In recent years, it has become quite the trend to call oneself a nomad – be it digital nomad, domestic, spiritual, corporate or occupational. Falling into the latter category – driven by his nomadic nature, definitely not by any trend or label – is Alberto Cortes, the one-of-a-kind creative mind behind Ibiza interior design brand KsaR Living. And while most nomads have, quite literally, been stopped in their tracks in 2020 thanks to the ever-evolving global health crisis, Alberto’s strong global connections mean his business continues to design, produce, source, ship and style Ibiza homes, hotels and villas, even in the face of travel restrictions.
Born into a semi-nomadic life, it’s no surprise Alberto he found his calling through exploring the cultures across many continents. Born in Barcelona, he was brought up in Amsterdam and spent eleven years in India before his inner compass sent him to discover the wonders of Morocco, Indonesia, and of course, the Balearic Islands – along with many other far-flung corners of the world. Like many other bohemian travellers on the hippie trail before him, he fell in love with the warmth of the people, the quality of life (not to mention the food!), the beauty of nature and the amazing craftsmanship of local artisans in these places. Unlike other visitors however, Alberto – whose eye for style kickstarted his career in fashion – saw an opportunity. A way to connect each of his beloved adopted homes, fusing their unique style with his own interior design work. KsaR Living was born.
For over two decades, Alberto has pioneered a style he calls ‘holiday architecture’ – a moniker that is somewhat ironic for the designer, who is a self-confessed workaholic. It just so happens that through his work, he is immersed in the cultures of some of the greatest holiday destinations in the world, with his eyes perpetually open in the pursuit of beauty. Ibiza is home base, so to speak, and the home of the flagship KsaR Living showroom (a second is located in Menorca and a third in Barcelona). The subtle storefront – an old finca style façade – gives no clue as to the treasure trove of discoveries that lies within. Step inside and a cavernous multi-storey warehouse is revealed behind the showroom, filled with antique finds from Alberto’s exotic travels, his own custom-made-in-Indonesia furnishings, plus a very carefully curated selection of contemporary designs from Italy, Holland, Denmark and more.
If Ibiza is home base for KsaR Living, then Indonesia is the life source. Alberto spends almost half the year in Bali, and also exploring Java and as many of the surrounding islands as he can access in search of antique handicrafts – Indonesia is very much his second home. But to be very clear, Alberto is no expat simply shipping mass-produced, cookie cutter furniture to Europe to make a quick buck – quite the opposite, in fact. Alberto is well and truly immersed in Indonesian culture, having lived and worked in Bali for 20 years, covering every inch of soil that he could in search of the very finest artisans, the rarest reclaimed wood and the most striking artefacts on the continent. He connects with his craftsmen on a human level: from the heart and from the soul.
In Ibiza, there is no designer with more tried and trusted, deeply personal Indonesian connections than Alberto. His little black book is filled with artisan families who have been carving wood or stone for generations; with the workshops that can still source antique wood even when most other places will tell you it’s all but extinct – he even has his very own atelier for his own designs. Whatever you’re seeking from Indonesia, KsaR Living can be counted on to either source, or design and produce it at the most accessible prices in Ibiza. In addition to villas, this includes large scale projects, such as hotels and restaurants, who may require a high volume of beds, chairs, oversized daybeds or tiling for an entire complex worth of bathrooms – in fact, one of Alberto’s own hotel projects, The Purist Villas, is located in Ubud, Bali and is a testament to his skills and style when it comes to hospitality.
Elsewhere, the spice of life at KsaR Living comes courtesy of Morocco. Alberto has been living on and off in Marrakesh since 2004 (between Bali and Ibiza), where another of his incredible hotel projects, Ryad Dyor, is located. And just as he has done in Indonesia, Alberto has spent the better part of 15 years wandering the magical alleyways of Medina and the dusty streets beyond, always in search of the best ceramics, mosaic tables and tiles, handicrafts, textiles and more. He maintains extremely close relationships with the best terracotta craftsmen, and one of the collections that excites Alberto the most in 2020 is his new line of ceramic tableware – beautiful handmade plates, cups and breakfast bowls that are like the perfect finishing touch on one of KsaR Living’s signature reclaimed wooden tables.
That’s the beauty of holiday architecture. There are no rules when it comes to mixing and matching pieces of furniture, décor, art and tableware from across the globe – although it certainly helps to have an expert like Alberto Cortes on your speed dial. While much of the world has come to a standstill due to the global pandemic, for Alberto and the KsaR Living artisans across the world, life – and their work – goes on. Wooden four-poster beds are still being meticulously hand-carved in Bali; master craftsmen are searching the rubble of ancient Javanese houses to find unique pieces of wood, or ornate doors to transform into something special; the wheels of a ceramicist in Marrakesh keep on turning, organically creating shapes that will one day bring joy to a dinner table across the sea. Most importantly, containers are still being shipped to the white isle, where they are unpacked at KsaR Living, before finding their rightful homes in Ibiza.
Right now, for the first time in a very long time, Alberto finds himself with his feet planted firmly on Spanish soil. The short flight between Ibiza (where he is also co-owner of another style setting destination, The Giri Residence) and Menorca is as close to his former jet set life as he can get for now, but at the same time, thanks to his nomadic background and unrivalled list of contacts, there are no delays in production, nothing is lost in translation and no project too big or small. Regardless of his location, Alberto is always working – it is in his nature. Even when he’s relaxing, you can see his eyes sharply assessing every space, absorbing the aesthetics and his brain ticking over with new ideas and inspiration. As more and more people seek comfort in their immediate surroundings, it seems holiday architecture is emerging as a permanent way of life, and there’s no one better to turn to than the man who lives and breathes it at KsaR Living.