INDIA HICK’S ISLAND
Falling in love with Harbour Island tends to happen swiftly and unexpectedly, like most great love affairs usually begin. It’s inevitable, really, once you step out of the water taxi that takes you from neighboring Eleuthera to the remote, three-and-a-half-mile-long island in the Bahamas. Suddenly, all you see are colorful little cottages in bright pastel colors, friendly roosters that roam the land, and crystalline beaches with pink-hued sand—who could resist?
Certainly not former model and British aristocrat India Hicks, who left England almost two decades ago to settle down full-time in the island. Nor Diane von Furstenberg, who reportedly bought a house in the late ’80s, after a bad storm at sea led her and her husband Barry Diller’s yacht to seek shelter there. The same head-over-heels effect happened to Marysia Dobrzanska Reeves, the designer behind the hit brand that bears her first name, and her husband, Nathaniel Reeves, after vacationing there this Easter. The couple, who live in Los Angeles’s Venice Beach with their two young daughters and are self-avowed beach addicts, had been searching for a home by the ocean for their family for months. “I wanted a place our kids could build a connection with over the years,” Nathaniel, the company’s CFO, says. “A house where they would eventually want to bring theirkids, too.” Once they stepped foot on Briland, as locals like to call it, it was only a matter of time until they found themselves buying a lot of land and looking at architects. “I loved the unique pink sand and turquoise water, the proximity to Miami, and yet a faraway feeling brought on by the local culture and community,” Marysia explains. “You feel as if you’re somewhere remote but still feel right at home.”
This past weekend, my family and I were lucky enough to spend Thanksgiving on Harbour Island, where we stayed at The Dunmore, a picturesque boutique hotel run by Texan couple Gil and Tricia Besing. Sticking to a theme, the Besings bought The Dunmore in the spring of 2009 from its previous owner, after going there as guests for 15 years. “We saw an opportunity to update a historic hotel with a multigenerational following located on one of the most beautiful beaches in the world,” Tricia explains. A sleek renovation led by interior designer Amanda Lindroth, along with husband-and-wife architect team Maria de la Guardia and Teófilo Victoria, transformed The Dunmore from a former quaint beachside retreat into one of the chicest (and in this day and age, most Instagrammable) places on the island. It comes as no surprise to learn that it was during a stay there, too, that Marysia was inspired to create a special-edition collection of swim- and resortwear based on The Dunmore’s signature striped emerald green and white beach umbrellas. “I even cut out a piece of the umbrella to take home so I could perfect the color,” she explains.
Over Thanksgiving weekend, Marysia and Tricia hosted a Friendsgiving brunch for those on Harbour Island over the holiday to celebrate the launch of their new collaboration at The Dunmore, the place where it all began. Starting this week, you can shop Marysia’s limited-edition collection online, which includes the brand’s scallop bikinis, maillots, and rash guards in The Dunmore’s turquoise stripes, plus other resort-inspired pieces perfect for your next getaway at the beach. Above, a look at the celebratory brunch, plus a few other scenes from Marysia’s Thanksgiving weekend on Harbour Island.
A Perfect Weekend on Harbour Island
Pretty pink-sand beaches, getting around in golf carts, and lobster quesadillas—what else do you need from a Caribbean destination?
Just three miles long and half a mile wide in the Sargasso Sea, Harbour Island was settled by shipwrecked sailors and now has become the Caribbean destination for East Coasters looking for a laid-back vibe with car-free streets, delicious food, and plantation-style accommodations. Island denizen India Hicks grew up visiting the adjoining island of Windermere, where her father designer David Hicks had built home after discovering Eleuthera. “Whilst everyone else lived in perfectly normal Caribbean holiday homes, my father set about to design a house that looked rather like the ancient Egyptian temple of King Zoser, a mix of rough cement with coral sand from the beach, and it was christened, Savannah,” Hicks explains. The store owner and designer and her partner David Flint Wood call Harbour Island home and raised their children here. Hicks, who owns several rental homes on the island, says her own decorating sensibility is “a combination of a traditional British past with a richly flavored Caribbean present all mixed up with our own eccentricities.”
