SHE is often credited with making Santa Catalina chic.
And there’s no doubt Christine Leja was an early trailblazer into Palma’s hippest barrio, having launched her first business here 15 years ago.
“It was definitely a bit of a gamble. When I first got here it was a pretty run down neighbourhood, but I could see the potential,” the urbane German tells the Olive Press.
Having worked around the world in the design business, including a decade in Ibiza, she knew a fair bit about style.
“The houses were lovely, the roads were wide letting in a lot of light and it felt like a village in the city,” she says. “And on top of that you had the market.”
Her first clients were the yachties, who lived and worked around the corner in the marina and had a fair amount of disposable income.
“They were a cool, healthy young bunch and came from all around the world.”
Best of all, they were earning fabulous salaries with almost no expenses, living mostly on the boats.
They were only too happy to put down anchor and invest in real estate in the city they spent much of the year.
“And they were able to get mortgages easily with their healthy bank balances,”adds Christine.
Pretty soon she had dozens of clients and, along with her partner Andree, they started to buy old properties in the Santa Catalina area and do them up to sell.
So successful has been their business that they now have four different businesses in the Santa Catalina area, all similarly branded, including a chocolate factory, an interior design shop, a real estate agency and an architecture and design studio.
“There is no doubt we have been a part of creating the spirit and style of the place, which is now the most cosmopolitan and innovative area of Palma,” she insists.
She is talking at the stylish architecture arm of the business in Carrer de sant Magi.
It is a cool spot, clean and minimalist, while her office on a mezzanine floor is full of sumptuous furniture and edgy prints scattered about the walls and floor.
“I come out of the old hippie movement and was a nomad for decades,” explains the mother-of-one, from Stuttgart. “I travelled from the age of 19 and lived in New York, Italy, France and Switzerland.
“My first taste of Spain was in Ibiza in the early 1980s. It was the polar opposite of the strict rigid lifestyle in Switzerland and was very beautiful.
“I still love it there but there is something about Mallorca that really appeals. The landscape is stunning, particularly in the north west, which is one of the most beautiful places in the world, and there’s an excellent mix of properties.”
Her love of architecture comes from her family. Her great grandfather built cathedrals in Germany and her father was an architect involved in the reconstruction of parts of Germany after the war.
“I am addicted to real estate and spend so much time looking at buildings, even when on holiday,” explains the mother-of-one. “I am also not scared of hard work and am usually here from 9am to 8pm at night. It is one of the reasons we have done so well.
“To sum things up our motto is: ‘we love what we do and we do what we love.'”
For more information visit www.bconnectedmallorca.com or call 971570963