Accoutrements: Luxurious Upgrades for Your Morning Coffee Ritual...

{Photo by yours truly,  Franki Durbin }

{Photo by yours truly, Franki Durbin}

Many, many times I've committed myself to nixing coffee from my personal health habits. And just as many times I've run full speed back to those steaming cups of espresso begging accept my apology. First it was a shift to specialty loose leaf teas, then I thought the much lauded matcha was the cure. Graciously it accepts my temporary change of heart and accepts me back with a warm embrace as though my temporary dalliance with its less caffeinated competitor never occurred. True love, indeed. Simply put, I love coffee. I genuinely do.

While Starbucks is where my loyalties lie when I am out and about, I fully credit my introduction to Nespresso for my exceptional at-home coffee life. In a few seconds I have an expertly crafted doppio greeting me with a smile. In less than a minute a cappuccino awaits. Latte lust? No problem, I'll have that ready in moments. And no, this post isn't sponsored, I genuinely adore my pretty little metallic pods of perfection and so do all who come to visit. 

While my little petite Pixie machine is adorable and sufficient, I recently discovered its more sophisticated cousin, the KitchenAid Nespresso countertop machine. With an impressive die-cast construction and top-of-the-line inner workings, this exceptional beauty has my heart aflutter. This magnificent crema-producing wonder promises coffee perfection for years to come. 

Santa, baby. If you're listening, this glorious contraption has been added to my list. Curious about my china pattern above? It's Ralph Lauren Hutchinson, and it happens to be on sale (as is the KitchenAid). Treat yourself to a supremely fabulous personal morning coffee ritual with a luxurious gold-rimmed leopard cup and saucer. You are marvelous and you are worth it. 


Ralph Lauren Hutchinson Gold-Rimmed China // KitchenAid Nespresso Machine

Curious about my personal Nespresso favorites? Roma and Rosabaya are always a the ready at Maison de Frances. However I've had a recent flirtation with their limited edition Ciocco Ginger is sublime. The fullness of chocolate with a spicy hint of ginger make this a very lively morning beverage.

Accoutrements: Elements of Chic for Creating a Cozy Home...

Look closely at your favorite magazines and pinterest boards and you'll typically uncover a pattern. Rooms that seem the most inviting, the most appealing, the most seductive are often outfitted with an array of toss pillows and throw blankets. These "extras" are the difference between a pretty yet standoffish space and a room that beckons you in with a "come hither" vibe. It adds richness and depth to your home and instantly gives guests something to touch, something to squeeze and a reason to settle in for a while. 

This simple designer trick works in living rooms, bedrooms, dens and family rooms. But don't overlook the appeal of such soft goods in a home office or even a dining room. I like to scatter pillows around and I love a good cashmere throw over the back of an office chair. This simple soft touch adds tactile appeal and takes the formal edge off a room with it's simple presence. 

Spread at the foot of the bed, a blanket is a perfect perch for your pet or even your children. For whatever reason, wherever I add a blanket my adorable feline is sure to appear and assume such luxury was added just for him. Bonus: it acts as a layer of protection over your duvet or furniture, attracting pet fur and taking the wear and tear your upholstery otherwise might endure. In busy family homes I love an oversized cocktail ottoman in the living room with a faux fur throw folded across the top. It is a magnet for children, husbands and pets of all varieties. The sofa can be wide open, but my massive blanket topped ottoman is the favorite spot in the house for watching TV or relaxing. It's all in the styling. 

Those layers of pillows that confound your husband? That's you making your home more cozy and inviting. It's your intuition to feather your nest and warm up what could otherwise be a sterile space. Yes, those pillows are awesome and you could use a few more. The key: don't make them too precious. A sequined one is nice, but by and large each pillow should be soft and supple and fabulously squishy. 

For summer, these may serve as mere elements of comfort. Once the mercury dips and cool weather is here, these are home essentials. Piling on the layers at home just feels right. It's our desire to be warm and safe that often drives our compulsion to add pillows and blankets to our home. And come winter: it's exactly what your mind and body need. 

Ready for a few of my no-fail cozy up favorites? You know you are! Here they are... 


Accoutrement: The Leopard IPhone 6 Case...

