Study No. 6 · India Hicks · Designer / Author
India’s six year old daughter, Domino, is just learning to read and has already acquired quite a vintage storybook collection, many of them originally belonging to India and her siblings, with all the scuffs and Crayon marks of a well-loved childhood heirloom. Domino’s smart spectacles were borrowed from her stuffed bear.
“As long as you have your books and paintings, you have a home.”—David Flint Wood
After planning a long dreamed-of book-reading vacation to Harbour Island, one of the tiniest islands in the Bahamas, a friend suggested we meet one of the isle’s most gracious hostesses . . . the inspiring designer, model, author, TV host, and stunning mother of five, India Hicks. Since she has written two beautiful books: Island Life and Island Beauty, and has a third in the works with Rizzoli (debuting Spring, 2015), we bonded over the importance of the written word, and she generously invited us over to check out the library at Hibiscus Hill; her plantation-style sanctuary surrounded by coconut trees, overlooking a pink sand beach. When not spending time with her children, traveling, curating her local boutique, or running on the sand, India designs an eponymous brand of home goods, fine jewelry, and accessories . . . each element inspired by her dreamy island existence. Home décor and publishing run in India’s blood, as she is the daughter of legendary interior designer, David Hicks, who wrote many books on the subject, and her mother, Lady Pamela Mountbatten, recently penned a memoir about her colorful lineage, along with keeping journals since childhood with single sentence reviews of every book she has read. India lives with her partner of over 20 years, David Flint Wood, also an interior designer, as well as a hotelier, and fellow book hoarder.
In the magical Bahamian afternoon, every room of their island villa is bathed in white sunlight, key-lighting the couple’s traditional, via the tropics, decorating style. Warm, happy and rebellious, the couple’s cheeky take on their aristocratic English upbringing is evident in skull pillows sitting underneath crystal chandeliers, beach baskets hiding under antique mahogany tables, and seashells stacked atop first editions.
Part of the proceeds from India’s books, Island Life and Island Beauty, have been donated to a small non-profit community school in The Bahamas. Her family’s Briland history began when her father “built an extraordinary house on a neighboring island the year I was born, Savannah. And that is how I came to know of Harbour Island, every year being made to cross over from one island to the other to visit the pretty historical town.” Above is her airy drawing room, with stacks of monographs on artists such as John Singer Sargent, along with palm fronds from the garden, and treasures found in the Caribbean sea.
The drawing room’s bookcases, designed by David Flint Wood, are ripe for the beach-read picking; lined with classic fiction (Fitzgerald, Hemingway), fashion (Horst, Avedon), vintage Penguin paperbacks, gardening books, and antique island-themed tomes from her father. Also on the shelves are first editions of books her father had written, including David Hicks on Design, and Living with Taste.
In India’s bright Bahamian-pink studio, she keeps her beloved collection of custom-bound scrapbooks, filled with family ephemera and photos of her children. On the wall behind her is a portrait of her mother, Lady Pamela Mountbatten, and below hangs her father's notable 'H' symbol, which inspired India’s Love Letter jewelry collection. If it isn’t already obvious, India was a model and muse to some of the World’s most gifted fashion designers, including Pucci, YSL, and Ralph Lauren. During her modeling years, she also became a studied photographer, having graduated from The New England School.
Six year old Domino educating her stuffed animals by reading two of her current favorites: an annual from the 1930s entitled Our Girls Tip Top , and The Daring Book for Girls, in which she particularly loves the page that teaches how to tie an Indian sari.
India and David have offices that kiss on the top floor of their roost, divided by French doors. Here, in David’s inspiring study, an abundance of art and photography supplies, paintings, travel souvenirs and color-coordinated novels.
A gorgeous afternoon sipping hibiscus tea on a Bahamian-pink cotton couch. India was named in homage to her Grandfather, Lord Mountbatten, who was the last Viceroy to that country, and India’s second cousin happens to be the Prince of Wales. Having been a bridesmaid for his 1980 wedding to Princess Diana, she’s a natural fit for her role as a royal TV commentator, most recently for the nuptials of Prince William and Kate Middleton.
Shelves of novels wrapped in manilla paper, in homage to her father’s formal library of custom red leather-bound tomes, in the shadows of a model ship that David Flint Wood created sails for in an island blackout, during a hurricane.
Name: India Hicks
Profession: Designer. Mother of 5.
Describe your relationship to books: Respectful and fairly remote, however my mother and David, the father of my children, absorb books. My whole life I have been surrounded by fascinating people who are fascinated by words. I grew up in a library of red. My father had all the books bound in red leather. Not able to afford this myself our own library here on the small island I now live is a library filled with books covered in brown paper. We persuade ourselves the effect is as dramatic.
You are currently reading: Ferdinand the Bull, to my daughter Domino. This book belonged to my mother before me.
Favorite authors: I am always inspired, and somewhat surprised when I read a book written by someone I know, especially when it reveals the dark and personal underbelly of family life. Tamara Mellon, Ivana Lowell, Liza Campbell.
In a bookstore or library, you head straight for: The Assouline or Rizzoli section, the books with the pretty pictures, of course.
If your home were ablaze, which 5 books would you save: My scrapbooks. A series of oversized leather bound books filled with my family's memories: Invitations, notes, love letters, photographs. Unfortunately there are about 25 of them so I'd need some help carrying them out.
Your library is organized by: DAVID!
Your favorite place to read: In the bath.
Last great book you read: Don’t Let’s Go to the Dogs Tonight. David has just pointed out this was written about 10 years ago. Ok its takes me a little bit of time to catch up.
Last book to make you laugh out loud: My mother's memoir, Daughter of Empire [My Life as a Mountbatten].
Books you loved as a child: Tintin.
Most beautiful book in your library: A series of Japanese fairy tales, published in 1910 on crepe paper
Favorite bookshops: Hatchards, in Piccadilly, London. Reminds me of my childhood. My mother lived opposite and was on first name basis with every member of staff. They would ring her as soon as something arrived that they felt would be of interest. My mother has kept a journal since she was eight years old, recording every book she has read since then, with a small precise comment, she is now 84years old. My children dread the moment their father enters the small discreet bookstore Sandoe on Blacklands Terrace also in London. They know its going to be a long wait.
Books on your wish list: Before They Pass Away, Jimmy Nelson
Favorite private/public libraries: I once was invited to tea with a French school friend at the Château de Groussay, built in 1815, whose grandfather was Charles de Beistegui, who created a monumental mahogany library possibly one of the most beautiful privately owned libraries in the world.
Fictional character you most admire: Jordan Baker [of The Great Gatsby]
Guilty pleasure read: Glossy magazines, they are complete luxurious fluff.
What book would change the world, if everyone were required to read it: Catcher in the Rye. It would remind parents how their teenage sons feel about adults.
Favorite line, passage or poem: Ambition is a word used about women pejoratively, but not about men.
* Bahamian hugs and kisses to our friend, John Danzer, for arranging this lovely meeting.
India's six year old daughter, Domino, reading from Dick Bruna's 1969 children's classic, Snuffy.