Island Characters: Alberto Cortes

Island Characters: Alberto Cortes

Alberto Cortes is one of Ibiza’s most vividly creative characters. Born in Barcelona and raised in Amsterdam, he’s an interior designer by trade, though he began his career working in fashion.

He lived in India for 11 years but these days he flits between Ibiza, Menorca, Marrakech and Indonesia, living up to his well crafted nomadic reputation. Widely considered the best dressed in every room, and always ready to share a sprawling anecdote or two, Alberto is much loved on the Ibiza scene. But it’s for his interior design prowess these he’s most revered. Specialising in what he calls ‘holiday architecture’ his skill for seamlessly blending craftsmanship with designer is legendary. 

Here, we caught up with the owner of Ksar Living and Harissa Villas to chart his path to Ibiza, the inspirations behind his designs, and what it’s like living off grid on one of the world’s busiest islands. 

I came to Ibiza after I met and fell in love with my wife, Yvonne. We got married after six months and everyone thought we were crazy but that was 21 years ago now. We came to Ibiza because she had a second home — a beautiful, old finca here in San Juan. I was living in India at the time and I didn’t want to return to Amsterdam so I said why don’t we live here? San Juan was fantastic back then. It was very hippie, we used to have parties in the forest. We’d hear music coming from somewhere and we’d say let’s find it and go! It was such a special time. 

Yvonne and I are both workaholics and we’ve created many things together. We both have a design background but I learnt from Yvonne — everything I do now I learnt from her. At that time, the villas for rent in Ibiza were quite big and luxurious with six or seven bedrooms, so we thought what about renovating smaller places, with one or two bedrooms? So we found a beautiful property and started working from there. Then we found an attic in Ibiza’s Old Town from a very famous guy on the island called Victor Esposito and we renovated that one. We were doing one project a year, and slowly, we created Harissa Villas. 

In the past, Ibiza has stuck to a sort of hippie chic look, and to be honest, I’m a little bit tired of that. When I started in Ibiza, I went to Morocco to buy lamps and carpets for my projects and I fell in love with the architecture there. So in that period, everything Moroccan, Indian and Indonesian was used to decorate our houses here. But now we’re moving to a different area. A lot of people are stuck, but we want to evolve. 



When I work with people, I look for a connection — if it’s there, then I’ll work with you. And then the result is always fantastic and we become friends.

 Work is very important but I don’t work to become rich or famous. I’m already quite rich and well-known already. So I love to be creative and to design a place where people feel happy. But if there’s no connection, I cannot do it. 

All of my clients give me carte blanche because I’m a good listener. They come to me because they like my style. My collection is quite special because all the pieces are selected by me. In fact, 40% is produced by me, working with artisans, and then I mix it with brands, one-offs and antiques. It’s quite eclectic — I call it ‘holiday architecture’. My customers already have beautiful homes in New York or Paris or London so when they come to Ibiza they want something different. In your second home, you live differently.

The story of a house depends very much on its location and architecture. So at the start of the process, we make a concept book. I give people three concepts to choose from, and from there, we edit. By the time we’ve finished, everything’s in there — materials, flooring, walls, doors, furniture and we all know what we’re working towards. For me, it’s important that things are practical. So if a house has six bedrooms, inside I want a table for 12 people. It has to be functional and beautiful. 

During lockdown, I moved to the store because I wanted to keep on working. I bought a washing machine and created an apartment here. In the beginning I was really happy because it was nice to be stay in one place for a while, I really enjoyed it. But I cannot wait to travel again! 

Usually, I live in Sa Talaia, which is the highest point on the island. I have 300,000 sqm of land, which means I have no neighbours, so every morning I get to play music very loud! I wake at 6 or 7am and I play old disco, I love it! What I found out is that privacy is luxury for me. The place itself is small and I have no furniture. Just a table, a chair, a very good bed, some books and art, and an old Japanese trunk that I put my stuff in. I live very simply, collecting water from rain and light from solar panels. In Ibiza, I’m completely self sufficient; very conscious. Then in Bali, I stay in a five-star resort! And in Marrakech, I live in my riad! It’s nice to have both.

I couldn’t live without sex and cigarettes! And of course, my fantastic staff because this is really all about teamwork. Ksar Living is one of the biggest stores in Ibiza so without them, I’d be nowhere. We are like a family — we have good energy and we’re having fun, and this is something the customer also sees. We sometimes get messages from clients saying every time they walk into their home, it gives them goosebumps, and for us, that’s really special.