My must-have fall tech accessory is a chic little leopard iPhone case. This one seems to balance form and function beautifully in all its spotted glory. Regardless of your iPhone model, you'll enjoy the bevy of spotted case options here, including Garance Dore's uber chic iPhone 5 version.

For me, the hint of animal print and the flash of gold make the glimmering gold of the iPhone shell itself look even more polished. It's so pretty you might just place it on your bedside table to enjoy as a decorative object instead of logging on to this & that all night long. Now there's a major life improvement to ponder... 

Not an leopard lover? Who can blame you. Peep these options from blue snakeskin to festive ikat to express your individual style. 

Accoutrement: Best Fry Pans Ever...

Over the years it feels as though I've tried every cookware brand under the sun. I do believe I've finally found fry pans that are non-stick, won't kill us with toxins and (ready for this?) can even be tossed in the dishwasher (although I don't dare try it myself).

As a girl who loves to cook and makes an omelette almost every day, I can assure you my standards for a non-stick pan are very high. Add to the obvious requirements that I now want pans that won't leak metal and toxins and chemicals into my food and you've created quite the challenge to find great cookware in the marketplace. A little research will tell you, however, that they do seem to exist. 

 Which ones did I settle upon? I examined All-Clad, Le Creuset and other brands in person as well as through online reviews. All of these brands have upsides and huge followings, but for me they weren't quite the right fit.

Fast forward to this moment and I'm happy to announce I am in love with these from Williams-Sonoma. If you are in search of well-priced cookware that won't poison you with toxins over time and proves to be (thus far) truly non-stick with daily repeated use I do believe I've found them in these beauties. Did I mention they come with a lid and can even handle metal utensils? The Holy Grail of cookware. I can't wait to buy more!

Accoutrement: Gear On the Go...

Those of you who wander the earth with your iPhones sans case absolutely amaze me. Perhaps I'm just busier than the average bear, but my beloved Apple mobile devices take a beating. Enter the waterproof, dust proof, essentially human proof cases on the market today. Perhaps not quite as sleek as your Tory Burch slim case, but it will certainly save your beloved #latergrams from being lost in an unexpected fall. The newest cases are dust proof, waterproof and impact proof. These are military grade devices and device covers ready to rumble if you dare. Those selfies on the bow of the yacht don't seem so risky now. Nor do those ski slope videos you love taking. 

My suggestions? If you're an avid video maker consider the GoPro. Accept no substitute.

Tough on your smartphone? Catalyst has all you need to withstand anything you could possibly imagine doing to it. Seriously, this slim case is as rugged as they come and will help your iPhone stay pretty and perfect no matter what craziness you put it through. Even dropping your champagne on it (you know who you are!)

Survivalist? Consider the Pelican Vault Carrying case for your tablets and laptops. I see this as necessary for you outdoor types, adventurists or you pinterest addicts sitting on the beach. I dare you to locate another tablet case that can withstand sand, surf and water better than this one. 

So there you have it. No more excuses. You have the gear, the gadgets and the know-how to keep your tech safe on those wild Ibiza trips. No more dropped iPhone horror stories. No more lost memories. No more bubble bath tragedies (what? no one else has ever done that?). From now on you can boldly go forth knowing your tech will stay dry and safe regardless of your dangerous human tendencies. ;) 

Accoutrement: Must-Have Gear for Autumn and Beyond...

Sometimes a girl wants glamour, sometimes a girl just needs gear and gadgets. Sliding into fall my non-fashion wants are quite simple. I'm going to stare at that mobile device far less, teaching my aspiring photog about composition & light and whipping up fresh chimichurri at every opportunity.

The gear I need is reasonably priced, cute as can be and doesn't require much space. Why the pretty new iPhone case if I'll be using it less? Frankly, this one is even lovelier when the face is pointed straight down. I'll consider this my high-tech paperweight. After all, tortoise shell looks great with every decor and is trending for fall.


Accoutrement: Lost & Found + Anthropologie = Rough Luxe


What happens when a globetrotting trendsetter suddenly hits it big time? She and Anthropologie team up to curate an intimate collection of organic luxe items for the home. Think: artisinal dinnerware and hand-dyed indigo coverlets. This collaboration between Jamie Rosenthal of Lost & Found and indie-store-gone-global Anthropologie delivers everything a wanderlusting entertainer could wish for: handmade goods with a story behind them.