But don’t come here for nightclubs and a big scene. “Harbour Island is extremely relaxed,” says New York City–based designer Rebecca Hessel Cohen of the label LoveShackFancy. “You never get dressed up, it’s not much of a scene, and all the people who come here annually are friends with all the locals.” Hessel Cohen, who frequents the island (her clothing line is sold at Coral Sands’ boutique), stays at the Dunmore or rents a house (including one of India Hicks’s homes) and spends a lot of time at the Ocean View Club amongst other local haunts (lunches at Sip Sip, drinks at Queen Conch, dinner at the Landing).
The Bahama House
Eleven Experience has another hit on its hands with the opening of its 11-room Bahama House property. The hospitality veterans meticulously renovated a circa-1800 pale-pink painted stone building in Dunmore Town, a former inn with a British colonial sensibility, and added cottages, a pool, and tiki bar to its offerings. Four-poster mahogany and rattan beds, blue-green cement tiled bathroom floors, plantation shutters, vintage-style rattan furniture, eclectic objects, and grasscloth walls add an island vibe to each unique room. “We wanted a natural but comfortably chic feeling to the property,” says designer Blake Pike of London-based studio No. 12 Interiors. “We used local artisans for over-scaled shell mirrors and locally woven braids to embellish a bookcase.” The light-filled compound with bay views, which accommodates up to 26 guests, includes two two-bedroom cottages and an original structure with three suites, as well as an annex with four suites. Open from November through July, this brand-new offering is an ideal spot for a buyout for a special occasion or family event. From $550/night for bed and breakfast to $8,750/night for a full property buyout
Coral Sands Hotel
Coral Sands Hotel, a luxury hotel, has just completed a major multimillion-dollar renovation. Reimagined by Miami-based architect Anthony E. Tzamtzis and designer Guillermo De Yavorsky of Atelier De Yavorsky, the project replaced the old two-story hotel building with two separate buildings, each with three guest rooms, and added three oceanfront freestanding guest cottages. A 55-foot infinity pool with a second-level soaking pool and lobby, restaurant, and bar enhancements have been added to create a contemporary reinterpretation of local design cues. The updated 39-room family-owned oceanside resort, rich with lush tropical vegetation coupled with traditional Bahamian motifs, showcases Paola Navone white oak furniture; a white, blue, and red color palette; natural jute rugs; black-and-white colonial style tiles; and colorful entrance doors. “The neutral guest rooms feature breathtaking views and a luxurious but functional layout and feature special touches, such as a locally made wooden bench, custom-built bar, and hand-painted rugs to produce a Caribbean, Bohemian-chic eclecticism,” says De Yavorsky. From $295/night
Rock House has been an island mainstay since the early 1940s. In what was originally a private home and is now a boutique hotel with a South Beach meets Bahamian colonial vibe, one can enjoy dinner poolside under the stars or on the terrace overlooking the bay. Opt for the lobster and red velvet cheesecake and something fun and fruity from the cocktail menu. It's run by the charming and welcoming Don Purdy; here you’ll always feel like family.
For the best Sunday brunch on the island, check out The Landing. India Hicks helped renovate the property 17 years ago and gave the restaurant and bar “an Ernest Hemingway meets Grace Kelly feel.” Fan favorites include the ricotta hotcakes with honeycomb butter and coconut bread with lime curd, but the locals are partial to the boiled fish and grits.
To Shop/Check Out
The Sugar Mill
Linda Griffin and India Hicks opened The Sugar Mill shop in 2005. The boutique is a treasure trove of finds collected from world travels around the world. From beautiful Indian cotton kaftans, to Grecian sandals and Bond girl–worthy bikinis from Melissa Odabash, beautiful discoveries are on display for its loyal customer base. “We strive to keep things current and unique, so our philosophy is Get it while you can because when it's gone, it's gone,” says Griffin.
Since November of 2015, Dake’s Shoppe has been Dunmore Town’s go-to boutique for chic ceramics, dreamy textiles, beachy separates, espadrilles, and jewelry. You could spend hours perusing his selection of baubles from brands like Les Bonbons and quilts from Hedgehouse Home.
Pip Simmons’s Miss Mae’s fashion boutique is a local favorite and one of the first to open on the island. Featuring beautiful finds from India and all over the world, its selection is truly impressive. Think Le Monta Society linen sheets, shell-encrusted mirrors, Irish pine furniture, and Chinese antiques.