Model, author and designer India Hicks shares her insights on creating Caribbean beauty in the home.
When India Hicks left the rat race for the Caribbean, people scratched their heads. But the beauty she discovered there created a new legacy for the designer -- the daughter of British designer David Hicks and goddaughter of the Prince of Wales. She's written two books, including Island Life: Inspirational Interiors (Stewart, Tabori & Chang, 2004, $60), and recently launched a collection with Crabtree & Evelyn. Here, she shares her thoughts on island living.
STYLE AT HOME: What first prompted you to leave the high life in London for the slower pace of island living?
India Hicks: I fell in love. I met my husband, and we had to decide what we were going to do as well as where we were going to live. I knew the Bahamas very well because my father had built a beautiful house there, and I'd spent many months playing in the island's pink sand when I was a child. All the other houses in the Bahamas were colonial-looking cottages, but my father had designed one that was more like an Egyptian mausoleum. I find the house very romantic now, but as a child, I really just wanted to be like everyone else.
S@H: Your own home is nothing like that?
IH: No! When we bought our house, it was a typical Palm Beach, Florida, style. We tried to turn it into an 18th-century plantation-style villa. We got rid of all the cement and glass, and replaced them with wood, paper and straw materials inspired by the natural surroundings. We laid wide fir planks on the floor and went so far as to bind the books on our bookshelves in paper. (My father used to have his bound in red leather.)
S@H: Is being sympathetic to the natural world a big part of what you do?
IH: Absolutely. I think it's important in this day and age to make small changes to protect the environment. The line I developed for Crabtree & Evelyn contains nothing artificial or harmful to the planet. It's much harder to make something that way, but I felt it was worth it. When you live as close to nature as I do, it's impossible not to feel protective of it. Every day, I take my sons to the sea and we look at the trees, plants and shells. We smell the flowers and the sea air. I want them to have that forever.
S@H: How do you think reverence for both nature and the tropics translates into your interiors?
IH: It can be as simple as bringing indigenous flowers and greenery into the house. When Hamish Bowles came to photograph our house for American Vogue, he found that the tropical flowers kept wilting after they were cut, so he went out into the garden and cut down huge palm fronds, which are now on our mantel in the sitting room. It's also hard not to be inspired by the Caribbean. Since there's such a kaleidoscope of colour surrounding us, I prefer to use a neutral palette inside, and then I accent it with some jolts of colour -- a fuchsia chair, a hibiscus-colour stairway. My husband and I helped refurbish and redecorate a local landmark damaged by a hurricane. It was important to us to respect the building's island heritage. We achieved that by borrowing colours from the natural surroundings -- we painted the chairs on the veranda turquoise, for example -- and by using simple touches, like straw baskets piled high with shells, and hurricane lamps filled with sand to hold candles in place.
S@H: Most of us aren't fortunate enough to live full time in the Caribbean. What advice can you give us?
IH: It doesn't matter where you live, as long as you're enraptured by your surroundings. The important point is to live in harmony with your environment -- there's beauty everywhere.
Photography by David Loftus from Island Life: Inspirational Interiors by India Hicks and David Flint Wood (Stewart, Tabori & Chang, 2004)