home and body line, inspired by Bahamian Living
Mother, model, author, interior designer, goddaughter to Prince Charles, bridesmaid to Princess Diana - India Hicks is from an extraordinary family and has led a full and creative life. Her latest endeavour has been a body and home line for Crabtree & Evelyn inspired by her island life at her home in the Bahamas. STEPHANIE KING and JAN BALDWIN interview India there.
India Hicks lives with her partner David Flint Wood and sons Felix, Amory and Conrad (ages nine, seven and three) on a Bahamian island that inspired her new body and home line for Crabtree & Evelyn. Born in London, to interior designer David Hicks and Lady Pamela Hicks, India was named in honour of her grandfather, Lord Mountbatten – the country’s last Viceroy. After backpacking around the world and modelling for labels from Gap to Ralph Lauren, she moved to the Bahamas with her partner, David Flint Wood. They have lived there for eleven years and founded a boutique hotel, The Landing.
Home for India Hicks and her family is a 1950s five-bedroom Bahamian beach house. She and David Flint Wood bought the home in 1997, then spent a year adding verandas and balustrades to give the home an 1850s look. A breezy, light-filled space just steps away from the ocean, the house has a cheery, seasonal style combined with grand Caribbean flourishes. “When we bought our house, it was a typical Palm Beach, Florida, style,” Hicks says. “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.”
Another source of inspiration was the interior of her island home, as well as illustrations of red coral from books like Albertus Seba's Cabinet of Natural Curiosities, a book that she gave to her partner, David Flint Wood, along with an inscription that reads, "May we always be surrounded by natural curiosities, those other than our children."
Belle: What first prompted you to leave the high life in London for the slower pace of island living?
India: 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.
Belle: What triggered the line for Crabtree & Evelyn?
India: I had written two books: Island Life - an interiors book on the houses we developed – and Island Beauty focusing on beauty and well-being. When Crabtree & Evelyn asked me to be their brand spokesperson and to do my own line it seemed like a natural flow from there.
Belle: So the product reflects your island lifestyle?
India: The packaging is reminiscent of our house and guest houses - all wood, paper and straw and very neutral tones with a sudden flash of colour. And the product involves flowers and plants indigenous to the Caribbean.
Belle: Which products fit effortlessly into your island routine?
India: After the kids wake me at six I want to just get up and go. I’ll shower using the shower gel before taking the boys to school in the golf cart. I also have very dry skin so the rich body cream is perfect. Plus I run every day so the bath salts, which are full of Epsom salts, sooth my muscles in my evening bath.
Belle: Not being a big scent wearer, was it difficult creating a fragrance?
India: I knew I wanted a light and uplifting scent but I didn’t know the language fragrance houses use so I explained using colours saying things like: ‘I don’t like purple but cream and white appeal to me.’ I’ve ended up with exactly what I wanted: a clean, white scent that I can wear day and night. It’s based on the amazing looking Spider Lily that grows on the island.
Belle: Do you have a favourite product?
India: The body polish which looks like the pink sand from the island and gives your skin a healthy glow. I also love the scented candle for travelling because the fragrance reminds me of the island breeze that comes off the ocean onto the terrace.
Belle: Any travel beauty tips?
India: When flying I always moisturise; not just my face, my whole body. I’m never without lip-slave and I drink lots and lots of water.
Belle: You don’t wear make-up. Is that your flawless skin secret?
India: I have my mother to thank for good skin however I do believe plenty of sleep, water and cleansing help maintain my skin’s appearance.
Belle: How do you keep in such good shape?
India: I run for an hour every evening on the beach with my two dogs but I run slowly. I went to Gordonstoun School so I’ve always been very active.
Belle: The boys’ schooling must be very different?
India: I am sure schooling-wise they are a bit behind but so what? David and I think this is a fantastic place for them to begin life and grow up. They have incredible imaginations. They don’t need loads of toys to be amused. They go onto the beach and find wood, sticks, bottles and whatever to play with.
Belle: Do the boys like any of the products?
India: The shower gel makes a great bubble bath which they love and because all of the harsh detergents have been taken out it’s very good for kids.
Belle: How do you juggle career and family?
India: Finding the balance is very important. I won’t leave the island when it’s the kids’ half term. And me time is important too - there’s got to be the run on the beach and twenty minutes in the evening for a bath just for me on my own.
Belle: Island life seems idyllic but does anything frustrate you?
India: Hurricane season when the boat can’t come in; no one is here, nothing’s open and we do go a bit stir crazy eating boiled eggs in front of the telly.
Belle: So everything has to be shipped in?
India: Oh yes. I’ve checked-in for flights carrying a television as hand luggage. Our dark fir wood floorboards which reach seventeen feet in length were shipped in from Florida. The bed is from an Indian company called British Khaki and the vestibule table is from New Orleans. Everything you see in the house came from somewhere special; David and I pick things up on our travels like the chests in the boys’ bedrooms from Cuba.
Wood is a strong feature. We wanted to keep an island feel with natural materials. The tongue and groove wood is Cyprus because termites don’t like the taste of it.
Belle: What determined the interior colour?
India: Living in the tropics you are surrounded by such a kaleidoscope of colour that inside you want it to be calmer and I’m not about making loud statements. There are splashes of colour like the bright pink chairs that reflect both the island’s bougainvillea and my father who was a hero at interior design and known for using colour.
Belle: What other influences of your father’s are in the house?
India: He credited himself with inventing the table-scape. I don’t know if he did or not but they’re in my blood. I like that they tell a story like my obelisks - my father was passionate about them. He often used them in his garden and interior design.
Belle: Can anything act as decoration?
India: Yes. I like clusters of things like the straw hats above the doorway.
Belle: What was the trickiest aspect of decorating?
India: Making compromises because David and I both care about details. His influences are the nautical touches like the sail boat, and the books – he’s an avid reader. Mine are the white woodwork and the stripy sofa fabric from my local village in Oxfordshire.
Belle: What design sentiment do you and David share?
India: A sense of humour, that’s why in the Crabtree line rather than potpourri boxes we did a treasure chest - piracy is a big part of the Bahamas. The cricket balls are a little piece of England – our grumpy but wonderful old housekeeper who looked after me when I was little lives next to a cricket field and never gives the balls back. She sends them out to me.
Belle: Do English and Bahamian mix in the house?
India: The pictures in the bedroom David calls ‘India’s fat aunts’. I don’t know if they are relatives. My father gave them to me but kept the original gilt frames so we got a local carpenter who I think had too much to drink to make new frames. I like that you have this strong English heritage painting and then this wonky frame round it.
Belle: What was simple to create yet impacting as décor?
India: Everyone comments on the wall with the old printer’s tray that we filled with shells that we found on the beach and varnished and then around them we pinned up postcards. We call it the scrap wall.
Belle: Photography is clearly a passion
India: I have a photography degree. David and I both take pictures and I’m lucky to have been photographed quite a lot. My father always said ‘The most common thing you can do darling is to hang a photograph on a wall.’ I didn’t hang one, I hung hundreds on simple plywood rails. Photos instantly add fun to a room.
Belle: Any cherished items?
India: The salt air and harsh sunlight ruins precious items: that’s why our table tops have old cigar boxes and domino sets on them but I treasure a glass paperweight by my bed which contains one of the roses from Princess Diana’s bouquet.
Belle: Any lessons learnt?
India: Don’t paint when pregnant. I did. At first I wanted a deep Tuscan red, then a pale, pale pink. By the time I ended on grey the walls were about three inches thick with paint.