. Make sure to stay hydrated. Not only are holiday beverages high in calories, but wine, punch, cocktails and sugary sodas don't replenish your body the way water does. Believe it or not, we oftentimes mistake thirst for hunger! Make a promise to yourself to have at least four to six 8 oz. glasses of water a day. It will stave off unnecessary hunger pangs and (bonus) help prevent dry skin!

4. Eat consciously. Holiday menus are the highlight of the year's eating, so take the time and make the effort to really taste your food. Eat slowly (putting your utensils down between bites really helps), chew consciously, and really appreciate every bite. Pacing yourself at meals will help eliminate excessive overeating, because when you eat consciously, you're more likely to feel the subtle "satisfaction signal" that lets you know when you've had enough. (Try not to let pants-unbuttoning full be your cue to stop!)

5. Make time for family time. Lastly, remember that the heart of any holiday celebration should be centered on reconnecting with family and friends, not over-indulging in your aunt's famous pumpkin cheesecake. Focus on visiting with relatives you haven't seen in a while, watching the football game (or Thanksgiving Day Parade), and enjoying a day that won't come again for another year.

Happy Thanksgiving!

For more information about Cailen Ascher Design or my upcoming book, Well-Designed Living, visit or email

Saturday, November 22, 2008

Bucks County Designer Show House

A very exciting opportunity has presented itself to me. I'm going to be able to design a bedroom for the May 2009 Bucks County Designer Show House. I've toured the past designer homes and have always coveted a room of my own to decorate. On a whim, I contacted the chairwoman of the designer house. As a very fortunate and unexpected turn-of-events, I was asked to design a room for this upcoming year.

I visited the home yesterday. It's a grand old Victorian with over-sized rooms and wonderfully high ceilings. It has a lot of character and charm, but there is a lot of work to be done. The room I chose is an upstairs bedroom (12 ft by 17 ft) with 2 built-in closets that flank a low window seat. On the far wall is a large window that reaches down the irregular, wide-plank floor boards. The room has infinite potential, and I'm so excited to have this opportunity to remake it.

I'll be blogging about the entire process. First, I have to create a storyboard and solidify my design plan, then we'll be measuring the room in January and collecting all the necessary materials for finishing and decorating the space. The design installation begins in March and continues through April and the house opens in May. It's certainly going to a fabulous opportunity to showcase my work, network with fellow designers and artisans, and learn a lot about renovating an old home! These before pictures of the room will give you a sense of the scope of the project.

From this experience, I am reminded again that we are the primary creators of our destiny. If I had not contacted the chairwoman myself, I would have never had this chance to share my design work with 8,000 tour-goers! The opportunity was there, but I had to take the first step.

For more information about Cailen Ascher Design, visit or email

Tuesday, November 18, 2008

Improve Your Mood

Holidays, though meant to be a wonderful time spent with family and friends, often produce more stress than joy. To help you through the next few months, here are some simple tips to improve your mood instantly when the pressure of the holidays is getting to you.

1. Smile - You would be surprised how quickly a "fake" smile can turn into a genuine one.

2. Go for a walk - Remove yourself from the stressful situation. You'll find clarity and compassion when there's bit of distance between you and the source of your woes.

3. Laugh out loud - Laughing is an instant mood-booster. Recruit your favorite movie, TV show or youtube video for help!

4. Let it out - Sometimes we keep too much bottled up inside. Take some time for yourself away from everyone else and cry, scream or just breath. You'll feel better afterwards...I promise.

5. Breath deeply - Slowing your breath can make you feel so much more calm and grounded. Breath slowly in through your nose, hold the breath in your lungs briefly and then exhale slowly through your mouth. It works like a charm.

6. Read a good book - Reading is such a pleasurable activity and one that we often don't make time for. Giving yourself a few minutes each day to indulge in your favorite magazine, catch-up with the paper, or read a chapter in your current bedside book is a great way to recharge your batteries.

7. Meditate - You don't have to really meditate, but at least give yourself 10 minutes of uninterrupted quiet time. You deserve it!

8. Take a power nap - The holidays unfortunately can take a lot out of us. When you're running on empty take a quick nap. You'll wake up feeling refreshed and replenished.

