Collecting, refreshing, repurposing: these are the watchwords by which British-born designer and author India Hicks chooses to decorate her home in the Bahamas, illustrating the idea that a house “is simply a series of rooms. What makes it a home are the memories, the objects, and, above all, my family.”
Though technically related to the British royal family on her mother’s side, Hicks’ book Island Style (Rizzoli) reveals that she is the inheritor of father David Hicks’ passion for design, as well as his philosophy that “good taste and design are by no means dependent upon money.”
Featuring stunning pictures of Harbour Island, Bahamas, a foreword by HRH The Prince of Wales and an intimate look at her life in her adopted home, Hicks proves that it is possible to blend different cultures, tastes and lives in a beautiful natural setting.
What stands out most is the way she embraces that a home must encompass the lives of its inhabitants, achieved through both a willingness to change and reinterpret things and through collecting and displaying items and keepsakes that can evoke memories later on. “Our entryway is like the opening line of our autobiography, filled as it is with Georgian silver bowls that belonged to my great-grandfather, blue-and-white china, gifts from David’s relatives, and one of the black hibiscus candles I developed, which has a scent with the power to evoke Harbour Island,” writes Hicks.
Archway between the living room and dining room.
A 45-year-old sofa updated with new red slipcovers.
That autobiography is displayed throughout her home, and through the book the reader learns less about the rooms as static, designed-once-and-forever-preserved settings, and more about the stories about what led to certain rooms looking a certain way. From the foyer to children’s rooms added over time, to the creation of office spaces, a guesthouse and a kitchen fit to serve hundreds, Hicks’ home is an organic, dynamic creature, as genuine and full of life as she is. What makes the book even more special is her presentation of how much her environment has shaped her home and her design process, and how she and her family are simultaneous British and Bahamian, and hold a genuine love for the culture and values of the island nation.
One of the children's bedrooms, decorated to remind the children of where their parents are from.
The main terrace of Hibiscus Hill.
Though not many can be fortunate enough to see Hibiscus Hill in person and chat with the British-Bahamian over a cup of tea, Island Style is the next best thing. Editor at Large was able to pick Hicks’ brain for how to bring her particular style out of Harbour Island and into our readers’ projects.
The dining table for a New Year's Eve party, arranged along the long, curved driveway as an alternative to an ordinary straight table.
EAL: You clearly see the story of your family’s life in your home. How do you balance telling the story of the past while keeping space, as it were, for what might come in the future?”
So much of my life has been unplanned, one thing has led to the next. The underlying thing is that it feels natural. It’s a true life, and a very real life. It is true to who we are as a family.
EAL: Can you describe the process of under-decorating?
We do it ourselves, so there is no decorator with a preconceived idea of a certain style or how it should be. We are collectors, and find it very difficult to edit. Our home is layered with the things we accumulate.
EAL: Do you have any advice for balancing tastes and influences, particularly from different heritages?
IH: It’s about compromise. David and I both have an instinct to care about the way things look, which leads to some heavy discussions. It is also about balancing ages, we have 18 year olds down to a 7 year old and many animals, so it is about balancing the needs of those in the house and letting these things coexist.
EAL: Your ‘tablescaping’ is clearly deliberate, but your home is also so approachable, inviting, and so clearly usable. For you, is there a right or wrong way to place those finishing touches?
IH: Today there is a tendency to become caught up in creating a look—we are constantly changing things, and we can change them. We can move things around; we can upholster that chair. Don’t be afraid to have fun with it.
EAL: How do you start that process of collecting, especially if it is not in a designer’s—or a client’s—nature?
IH: A fault today is that it becomes very possible to lose the personality of the owners, whether that happens because a designer’s personality takes over, or someone buys furniture because it is a set—the room then takes on the personality of the furniture instead of that of the owners. In your own home, have your personality. You can start by bringing family heritage forwards, by looking at old photographs, or utilizing things you’ve inherited from grandparents. It can even work for those with more minimalist tastes with an inherited rug or object. Work from that outwards. It is all about the smaller, more personal touches.
EAL: Any tips about how to look at things to make them new again?
IH: You can start by changing the shade of the walls, it can help to see the room in a new light. You can reupholster a chair or change the bedding. A very simple thing can just add a new pop of color or refresh the space.
EAL: You present sustainable design as something quite different than the tech-conscious approach most people think of today, and show that moving forward sustainably is very much about being conscious about the heritage of a place. What is one thing that you want people to take away from this book?
IH: It was said best in the foreword by my godfather, the Prince of Wales, presenting the idea of “harmony between the natural environment and the people who live in it,” that “this book will remind people that the outstanding beauty of these 700 or so islands and cays goes beyond their pink sands, clear waters and tropical flora and fauna.” We need to value the respect of the people for the landscape and the ocean.
Photos courtesy of India Hicks, Rizzoli.