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India Hicks - A Life Less Ordinary

With her sun-kissed beauty, casual elegance and spirit of adventure, India Hicks, the former model turned designer and property developer, is the embodiment of island living.

Despite her aristocratic British heritage - she is the granddaughter of Earl Mountbatten and goddaughter to Prince Charles - for the past 18 years India Hicks has chosen to call a remote island in The Bahamas home. Tiny Harbour Island (population 2,000) is the idyllic backdrop against which she, her partner and five children, live out the Caribbean dream: walking barefoot on pink sand beaches, doing the school run in a golf buggy and finding inspiration in the shape of a palm tree.

The daughter of celebrated British interior designer David Hicks, it was perhaps inevitable that after a stint in front of the camera modelling for Ralph Lauren and J. Crew, Hicks' innate creativity would come to the fore.

Hicks moved to Harbour Island in the 1990s because she fell in love – with a man, and also with a lifestyle. Over the years and through her many business ventures her love of that lifestyle has been her inspiration and her muse.

Her various business endeavours all give expression to her aesthetic sense and artistic flair: alongside her partner David Flint Wood she has redecorated a hotel and built several houses in the Caribbean. She owns a boutique, The Sugar Mill, on the Bahamian island she calls home, designs collections of bed linens for HSN and, in the spring of 2015 Hicks will publish her third book, Island Style, a photo-rich coffee table tome illustrating the family's lifestyle, their design approach and snippets of Bahamian history. She is also currently introducing an interview series called 'Live An Extraordinary Life' on her newly launched website in which she talks to trailblazers who have inspired her and who have made life work for them on their own terms.

Hicks is the first to acknowledge that her style is influenced by her father, "Certainly there is very strong DNA there. The David Hicks way of decorating, designing and living is very hard to escape. Even though my own David and I have developed a unique style, there is definitely that David Hicks element to it. We use shocks of colour in unusual places, create tablescapes, and are comfortable mixing old and new."

Her own home, Hibiscus Hill, is typical of the prevailing architectural style of the island, and The Guest House and Cricket Pavilion, although recently constructed, are equally inspired by the past.

"We're very conscious of the history of the islands and like our designs to be always befitting of that," explains Hicks. "The style we've developed is West Indian, but with a lot of the eccentricities of our British heritage mixed in."

Although built in the 1950s, her own home now has the feel of a much older building, as a result of having removed much of the cement, glass and tile and replaced it with wood, paper and straw. Against the soft, soothing tones of the walls and floors they have artfully arranged a lifetime's worth of mementos and eclectic keepsakes picked up on their travels.

Her natural surroundings have proved equally influential for her jewellery designs. "A lot of my designs are inspired by the outdoors and by the island – the shape of a palm frond, the texture of a rattan bench, or the colours of the turquoise ocean – it's all very organic," she says.

Not that life on a tiny Caribbean island is unadulterated bliss and romance, of course. Mixed in with the barefoot glamour of their lifestyle there is a certain amount of rough and tumble: the harsh sun, sea air and occasional hurricanes take their toll on homes and gardens, while the remote location can be isolating at times – but for Hicks this is all part of the experience of island living.

"My life is blessed, but considering I grew up the daughter of a famous decorator and I have a Virgo personality which makes me strive for perfection, I have very much come to embrace that island life is all about having the edges knocked off, and showing the patina of time."

Over the course of almost two decades, Hicks has succeeded, through her multi-faceted career, in building a bridge of sorts between real life and fantasy. Through the bright, breezy beach houses she has designed, the products she has created, and the glossy books that chronicle an enviable lifestyle, Hicks has introduced audiences near and far to the romance and adventure of island life.

Born into aristocracy but captivated by the bohemian lifestyle, embracing sophistication and simplicity in equal measure, India Hicks has developed more than a unique style: she has created an entire brand inspired by her take on island living.

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