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about last… September

I love Instagram.

It was Instagram that brought Francois and I together.  After months of liking and commenting each other’s pictures, one night while I was out having a drink with a friend (in a city with 7.8 million people…), Francois walks up to me and says, “Hey, aren’t you the guy with two little dogs on Instagram?”  The rest is our history.

Instagram hasn’t stopped there.  Shortly after moving to Hong Kong I started following an interior designer on Pinterest.  I related to his esthetic, and along with interior design services including complete residential remodeling, he also designs and manufactures his own furniture line, bedding textiles and pillows.  A few years later, I started following he and his partner on Instagram.  Once again, after countless liking and commenting of each other’s pictures, one day they invited Francois and I for a weekend in their amazing southern California home.  An entire weekend!  As in three days and two nights!  Naturally, I couldn’t type YES fast enough in the comment section.

Our friends thought we were crazy.  “You’re going to stay with total #instastrangers?  For a weekend?  In their home?  Alone?”  But for Francois and I, it never felt odd or strange or unsafe.  It only felt normal and natural and very exciting.

A few months after the #instainvitation (sorry, but I can’t help myself), Francois and I landed in Los Angeles one friday afternoon, jumped into a rental and headed out to Laguna Beach to meet our #instafriends, Leo and Steven.  I’ll admit, once we walked through the front gate and my hand reached toward the door bell, I did feel a little nervous.  But the second the door opened, their gracious hospitality made us instantly feel as if we were revisiting with long-time dear friends.

Within minutes of our arrival (and after a few hugs and kisses with their beloved dog, Harley), we were escorted out to a balcony where we got to take in a view we’d seen many times before on their Instagram profiles, but in person it was so much better.  In person, the view came with pomegranate margaritas!  Followed by baja fish tacos from a nearby taco stand.

But before inhaling what can only be described as stupid good tacos.  It was time for the home tour!!

Here’s a little secret about me.  I’m always the first in line for any home tour!  I love seeing how people live.  Their home was even more beautiful than the gorgeous photographs on their Instagram profiles or Leo’s design website.  I couldn’t believe I was inside their home, breathing the fresh ocean air that the opened french doors provided, smelling the fresh flowers and scattered candles, hearing the soft music in the background, feeling the mood created by the dimmed lighting.  I could have wept.

Not to mention, Harley followed us every step of the way!  #adorable

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Below are a few pictures of the perfect guest suite.  Our suite!  Complete with chilled bottles of San Pellegrino on both bedside tables, a Voluspa Laguna scented candle (of course), gorgeous fresh flowers, luxurious his and his bath robes and thick plush bath towels (from Restoration Hardware… duh!) and pillows. Lots and lots of amazing goose filled pillows!!

After being awake for nearly 28+ hours, this was complete heaven on earth.

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And after only 4 hours of sleep on Friday night, it was time to take in more beauty!

I’ve never been more excited to wake up at 4am (gotta love jet-lag) than that weekend.  Tip-toeing up stairs in the dark, turning on the already prepped coffee maker (so thoughtful), and settling into the comfy chairs out on the balcony each morning, alone with Francois, cup of coffee in hand, watching the sunrise, hearing the crashing waves below, more great coffee…

Words cannot describe those mornings.

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The afternoons were equally amazing.  Spending time with our new friends, having one great conversation after another, getting to visit job sites, hiking trails, eating amazing food, hitting a few of their favorite local shops, touring their design studio, relaxing by THIS POOL and the ever-present Harley.  Leo and Steven certainly know a thing or two about how to make two guys feel special.  It really was like spending time with long-time dear friends.

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Without a doubt, it was one of my best weekends.  It was such an escape from the crazy life of Hong Kong.  Such an escape from the concrete and pollution and every-man-for-themselves mentality.  It was a gift to be with people who share the same interests and appreciation of a beautiful home.

That weekend not only provided some much-needed inspiration, it also provided a huge kick in the butt toward a change for the future.  Life doesn’t have to be beautiful, but it should be.

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Thank you Leo and Steven for not only offering, but for delivering an amazing weekend and an even more amazing friendship.  Love you guys!

Leo Parrella Design Group, is a full service design firm that handles projects across the country with offices in LA & Orange County .  For more information, you can visit their website here.

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