The cover of Hicks' new book, India Hicks: A Slice of England
Hicks in a window at America Farm (Photo Miguel Flores-Vianna)
One’s surroundings play a part in shaping who one becomes. When those surroundings are English country estates designed by father David Hicks and peppered with heirlooms from grandmother Lady Edwina Mountbatten, one becomes India Hicks; the effortlessly elegant designer, entrepreneur, and author known for her island-chic style. In her newest book, India Hicks: A Slice of England (Rizzoli), Hicks gives an intimate glimpse into the homes she grew up in, as well as her father’s famous garden.
She also details the process of designing America Farm, her family’s newest home in the English countryside, in which treasured mementos — like the crown of flowers she wore as a bridesmaid in the wedding of Princess Diana and Prince Charles — are immortalized in chic Perspex boxes.
While in Dallas this week for a signing at Interabang Books, we talked with Hicks about her upbringing among British and design royalty — and even her thoughts on the upcoming royal wedding.
Carolina Herrera writes in the forward of your newest book about her interest in the “origins of taste.” It’s no secret that impeccable taste runs deep in your family. Did the process of writing this book help you come to any realizations about your earliest influences?
Growing up as the daughter of David Hicks, those influences were front and center. We had golden pheasants as pets, breakfasted in tented rooms of scarlet fabric, and traveled as a family with matching turquoise and sunset orange luggage labels.
Writing this book gave me a chance to reflect on those moments and realize I have inherited part of his passion for trying to make the world a lovelier place. There are flashes of color and hints of geometrics in my own designs. You can’t be related without it seeping in somehow.
You write that, at first, you thought the book would solely be about your new country home, America Farm. At what point did you realize that your family homes were crucial to the story?
I think the past is always the place to start for inspiration. It’s what shapes us. Some of my earliest memories are of running through the door at Broadlands, its pale blue octagonal domed hall, and Father Christmas. Britwell is where David Hicks really shook up the English drawing room and The Grove was his masterpiece of views and vistas.
Is there any family heirloom or piece in one of your homes that is most treasured?
I rather like my mother’s bathing caps. She was throwing them away, they were very out of fashion in her eyes and on top of which she was not going to be swimming any time soon, so, at age 89, she feels her swimming days might be over. Well, her waterskiing ones at least.
They are now boxed up in Perspex, looking like a valuable piece of art — a David Hicks trick — and sit convincingly near a set of Jansen chairs that belonged to my grandmother, Edwina Mountbatten.
How do you divide your time between your family’s homes? Do you associate different family traditions or holidays with different places?
For years, David and I were crisscrossing the Atlantic, trying to make sure that our boys didn’t go too long without seeing one or the other of us whilst at school in England. We like to catch the fleeting English summer as it is, and feel a bit of frost at Christmastime.
We’ve hosted an Easter egg hunt at Hibiscus Hill for 20 years now and there’s no place we’d rather welcome each New Year.
Did you find yourself incorporating “island style” into America Farm?
We like a neutral palette. No vibrating rooms for us, just a pop of color. Island living has taught us that windows across from each other and French doors make for lovely breezes.
But we covered the walls of the downstairs loo in palm tree paper — because island life is now in our English blood.
In your home, you’ve reinterpreted English tradition to suit your lifestyle and family. Do you find that, as a mother, you do the same? That is, to take the way you grew up and preserve, adapt, add, subtract?
Golly, the way I grew up as a child is very far from how my own children have grown up. They had a very tropical start to life; barefoot, wielding machetes from a young age, going to school by golf cart — where the only traffic you meet is the occasional chicken crossing the road — and, on a lucky day, spotting dolphins in the bay from the one roomed schoolhouse.
My childhood, although also free to roam the acres of countryside surrounding my parents’ home, was much more strict — starched nannies and polished shoes.
I love that this book feels so personal – it’s like the equivalent of going through black and white photos and special mementos at my grandmother’s house. Do you have advice for balancing beautiful design with meaningful objects in one’s home?
Show off things you find meaningful. Tablescaping is endless fun. Objects can be framed, and, if all else fails, scrapbooks are marvelous for preserving those mementos.
We definitely know where most of your earliest design inspiration came from! What is the most recent thing that has inspired you?
The women I work with — our India Hicks Ambassadors and collaborators like Figue Founder Stephanie Von Waltzdorf and beauty expert Catherine Walsh, with whom I developed our skincare line, Unexpected Beauty.
Your unique aesthetic garnered a strong following even before this age of Instagram and lifestyle influencers we’re living in now. How has social media impacted you personally?
I adore Instagram. It’s a way to connect with family, friends, the women who’ve partnered with me in my lifestyle business, other designers, dog fans, book lovers, and more. It’s brilliant. My brother met his wife on Instagram.
One of my favorite photos in the book is of two very special bridesmaid dresses hanging in a bedroom. There is nothing quite as a magical as a royal wedding. What are you most looking forward to about the upcoming nuptials in May?
Seeing how Harry and Meghan build a platform around a shared passion. They have such an opportunity to do something over their own, something that’s never been done before. And, it’s exciting.