“It’s paradise… if you can stand it.” was Gertrude Stein’s response to Robert Graves’ enquiry about escaping domestic entanglements in England and fleeing to Mallorca, obviously knowing that a certain amount of melancholy and doom is tonic to a poet’s pen. He did come, and stayed for the rest of his life, and I made the pilgrimage to his humble little house in Deia, on the Northwestern coastline of Mallorca.
Deia lies in front of the dramatic Tramuntana mountain range and sits on the un-spoilt coastline. That this protected area exists is thanks to the passion of the young Archduke Luis Salvador of Austria, a man in search of tranquility, having been heartbroken and traumatised when his gorgeous wife to be set herself on fire and burned to death while sneaking a cigarette during an exceptionally boring parade. In exile, he arrived in Mallorca in 1872, and promptly fell madly in love with its landscape. Intelligent and romantic, travelling by foot or horseback, he documented and then bought vast areas of land, protecting it forever from the hands of greedy developers.
The next influx of artists was in the 60’s; they came to paint, and procreate, and I met several Deia residents who are the result of these unions.
On my first day there, I met one of those key figures from the 60’s – Axel Ball. With the backdrop already in place and an artist’s eye, he transformed simple dwellings into beautiful homes, turning the area into a sophisticated destination. The international, moneyed crowd started pouring in. Most of the houses in our collection Axel has either lived in or worked on, and I listened carefully to his advice.
His current home in the Soller Valley is simple yet sophisticated, and as I wandered through the olive trees towards the tennis court, goats with bells round their neck scattered before me, their melodic tinkling echoing gently back off the nearby hillside, and I was shot back to how little this island has changed on a deeper level.
Axel opened La Residencia, the Mallorcan equivalent of the Hotel du Cap, in 1984. Each bedroom is stylishly decorated with antiques and contemporary art, making it unlike any other hotel in Mallorca. He sold it to Richard Branson in 1987 and then married his wife, following true Deia form.
Then came an influx of a wild variety of music makers, Andrew Lloyd Weber, the Corrs, Paul Simonon, all snatched up houses. Michael Douglas bought the biggest property in neighbouring Valldemosa, S’Estaca, currently on the market for 40 million €uros, and prices went to new heights.