9. Listen to your favorite song - When you're feeling stressed or burnt out, turn to your favorite CD or song for some help. Whether you put on your favorite bluesy chill-out CD or your upbeat pop favorite to boost your mood, it's guaranteed to give you a few moments of "me-time".

10. Think happy thoughts - Make a mental list of all that you're truly grateful for, picture your favorite vacation spot, or envision a moment when you felt particularly happy. You can only hold one thought in your head at a time!

Lastly, make sure you take some time for yourself! During the holidays we give so much of ourselves to everyone else, be certain to make time for your needs as well. Take a bath, drink a cup of tea, or just take a moment to sit and relax.

For more information about Cailen Ascher Design or my upcoming book, Well-Designed Living, visit or email

Monday, November 17, 2008

Preparing for Thanksgiving

Fall is my favorite time of year. I just love when the weather turns colder, the leaves change to brilliant warm colors, and fires in the fireplace become a near necessity. Fall is such a wonderful time to enjoy your home and with Thanksgiving just over a week away, I thought I'd share some of my ideas for decorating and entertaining for one of my favorite holidays!

Table Centerpieces
1) Stack gourds - start with the largest one and stack with each successive gourd diminishing in size creating a "gourd snowman" of sorts. This is my centerpiece standby for Thanksgiving. Gourds come in so many interesting shapes and colors, you're bound to find one that works with with your table setting. I prefer canteen gourds and others with a flat, round shape because they're the best for stacking. Typically a stack of 2 or 3 works best.
2) Hollow out a pumpkin or gourd and fill it with flowers, branches of fall leaves, or even a potted plant such as a small mum. I, personally, love the look of a mix of dried hydrangea blossoms and tree branches with colorful leaves.
3) Make-shift cornucopia. A really simple, last-minute centerpiece can be as easy as a beautiful display of fruit. A decorative bowl piled high with apples, oranges, and sprinkled with leaves can give a cornucopia-like feel of bounty.
Table Settings
1) Use fall leaves as place cards. Collect leaves from your yard and use a permanent marker or metallic-ink marker pen to write the names of all your guests. It's simple and free and your guests will be so impressed by your creativity!
2) Mix and match. At Thanksgiving we often open our homes to family and friends - oftentimes more than the "service for 10" China can accommodate, so don't be afraid to mix and match. Choose pieces with fall colors, simple patterns, or neutral colors. The pieces don't have to "match" exactly, but they should coordinate and complement one another. Tip: lay them out on the table well ahead of time so you have time to play and rearrange to achieve the best look.
Making it Memorable
1) Cocktail concoctions. Last year for Thanksgiving, I created a recipe for a signature cocktail. It was a mix of apple cider, vodka, a twist of fresh orange, garnished with a cinnamon stick. Having a signature drink is a great way to impress your guests and really set the tone for a memorable Thanksgiving celebration. Tip: make sure you test the drink recipe before you serve it to your guests!
2) Keep it simple. Since the dinner menu often gets very complicated with everyone requesting their personal favorites, give yourself a break when it comes to appetizers and dessert. A bountiful cheese platter is a great way to greet guests - choose 2 to 5 of your favorite cheeses (depending on how many guests you're having) and fill the platter with crackers, crusty breads, olives, grapes and savory spreads. Your guests will love the variety, and you'll be done with all your appetizers in one fell-swoop. For dessert, why not pass the responsibility onto your guests. Guests always want to know what they can bring and suggesting a pie, plate of cookies, brownies, or even a personal family recipe is a great way to make them feel included and helpful. Or, turn to your favorite local bakery or farmer's market for assistance. If you really want to all the work yourself, keep in mind that pies and other desserts often freeze well and set aside time to make them in advance!
With these simple tips you can surely serve up a Thanksgiving celebration that everyone is bound to remember for years to come. And, keep in mind, the most important thing for creating a memorable occasion is to spend quality time with your guests, family, and friends. Happy Thanksgiving!
For more information about Cailen Ascher Design or my upcoming book, Well-Designed Living, visit or email me at

Sunday, November 16, 2008

Creating the Senses of Home

There's more to the style and feel of a home than just its decor. To create a real sense of home, you have to think about all the senses - sight, touch, smell, sound and even taste. Have you ever attended a party in a lovely home but felt something was lacking? You probably couldn't even put your finger on what it was. Well, in all likelihood, that home wasn't appealing to enough of your senses.

