India Hicks on design and island style | Home Front

A photo from "India Hicks: Island Style."
May 07, 2015

India Hicks is the author of "India Hicks: Island Style." The daughter of David Hicks and granddaughter of Lord Mountbatten, Hicks is a former model and a now, a designer of jewelry, home accessories, bath and body products and fragrances. She lives on the Harbour Island in the Bahamas.

Dunbar is the founder and owner of Leila Dunbar Appraisals and Consulting LLC. She has been a participating appraiser on the PBS series "Antiques Roadshow" since 1996 and is a former SVP and Director of Collectibles at Sotheby's Auction House from 1999-2008.

Every week, Jura Koncius helps you in your quest to achieve domestic bliss. Got a question about decorating? She's happy to whip out her paint chips and suggest the perfect hue, call a retailer to help track down a hard-to-find accent piece or offer some do-it-yourself. Built on years of reporting experience, Home Front is an online conversation about the best way to feather the nest. We invite you to submit questions and share you own great tips, ideas and, yes, the occasional complaint.

So it's a great time to have designer and tastemaker India Hicks on our chat talking about the best ways to get that  island look whether you have a beach house or not. India Hicks is the author of "India Hicks: Island Style." The daughter of David Hicks and granddaughter of Lord Mountbatten, Hicks is a former model and a now, a designer of jewelry, home accessories, bath and body products and fragrances. She lives on Harbour Island in the Bahamas. I have a great prize for the winner of today's Chat Contest: a copy of India's glam new coffee table book. You'll want it for your own summer reading. I will award the book to the chatter who gives the best answer to this question; What do you think are the best ingredients for the perfect beach house guest room? I will choose the winner at the end of the chat. If you are chosen, send me your mailing address: Let's chat.

Today's code is: HF7363

We are preparing to move into our new home on the shore and I intend to use seagrass rugs in many rooms and would love your advice on decorating when using them. I dont want to overdo the whole wicker/seagrass theme and was wondering if I should stick with dark or painted white woods for furniture such as coffee tables, dinning table etc. I love your style, thank you for sharing it with us!

OOOh I don't think you can ever go wrong with seagrass. I use it a lot. The only time it goes wrong is when you have a puppy in the house. Seagrass and a puppy = Disaster. But I do mix the seagrass with a lot of dark stained mahogany, and I am sure your idea of white painted wood works well too. Don't forget large oversized vases of palm fronds if you really want to capture the feeling of the islands. Palm fronds last much longer than tropical flowers.

I have some Roman shades that are less than 5 years old I want to sell. What's your best bet for my doing this? If it's consignment shops, which ones? Wish there were a national website just for this. :-)

I would suggest your own social media first, most of your friends probably have a similar sense of style and might know someone who knows some one who might like Roman Shades. In fact I could always do with some spare Roman Shades....!

Hi, I am about to paint a guest room/study from a tired beige to a brighter yellow. The house is 1920s and has substantial Craftsman trim around the doors and windows that will remain white. I want a good yellow that's still soft and not jarring. The furniture is cherry and teak and bedding is navy. Even though one of the windows is south-facing, the room can be on the darker side. I tend to prefer Benjamin Moore paints. Any suggestions? Thanks!

It sounds very nautical with the white trim and navy bedding, I would suggest a very soft yellow, like a buttercup yellow, that should give you lots of light and not fight too much with the navy bedding.

I am redoing an above ground basement that still suffers from a lack of sunlight. I painted one room Sherwin Williams' Rice Paddy (love it - a pretty apple green). The adjoining large room is currently BM Linen White but it really falls flat in the low light room. I am thinking of bumping it up to BM Straw, 2154-50, and using BM Sugar Cookie on the ceiling and Simply White on the trim. Am I headed in the right direction? Will the yellow and green work together? I don't want to do green in the other room - will be too much, especially since the guest room is green, too!

Oh Lordy......I think you might be more brave than me. I tend to decorate with a more neutral base and then add my color on top. Why not save the colors you are uncertain of for pillows or throws or even bedding, that way you can change it out if it does not work.