If there's one thing I've learned about tabletop design it's that the organic elements instantly add warmth and vitality to the room. You can add all the gilt candleholders you like, but it will be the rough hewn burlap runner than beckons guests to sit down and spend the evening at the table. Jamie's collection features special pieces with character and personality that will have you and your dinner guests ready to linger for hours by candlelight long after the dessert forks have been laid to rest. Each globally sourced or acquired piece is a conversation starter all its own.

Shop the full collection here.


Accoutrement: Sweet Dreams...


Ahhh... the bedroom. The ultimate retreat. For all the plush upholstery in my house, the best seat in the house is always my bed. Especially with little ones in the house, this room becomes HQ for everything. It is our place of choice for movie watching, book reading, long talks and - of course - all important sleeping.

Over the years my bedding preferences have evolved. I've finally whittled it down to a soft science of sorts. Knowing I'm a tactile person, I surround myself with things that are pleasing to the touch. Understanding my taste, I search to find the very best versions of the items I desire. This doesn't always mean the most expensive version. It does mean I research some topics and products until I am certain I've sought out the ones that will satisfy my needs. 

When it comes to mattresses, I adhere to the invest in the very best you can afford philosophy. Don't let the price tag intimidate you. When it you find "the one" you whip out the Amex and schedule delivery without hesitation. To protect your investment, be sure trap that baby up in a high quality mattress pad. This minimizez the nuisances of modern life (dust mites, allergens and the like) and is the only decent civilized thing to do. You're an adult, it's time to take care of the things you own. The surface you sleep upon is so incredibly important, so don't shortchange yourself in this arena.

The underpinning ready, we are now on to the sizzle: the bedding! I'm a sheet snob and a down duvet comforter aficionado. I've studied all categories of bedding ad nauseum and can counsel anyone on the merits of 400 vs 800 fill (I prefer the loft of the latter), why duck feather does not equal down (completely different) and whether Batiste cotton really makes a difference or not (it does).

Sheet type? I stand on both sides of the hotly debated of sateen versus percale debate. We rock sateen during the cooler months of the year in Texas and love our luxurious percale during summer. Why percale? It breathes and lends itself to a cooler night of sleep. Sateen is delicious when it's cool, as the smooth surface is incredible to touch and it tends to hold in body heat better than its crisp counterpart percale. Thread count is an entirely different subject, the long held belief that high count equals high quality has been debunked. Yet there is no question that long staple Egyptian cotton is the way to go regardless of the finish you prefer.

Color? You know me better than that by now. It's no surprise that my bed is a mountain of white on cream on ivory tones. White sheets are such a clean, elegant foundation for a dreamy night of sleep. I sidestepped the hotel embroidered trend in lieu of solid white high quality sheets. Simple elegance.

The subject no one wants to openly tackle is how to maintain this utopian bedroom existence. Down creates dust and dust creates myriad problems for unassuming inhabitants (that would be you). Mattresses must be aired, sheets must be delicately handled and vacuuming must occur with great regularity to ensure blissful nights of sound sleep.

I suggest the following routine for keeping your bedroom truly fresh and clean:

Take it outside
Literally. Once every month or so you'll need to take your mattress, down bedding and pillows outside for a day in the sunshine. Yes, this is a lot of work... but it is essential. The sun's incredibly strong UV rays act as a natural sanitizer. Your precious bedding left out in the sun from mid-morning until late afternoon will do the trick. Allergens are no match for our solar system's bright shining star. I love to flip my pillows and rearrange things as the day progresses. By day's end you are ready to bring it all inside. Viola! 

Vacuum. Vacuum. Vacuum. 
Did you know that ALL of your upholstery is meant to be vacuumed and brushed? Most people unwittingly purchase sofas, chairs and other pieces with no foundational knowledge of how to care for them. Pile fabrics need to be brushed with an upholstery brush regularly. All fabrics benefit from vacuuming with a hand-held attachment. It removes dust and helps you maintain the look of such pieces. I'm presently obsessed with this one which I use for EVERYTHING.

