Home & Design

The Tropical Paradise of India (Hicks)

LOTSA WOMEN. Lotsa brands. And lotsa women who think they should be brands.

Think Martha Stewart. Think supermodel/entrepreneur Kathy Ireland. Think Aerin Lauder. And–must I say it?–think Kim Kardashian.

And now you may want to consider India Hicks. Who might she be? In a hot New York minute she can tell you who: Daughter of English decorator David Hicks and Lady Pamela Hicks (who was, as of May 2013, 687th in line for the British throne). Granddaughter of the First Earl  Mountbatten of Burma, the last British viceroy of Ind-juh, hence her first name. Eleven-year-old bridesmaid to Princess Diana (not too shabby, but: her mum was bridesmaid and lady-in-waiting to Princess, and then Queen, Elizabeth II). Former model.

Oh, and mother of five. And now author of “India Hicks: Island Style,” which celebrates–Hicks5webwait for it–her lifestyle at home on Harbour Island in the Bahamas. (It’s her third book based on her island home, but who’s counting.)

And here Hicks parts ways with other Lifestyle Ladies. Yes, she spent a few years selling her bedlinens on the Home Shopping Network and maintains a clothing-and-decor shop, the Sugar Mill, on her home island. But now she wants us, the humble hordes of the female variety, to partner with her in an expanded lifestyle venture. We are to be India Hicks Style Ambassadors. In our own homes.

Tupperware, did you see this coming? What about you, Mary Kay?

Hicks has created an assortment of lifestyle items–cosmetic bags, cute and colorful coin purses, fragrances and body washes, totes, scarves, tassels, a rather dreary-looking “Duchess of Windsor” computer bag and more–and thinks you and I can make money hawking them.

Possessed of a dry wit and the ability to talk about herself in an engagingly self-deprecating fashion (one does wonder whether all this queen-dropping sells as well to Brits as it does to us ga-ga Americans), Hicks popped up in Georgetown a few weeks ago, once at the Boffi design showroom to tout her book and again at the Capella hotel to explain her sales scheme.

To be honest, the lifestyle thingies–the tassels, cosmetic bags, etc.–are useful but not heart-stopping, although they are gorgeously photographed in her brochure. (And I confess to being charmed by the big beetle motif.) On the other hand, what might interfere with your coronary function is the enviable life and style she and life partner David Flint Wood have fashioned in their tropical home.

Certain caveats here: It’s nigh on impossible to imagine our Washington-area homes spilling over with verandas and porches amid year-round greenery when our spaces are a bit more confined–and those spaces are appealing during only a few, buggy months of the year. But the island dream is certainly well depicted in this sumptuous tome ($45, Rizzoli USA), printed on what feels almost like good, creamy card stock.

Rizzoli touts the book as a “guide to achieving [Hicks’s] famously undone, gloriously bohemian decorating style,” but it’s really more a style Wish Book, akin to HGTV’s  “House Hunters International,” which whisks us away to foreign cities and gives us a look at how much (or how little) house an American pocketbook can buy or rent.

In this case, the details, the actual items with which Hicks has furnished her home and her life are not prohibitively expensive–the odd painted console table here, folding bamboo chairs for outdoors, the endlessly recovered sofa. But the setting, and the Hicks style, a combination of sense of proportion and the guts to put unlike objects together, defy price and call for . . . Designer Genes? Creamy white lampshades swagged with ivory necklaces. A table topped with various iterations of skulls. Does one have to be the daughter of a famous decorator to pull this kind of thing off? I’ve written recently about my (and your) tendency to accessorize our furnishings, but . . .

The chapter of the book that is most guide-like is the one on tablescapes, a term Hicks’s father said he invented. To quote daughter Hicks: “So even if you don’t happen to own a lump of quartz from the Sahara or a collection of porphyry or a mass of rock crystal objects, don’t panic. You will find a starting point with something.”

A photo shows an appealing arrangement of items, with the caption: “In true David Hicks tablescaping style, here is a collection of utterly random objects held together by color [shades of brown] only.”

Fine, though most of us don’t have a crocodile box labeled in silver “To India from her GODFATHER CHARLES” (you know, England’s Prince of Wales) or a white rose from the wedding bouquet of the Princess of Wales set in glass and presented to Diana’s  bridesmaids. (And I will continue to covet the shagreen-covered objets Hicks inherited from her grandmother.)

No matter. A Wish Book can have the unexpected result of making wishes come true. I will take a good long look at all those objets I have crammed into cupboards and perhaps clear a surface where they too can become a tablescape. Stranger things have happened.

And a shout-out to photographer Miguel Flores-Vianna, whose interior and detail shots make this book a standout.And who could probably make your house and mine look good too.

–Nancy McKeon

2 thoughts on “The Tropical Paradise of India (Hicks)

  1. jina says:

    Thanks for finally writing about “The Tropical Paradise of India” (Hicks)! Liked it!

  2. Nancy Gold says:

    This is one of the books you just buy to dream with. But what dreams!

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