I am renovating my kitchen and opening the wall up to the den. The den has dark built in bookcases. My kitchen cabinets will be natural maple. I am planning an island in the kitchen and cannot decide if it should be dark like the den it opens up to or the same as the other kitchen cabinets. I was also considering using a different color countertop for the island. What do you recommend?

I would say go the same as the other kitchen cabinets, it might get a bit crazy otherwise, with the den competing with the kitchen. I love any natural stone for kitchen counter tops, have you considered that? there are really good imitation stone surfaces you could look into. Perhaps a Belgium Blue?

Do you have any color suggestions for the walls of a southern Florida condo? Don't necessarily need or want the predicable pastel pinks and greens. Thanks!

Very, very pale dove grey, you can then play around with in the softer fabrics on the furniture and get some color in there if needed. Remember to bring in some texture, I love whicker and ratran especially in sunny Florida.

How can I make my home smell good without overpowering everyone who enters or dwells there?

I have just the solution for you......!

The India Hicks Black Hibiscus candle, I created this with the smell of oranges and Earl Grey tea, Britian in the Bahamas, its unusual and memorable but certainly not over powering.

... would include a glass lamp on the nightstand table with room for a book about the locale (e.g. In the Heart of the Sea, if you are in Nantucket). A bedside water carafe with cup. Soft white linens. An open window with evening primrose planted underneath to hear the crickets, katydids and cicadas. A jasmine vine and a sleepy dog in the corner.

Perfect! Thanks for this. I am dying to go there.

i thought you were related to designer Hardy Amies, anyway, loved you in the royal wedding and great your style is beachy not bitchy. God save the queen.

I am a huge admirer of Hardy Aimes, went with my mother to many of his shows when I was a teenager. My mother wore several of his designs. And yes I agree, God save The Queen!

We finally have budget for a re-do of our living room! It's smallish (17' X 11') with a passthrough at either end from the foyer to the kitchen. There's also a bank of windows on one long wall (so lots of light) and a fireplace on one short wall. We know simple and clean furnishings will help open up the space. What other tips can you give, i.e. furniture colors, scale, height, etc.? Thanks so much!

a grand over sized mirror...this will open up any space. It sounds lovely though with big windows and a fireplace. I would suggest keeping the ceiling white but you could paint the walls a different color.

Where can I buy durable, modern outdoor furniture? What is your favorite?

There are so many options now. Front Gate has some lovely series, everything from modern to traditional. And well crafted.

For the person looking for a nice but subtle yellow, I used Lemon Sorbet from BM and really like it.

Thank you.

What do you define as kitschy? How can you get an island or beach vibe without it being over the top?

Kitschy can be fun, my great friend Jonathan Adler does Kitsch well, however its not my groove baby. I always say that with the kaleidoscope of color on the outside of a tropical home we try to keep the inside more muted, however I realize that even if I were living in the city or rainy England I would still want a muted color scheme, onto that I layer pops of color, from wall art to cushions. Its easier to change out your cushions than re paint the walls.

Luxurious bedding, wonderful pillows, window with a great ocean view from bed, bedside table with interesting reading material and a great light for late night reading...sounds like heaven to me!

Me too!

My house has a fine front entry, but in reality everyone comes in through the garage and laundry room. The laundry room contains utility shelves, cabinets, sink, and of course the washer & dryer. Can you suggest some ways to make the space a bit more welcoming and uncluttered and still functional?

I so understand. In fact sometimes I encourage people to use their kitchen/gargae/laundry door. It forces you to pay attention to that area in exactly the way you are doing now. Simple solutions would be to curtain off any areas that frustrate you, or if you have a bit of a budget ask a local carpenter to make some doors to hide the washer/dryer behind. Pain the entire area including the doors all the same color. You could also put matching wicker baskets into the utility shelves, that way they will look great from the outside and hide all the shit on the inside. Are we allowed to say shit here??

Are there lots of home stores in the Bahamas? How do people furnish their homes?

No home stores on the island I live on. It forces you to be creative! It also makes you very appreciative of when something new arrives by a lampshade. Did you ever think you could be appreciative of a lampshade?

There are so many choices in lighting that I don't even know where to start. How do you determine the right lighting to use, say in a kitchen? Is there a method for choosing pendants vs. recessed, for example? What are some of your go-to sources?