That mattress? Dust has been settling on it since the day it was made. While dear Sol in the sky may have obliterated those dust mites, you'll still want to make vacuuming that pillowtop a habit. I love a good handheld vacuum with good suction. It makes it easy for me to access those small nooks & crannies where dust and debris love to settle. 

Be Cool
Lower temps at night not only encourage better sleep, they also stave off excess heat in the bed. I prefer a chilly 66 degrees at night, but you should find a temperature that works for you and your partner. We compromise by giving Mr. Venti extra blankets so I can enjoy my Arctic Chill :)

Go All Natural
Essential oils are about to become your new BFF. Cinnamon oil, tea tree oil and dozens of others can be misted on your mattress and pillows to aid in the antibacterial process. I love to spritz these on while by mattress and other bedding pieces are outside sunning for the day. A light mist all over each piece acts as both sanitizer and scent refresher.

Tea tree oil has quite a strong scent, but is one of the most effective dust mite eliminator on the planet. Other oils can be intoxicatingly pleasant, and can be use in tandem with it. Combined they will combat stale odors and effectively eliminate any allergens lurking in your boudoir. worry not, any strong aroma will dissipate long before you rest your head on your pillow that same night. I like to mist the bed almost weekly with a very light (but allover) mist. 

Love Me Gently.
Ahhh, bedding. Why invest in the best if you intend to carelessly handle it in the laundry? I set my machine on hand wash every single time I clean my sheets. For drying, many prefer to dry them outside, but I find that wildly impractical. I tumble dry on a low heat setting and remove them as soon as they are dry. Fold. Put away. Enjoy the fruits of your labor the next time you make the bed.  

The same is not true for that mattress pad. My washer comes with a sanitize setting and I freely use it on the mattress pad. This is one item that needs thorough cleansing. It is also wise to rotate pads, as the laundering process can be quite tedious if you don't have an extra in your linen closet. 

Rotate. Refresh. Repeat. 
There's a reason we own more than one pair of shoes. Using the items repeatedly again will cause them to wear out prematurely. The same is true of sheets. I like to keep three full sets in rotation. One on the bed, one ready for use and one in the laundry. As a matter of personal preference, I change all of our bedding a few times a week. At least twice each seven days, but often more. It just feels right to freshen the bedding as often as possible. 

Breathe Easy
My last suggestion is only that... a suggestion. Sleeping with a scented candle on the nightstand gives me great pleasure. The occasional waft of the fragrance (even while unlit) is enough to instantly alter my mood. And of course, lighting it daily freshen the air and lends a special mood to any space. My new brand du jour is Aquiesse. These smell incredible especially this one!

Those are my tips for sleeping well. Again, the key is to refresh as often as possible. The bedroom should be a sanctuary of bliss, so keeping it free of clutter is key. I love mine beautifully styled but largely free from excess decor. 


Accoutrement: Nespresso Machine...


Life is busy, right? We have clients to meet, fittings to attend and rehearsals to... rehearse for. Time is a precious commodity we dare not waste. For moments when you have about 60 seconds to spare and desperately need a jolt of something to kick you into high gear, we keep things fairly simple. Mr. Venti rocks the bulletproof coffee like nobody's business and I rarely met an espresso shot I didn't love. What is bulletproof coffee, you ask? It's a very strong cup of high quality coffee (Stormio works very well), plus MCT oil (virgin coconut oil will do) and pure organic grass-fed butter (we prefer Kerrygold unsalted butter). Mix well with this guy, enjoy each sip and brace yourself for the most productive day of your life.

For me, a shot of espresso is typical fare, with foamy cappuccinos regularly making their appearance regularly and of course... iced coffee.

We thank our lucky stars for our Nespresso machine because it's embarrassingly easy to produce perfect coffee instantly. You simply push a button and the best cup of coffee you've ever imagined is magically filling your cup. Trust this mommy of two: time is precious, so making a cup of liquid gold super quickly is essential. I swear by my lovely little chromed out machine.

Am I totally biased? Yes. I've been drinking in the good stuff for well over a year now and find it to be a treat I look forward to each day. Don't take my word for it, though... grab yourself a delicious cup of coffee from Nespresso. Trust me... it's as good as gold.