India Hicks and the Bahamas go way back – all the way back to Windermere Island in the 1970s, in fact, where she grew up holidaying as a “small hot flustering child” with her parents. With five children of her own, it’s still a family affair in 2017 – though now she’s the one in charge and the location has shifted a few miles north to Harbour Island.
An ex-model with an excellent eye, and the author of several bestselling books on Caribbean interiors, it’s from here that Hicks runs her eponymous brand. “For a long time I was hesitant,” she admits, owing to the reputation of her father. He was the celebrated designer and decorator David Nightingale Hicks, whose international success and strong sense of style made him a tough act to follow.
Living the life: the India Hicks brand is a true reflection of how she and her family spend their time on Harbour Island indiahicks.com
But like much else in her life, one thing led to another and, by 2015, she found herself launching India Hicks Inc and setting up shop– quite literally – on Bay Street at the end of Harbour Island’s main dock. Between her father, the father of her children David Flint Wood (himself a decorator) and the nature that surrounds her, Hicks can draw from plenty of sources for inspiration and describes her own style as “settling somewhere in the middle” of it all. “I know I want to live comfortably with a home that’s not overly decorated,” she says –an approach that extends to her feelings about mod-cons. She finds air-conditioning ludicrous, especially given that “for hundreds and hundreds of years people have lived without it” when a well-positioned blind or a louvred door will do. Adapting to her environment and being sympathetic to her surroundings seem to be the keys to her success.
It’s not hard to see why Hicks chooses to run her business from the Bahamas. Describing it as “fairly unchanged from centuries ago”, this morning she dropped her daughter off to school in a golf cart – the transport of choice around these parts – with the only other traffic on the road a flock of chickens. From the pink sand carpeting the beaches to the purple bougainvillea tumbling down the walls, everyday life is a riot of colour that elevates the senses and stimulates the imagination in equal measure.
Harbour Island seems to have a knack for those who like to follow their own path in life. Giorgia Ravilli, a friend of Hicks, came to the island as a marine biologist from Italy and now works at Bahama House, the first island escape in the Eleven Experience portfolio. A relative newcomer at the super-premium end of the hospitality scene, Eleven operates on the premise that true luxury is about how something makes you feel rather than something you can flaunt. The company is named after the famous moment in cult film This Is Spinal Tap, when the hero explains that a volume level of 10 just won’t cut it – and it’s true that Ravilli can be relied on to turn things up to 11. “I am absolutely an island girl,” she tells VICTOR on a spirited barefoot golf-cart tour of the environs. Taking in the homes of the rich and famous (Revlon supremo Ron Perelman has a house here), and as much flora and fauna as you can shake a conch at, Ravilli knows everyone and everything about the place she has chosen to call home.
“Harbour Island’s laidback charm is what has made it such a magnet for the UHNW crowd”
Working alongside Ravilli is Richard Bullard, who was born here. As Eleven’s experience managers, the pair are responsible for creating the moments you’ll never forget – this is a company with an (unofficial) “department of good times” after all. Whether that includes a gourmet barbecue on a deserted beach; jumping 20 feet into the Boiling Hole lagoon; or an evening spent dancing with a group of trainee rabbis after one Goombay Smash too many (don’t ask), their brief is to make things happen.
Having grown up on the island, Bullard is an excellent source of knowledge on its history and comes armed with all the tales of pirates, shipwrecks and smuggling that you might expect from a born storyteller. He can also tell you which plants to pick fruit from, and which to avoid if you don’t want to come out in an unsightly rash. According to his uncle, the golden rule is: “Watch the birds. If the birds can eat it, we can eat it.”
This example of down-to-earth common sense is typical of Caribbean culture, which tends to celebrate the good things in life without worrying too much about the bad things. Harbour Island’s laidback charm is what has made it such a magnet for the UHNW crowd, many of whom come here not only for the weather and the unbridled beauty but also to be treated like a local for a change – as a result, competition for a berth at the marina on July 4th weekend can be fierce. It’s a place where a film star (who shall remain nameless) can wander down the main street in nothing but a bikini and no one bats an eyelid, according to Ravilli. Hicks, who has lived here for 22 years “giving birth to too many children”, credits it with helping her to forge her own way. “Everything has been one step to the next, no strategy, no great plan,” she says. “Living on an island gave me the confidence to do things differently.” Being entirely surrounded by water is a great tonic for the stresses and strains of modern life. Perhaps the best thing about island living is the physical barrier that separates you from the rest of the world, allowing you to focus on the here and now. Not all of us will be able to do it for a lifetime but even the four days VICTOR spent barefoot and beach-bound was enough to reset the soul and figure out what’s really important. En route to North Eleuthera Airport, we learn that Eleuthera is a Greek word meaning freedom. And that’s what the Bahamas are all about: the freedom to live your life the way you want to.
One of the most iconic addresses on the island, Bahama House dates from 1800 and has recently undergone an extensive restoration that epitomises luxury Caribbean living. A series of separate buildings arranged around a central pool, it sleeps up to 22 people in a pair of two-bedroom cottages; an original structure with three suites; and an annex with four suites. Each property offers guests outdoor spaces and garden or sea views, and there are also two fully stocked bars, a library, and a lap pool with adjoining hot tub. Located at the heart of the island, beaches, fine dining and nightlife are all within walking distance.
Open from November to July for exclusive use or on an individual-room basis, the in-house chef is on hand to prepare a gourmet breakfast every morning. Guests can also take advantage of the property’s bicycles and daily beach setup; activities include bone-fishing, deep sea fishing, diving, kite-surfing, paddle-boarding and snorkelling.
Buyout groups can enjoy exclusive use of Bahama House; beer, wine and house spirits; lunch and picnics; guided island adventures, use of the boat and a captain; a dedicated experience manager, on-island transportation, one day of professional photography; and round-trip airport transfers.
The furnishings at Bahama House include a mix of Bahamian, Caribbean and Palm Beach heritage pieces, with vintage bamboo and rattan from Paul Aronson’s legendary collection.
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