You are right, lighting is very overwhelming, but so is toothpaste, just too many choices. Lighting is also very personal. I would stay traditional if possible, it will never go out of style. Modern lighting alarms me a bit, because what happens in a few years time when its out of fashion again? The only thing I would INSIST on is a dimmer switch in any over head lighting. So important to be able to soften the lighting.

I have a bag of shells that I found on a recent trip to Sanibel Island. Now that I'm home, I'm not sure what to do with them. Ideas?

Oh yes, I have shells every where. They are a reminder of holidays and trips and adventures. I love them clustered together in a bowl, on a side table, or use them on the dining table to decorate when you have friends over. They also can be nice when displayed on a bathroom shelf. Never get rid of those shells!

Hi India, I am decorating my baby's room in grey and white. Any tips on how to bring pizzazz into the room?

Nothing more wonderful than decorating a baby's room. I am jealous. And I love grey and white. Great starting point, the pizzazz will come naturally once the owner of the room arrives! But in the mean time you could find a wonderful mobile to hang above the crib or cot, babies, as I am sure you know are memorized by the movement. Get a really large one so it becomes a central piece in the room. Easy to take down in a years time when you have all outgrown this.

Many, many years ago, I lived on Cape Cod. I loved it, because it felt so natural to have that coastal style of decorating (sea glass, shells, etc). I no longer live near the water but miss it terribly. Right now my home's decor consists mainly of pottery, B&W photos, and equine artwork (I love horses, too). Other than adding sea shells and pieces of coral here and there, do you have any suggestions for making a landlocked house feel more like a coastal cottage? Is it possible to combine coastal and equine without it looking odd? I guess I could add a sea"horse" (haha).

I think its really important to have your passions fill a home, so certainly mix the coastal with the equestrian. I also think adding a coastal feel to a landlocked house makes perfect sense! Add lots of nautical touches like sea grass matting, and dark stained furniture, may be nautical bedding and of course you can easily order gigantic imitation palm fronds from craft stores and have them in vases around the house.

What sort of Bed linens do you recommend for warmer climates? Duvet or quilt?

well.....I have an entire collection at! Both Duvet and quilts. I think the quilt works well for warmer climates, especially if its reversible because it looks lovely when turned down.

What are your favorite accessories that evoke the sea?

Lots of mosquito netting draped over four posted beds....possibly not that practical for everyone...vases of palm fronds, coral prints for the walls, coastal inspired bedding but keep the colors low key!

I have an old Turkish rug (circa 1956) I'd like to get cleaned and restored. Can you recommend a place in the Tyson's Corner/Vienna area? Also, I am painting an accent wall in my daughter's bedroom. She requested "Sky Blue." Any suggestions? Thanks!

I love sky blue, definite thumbs up, but I really don't know much about Turkish sorry!

We are seniors and really need to make major improvements, i.e., painting, floors, etc. This may be a dumb question but when work like this is done who is responsible for moving heavy furniture. We could move somethings but we have some heavy pieces of furniture that we could not move ourselves. Who takes care of these pieces and is it added to the cost of the project? Does insurance covers the pieces if there is damage? Thanks.

I don't think there are any set rules but I suggest you ask your painting firm if they can include this or if this is already included in their terms.....ask them about insurance. Don't move anything yourselves! Take care of your selves above all. 

India you were great. And we covered a lot of ground, from seagrass to God Save the Queen!! Thanks so much for doing this from England. Meanwhile, the lucky winner of the India Hicks book is the person who said her fave beach house guest room would  feature a glass lamp, evening primrose outside the window and a sleepy dog! Email me your mailing address at See you next week!

In This Chat
Jura Koncius
Jura Koncius is a Washington Post staff writer who specializes in home and design. Read her daily twitter feed @jurakoncius for the latest in decorating trends, shopping, decluttering, organizing and DC retail.

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India Hicks
India Hicks is the author of "India Hicks: Island Style." The daughter of David Hicks and granddaughter of Lord Mountbatten, Hicks is a former model and a now, a designer of jewelry, home accessories, bath and body products and fragrances. She lives on the Harbour Island in the Bahamas.
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