Sight - This is the sense that most people think about when decorating a room. In general, this is the most immediate sense addressed in houses. The colors of the room, the style of the furnishings, the placement of items and the overall layout all speak to one's sense of sight. However, to create a greater sense of harmony and cohesion, one must travel beyond merely the sense of sight and appeal to other senses as well.

Touch - Maybe this doesn't necessarily come to the forefront of one's mind when creating a livable environment, but you definitely work with it whether you realize it or not. If you want to create a casual space, you pick soft, comfortable fabrics such as woven cotton. If you want to convey a sense of elegance you choose smooth, shiny surfaces such as mirrors, silks, glass and metallic objects. If you're decorating a summer residence by the beach you would probably choose durable fabrics for the furnishings and light linens for the windows, and if you want to create a cozy environment you would turn to plush pieces in luxurious fabrics like velvet. Never underestimate the power of touch - you may have the most beautiful sofa in the world, but if it's uncomfortable and has a fabric with a rough, wiry texture, no one will ever sit on it!

Smell - In addition to interior design, my company, Cailen Ascher Design, also offers home staging services. As a final step when attempting to create a welcoming, inviting environment, I always use a homey smell, such as fresh baked cookies or mulled apple cider to welcome potential buyers. Our sense of smell is the most powerful sense for memory recall. More so than any other, our sense of smell brings us back to happy times, fond memories and wonderful occasions. Especially when entertaining, use the sense of smell to your advantage. In the summer, decorate with vases of fresh flowers to cast a soft fragrance. In addition, open doors and windows to air-out your home with a wonderfully fresh smell. In the fall, fires in fireplaces can cast a homey smell as does hot cider or even scented candles. (Use candles sparingly because some scents can be overwhelming and never place near food!) In the winter and around the holidays fresh baked cookies, spice breads or other baked goods are always a wonderful way to greet guests and fragrance your home.

Sound - Have you ever been to a restaurant where there was no background music? It often feels ever-so-slightly uncomfortable because you're acutely aware of silence as well as other people's conversations. Think about this in your own home when entertaining. Music can really set the tone for your party whether it's an intimate dinner party or a large gathering. Music fills up the empty spaces and puts guests at ease if there's ever a gap in conversation.

Taste - Though not always essential, a home that serves up great food in addition to wonderful atmosphere really takes the cake. Food doesn't have to be complicated and varied to be delicious. When hosting a party, stick to a simple menu that you're comfortable with and know you can do well, and you're assured to have success!

If you aim to appeal to many (if not all) of the senses in your house and when you entertain, you're bound to impress all who visit your home!

For more information about Cailen Ascher Design or my upcoming book, Well-Designed Living, visit or email

Saturday, November 15, 2008


Journaling is a great way to get your thoughts, ideas, goals and aspirations down on paper. Whether you're writing about things you want to accomplish with regard to your house or yourself, putting things into writing is a great way to clear out your head and record important items you wish to remember.

Keeping a "home journal" is a fantastic way to prioritize what needs to be done around your home and record how you wish it to look and feel in the future. Record special times that were spent in your home and make sure to include photos. Also, include images from magazines of elements you would like to try to incorporate into your home to inspire you in the future.

I am also a strong proponent of keeping a personal journal. Putting your thoughts and feelings down on paper can give you really great insight into who you are as a person. It is also a great way to celebrate your feelings and vent your frustrations that might weigh on your mind. If you're feeling particularly good, record it as a way of preserving that emotion, and when you're having a rough day, return to your journal for both inspiration and guidance. Also, write down your favorite quotes and memories that may motivate you, inspire you or put a smile on your face.

An important element in Well-Designed Living is taking time to get to know yourself and then creating an environment that nurtures you. Keeping a journal is a great step toward getting in touch with your authentic self.

For more information about Cailen Ascher Design or my upcoming book, Well-Designed Living, visit or email me at

Friday, November 14, 2008

Finding Your Style

1) Look through design magazines. Observe the rooms you gravitate towards. What do you like about them? The style of the furnishings? The overall atmosphere? The neutral color scheme? Some of my personal favorites are Traditional Home, House Beautiful, New Old House, Domino, and Martha Stewart Living to name a few.

2) Browse through your closet. How would you define your personal style? What colors dominate your wardrobe?

