India Hicks: from Britain to Bahamas
The mom-of-five's effortlessly elegant island life
Former model India Hicks was born to an interior design icon father and raised as part of the British royal family. But after settling in the Bahamas, Hicks is more likely to be seen running in the sand than walking down the red carpet. The heiress-turned-decorator heads up an island hotel, a line of beauty products, and a family that’s as jam-packed as her career. The mother of five talked with Elizabeth Street about decorating for families, her father’s legacy, and the difference between growing up on the island of Great Britain and raising kids on the islands of the Bahamas. —Artie Niederhoffer
From where do you draw your design inspiration?
Everywhere, but most especially here on Harbour Island in the Bahamas, my home for 17 years. From coral formations and pink sand to the extraordinary fish in the ocean, everything here seems to inspire me. Whoever created life must have had a highly talented designer on hand to create nature.
With five children, a hotel, and a beauty line among your many projects, the work-life balance must be on your mind a lot. Can you speak about the challenges and pleasures of juggling a large family with a busy career?
I would imagine that most working moms often feel much the same way I do: guilty. While away on a business trip I feel guilty about being absent, but when I’m home I feel guilty about not being in the office. I’ve learned that what is important is learning to live with these facts and managing them. There is an impossible amount of juggling between two lives—work and home—but my grandfather was Chief of Combined Operations during the war, and I have inherited his ferocious organizational skills. I am vigilant about carving out an hour each day for myself to exercise. An important hour for me, it keeps me focused and strong, physically and mentally. I have, however, sacrificed most of my social life. Unless it’s family or something truly worthwhile, I would prefer to spend the time tucking my kids into bed.
Your father, David Hicks, was an interior design icon in his lifetime. How did his legacy inform you in your work and life?
As one of the most important and influential tastemakers of the late twentieth century, my father turned decorating on its head. His work always made bold statements. There was no prettiness and no chintz. It was pure theater, and the world took notice. Growing up surrounded by his electrifying color combinations, eclecticism, and geometric designs certainly left me spinning. In my first apartment in New York, the sitting room was painted fire engine red and the bathroom banana yellow. It never occurred to me that you could live in a world of beige and grey. I have now developed a softer style, something with a lot less drama, which feels more my own.
In what ways does your family's lifestyle today differ from your own upbringing as part of the royal family in England?
My children's early upbringing could not be more different than my own. I was chauffeur-driven to school in a custom colored, chocolate brown, Rolls Royce. My children go on a golf buggy with sandy dogs and me—panicking that the homework never got done. The only palace my daughter has been near so far is Barbie's.
What do you love about living in the Bahamas? What makes it a great place to raise kids?
My children are free to roam where they please. As a result, their imaginations are heightened, and they don't distinguish between black or white skin colors. Island Life opened my eyes to a new kind of natural beauty inspired by a nation of people at ease with themselves. And, of course, there are no parking tickets.
What are your most cherished possessions in your home and closet?
My scrapbooks come first. Years and years of photos, invitations, children's drawings, love letters, and memories are stored there. My father always said if our home was to burn we must grab the family bible. I always say, “bugger that. Grab my scrapbooks.” Other than those, I have few cherished possessions in my closet. If the house were burning, I'd walk calmly away—as long as my considerable list of animals and children were safe.
Can you share tips for designing kid-friendly spaces in the home?
Recently I found our greatest challenge was how to have a space that teenagers and a four-year-old could share. The compromise was to renovate our old island “school room” into something like a miniature South Beach Hotel lobby. David, my traditionalist other half was appalled, but the teenagers felt acknowledged, while the four-year-old was allowed to decorate one of the newly gloss white walls with her paintings and smudgy finger prints.