3) Think about your favorite season. What do you like about it? Do you like the warm, earthy colors of fall? The cozy feeling of sitting next to a fireplace in winter? Or the soothing sounds and colors of a summer day at the beach?

4) Remember your favorite vacation spots. Where do you love to go? Do you love the fast-paced energy of a ski trip with snowy mountains and rustic lodges? Or would you prefer a relaxing Caribbean getaway with its casual relaxing atmosphere and cheerful colors? Or is your ideal trip a European destination with its old world charm and sense of history?

5) Don't forget your favorite color! Colors say a lot about people - blue is calm and subdued, red is vibrant and energetic, yellow is cheerful and happy....

6) Think about when you feel your best. What time of day do you like the most? The bright, white sunshine of morning? Or rather the warm, amber-colored light of late afternoon?

Here are some unexpected places to look for your design style inspiration: your favorite movie (is there a scene, home, or location you particularly like?), your regular Friday night restaurant (what do you like about the place? the atmosphere?), the stores you frequent (what appeals to you...besides the merchandise?)

After you take the time to review this list and define what you love, it will make it so much easier to decide what you want (and do not want) to incorporate into your home. Once you have some clarity about the direction you want to go in, I would suggest beginning with an "inspiration piece" to guide you throughout the design and keep you focused. It could be a gorgeous rug, your "centerpiece" sofa, or even your favorite piece of art.

Happy Designing!

For more information about Cailen Ascher Design visit or email

Thursday, November 13, 2008

Beautiful or Functional?

"Homes really are no more than the people who live in them." -Nancy Reagan

At its most basic function, a home is meant to shelter you, keep you warm, and house your family. Keep this in mind as you glance around your house. How many unnecessary items do you have on your shelves, coffee table, desk, or bedside table? Clutter weighs you down and detracts from your quality of life.

In your home, you should have only things that you find either beautiful or functional...the rest is just cluttering your home (and your life). Pick one room in your home and take a garbage bag with you as you walk around and throw out (or recycle!) anything you don't need and/or don't use. Try to progress with an objective eye and attempt to see how others would view your space. What does it say about you? Do you like what your house is communicating to your friends, family, and to yourself?

We often get very attached to our "stuff", but too often we keep things because we don't know what to do with them or feel guilty about getting rid of them. It is important to realize that having something (or someone for that matter) in your life that doesn't contribute is not worth keeping. Cleanse. It will lift your spirits and leave your home looking and feeling much better.

Keep in mind that everything you eliminate from your home could potentially be put to good use in someone else's! Donate unwanted items or hold a yard sale for things that are in good condition.

*These photos show the before & after of a living room in need of some de-cluttering.

For more information about Cailen Ascher Design or my upcoming book, Well-Designed Living, visit or email me at

Wednesday, November 12, 2008

Designing the Home, Defining the Self

My name is Cailen, and I own an interior design business called Cailen Ascher Design. In addition to running my business, I am currently working on a book entitled Well-Designed Living - for the woman who wants to design her home and define herself. About a year back, I was struck with a thought. How can I design an environment for someone who is struggling with her current lifestyle? Homes are meant to be sanctuaries that reflect our passions, desires, style and personality; so how could I ever create a successful design for a client who is not comfortable with her current reality?

For years, I've had an interest in nutrition, fitness and all aspects of leading a healthy, harmonious life. So, it was a natural progression for me to combine my two passions: interior design and wellness. My book is meant to empower people, especially women, to not let another day go by wasted. My wish is that women come away from reading this with a desire to remake their lifestyle if they are dissatisfied with it and to create a home environment that nurtures them and encourages well-being.

The art of Well-Designed Living revolves around three key components:
1. Listening to and loving yourself, inside and out.
2. Allowing your authentic inner voice to be your guide in all that you do.
3. Making your home a reflection of the life you want.

Well-Designed Living is meant to show women how vital it is to take time for themselves in order to get to know their personal needs and wants and also in order to be a better mother, wife, daughter and friend.

"The whole point of being alive is to evolve into the complete person you were intended to be. We can't become what we need to be by remaining what we are." - Oprah Winfrey

For more information about my interior design company, Cailen Ascher Design, or my upcoming book, Well-Designed Living, visit or email
Related Posts with Thumbnails