St. Ermin’s Hotel - London
Dayna Lee of LA-based Powerstrip Studio has maximised original architectural features in the remodelling of St. Ermin’s, a 331-key hotel for Amerimar Enterprises.
Having seen St. Ermin’s in its less loved days, it is uplifting to walk into the lobby and see the stucco plaster beautifully restored and painted. With so much natural light, it is possible to enjoy every detail.
St. Ermin’s started life as mansion flats and was converted into a hotel in 1904 by architect J.P. Briggs, whose work on some of London’s theatres has clearly influenced his conversion of St. Ermin’s, including the balcony overlooking the lobby and another above the Crystal Ballroom, with curves that suggest theatre boxes.
The lobby may be true to its origins but influences throughout the property are otherwise eclectic, inspired by London’s status as an international crossroads. A personal favourite is a red pleated lampshade perched on a pair of webbed duck feet (by Porta Romana) that look as though they may take off across the lobby at any moment.
In addition, designer Dayna Lee, Principal designer of LA-based Powerstrip Studio, took inspiration from Christopher Dresser, a visionary 19th century British botanist and designer, who was influential around the time St. Ermin’s was built. Testimony to this is evidence of plants, flowers and leaves in various forms throughout.
In the lobby, guestrooms, Caxton Bar and adjoining Library there is the tactile thrill of multiple textures. Terracotta Vivienne Westwood wallpaper in the bar lends a clubby feel to an area that is definitely designed for taking up residence and lack of natural light gives the lamps a genuine role.
Bar stools, tables and chairs cater to all requirements and drinkers with a sense of adventure may choose a flight of wines or whiskies. In fact, whisky lovers will not be disappointed, as the bar offers an excellent selection, including two Japanese varieties. Those wanting to drink in the atmosphere slightly farther from the action, can walk through to the mellow sitting area where terracotta leather walls continue the colour theme, with a touch of the Orient in cushions and prints on the walls. A huge fireplace completes the picture.
The adjoining Library (complete with books) is open throughout the day for refreshments, and framed origami clothes made from maps of the area bond the hotel to its location.
The Caxton Grill is distinctly modern with reclaimed wood floors, a banquette along one wall, and rectangular tables with contemporary chairs whose arms stretch from an arched back to the front of the seat to look as though they are prepared to embrace the guest. Food ingredients are British and, where possible, local, and seasonality is all. Fish is from Cornish day boats, which land fish daily, unlike trawlers, which go out to sea for extended periods and keep their catch on ice. The hotel plans to keep bee hives on the roof – honey does not get more local than this – but until then, Regent’s Park honey fills the gap and is pesticide free.
The Josper Grill is the restaurant’s signature gadget. It burns charcoal at up to 500 degrees and adds a barbecued, smoky flavour to the lamb, beef, chicken and fish that get the Josper treatment.
Extensive meeting facilities lend themselves to a variety of events. The Crystal Ballroom displays an appropriately unmissable crystal chandelier and the adjacent Cloisters works well for pre-prandial drinks, a formal dinner with a long table, or breakout space for a conference.
Upstairs, eleven meeting rooms all have natural light and are decorated sufficiently subtly so as not to be distracting, but would still provide a warm environment for dinner. One large and two smaller open spaces allow for breakouts and white leather walls in the corridor that links the rooms adds an interesting touch, as does fabric on the walls outside the Crystal Balcony. The terrace overlooking the courtyard makes a great space to end a day in meetings.
Bedrooms are unconventional without being OTT. Walls are olive green and curtains are a dusty purple with red berries (more botany) that are picked up in a striped throw on the bed. The White Company bath stuff is provided in refillable containers on the bathroom wall, removing unnecessary waste, and thick dressing gowns and slippers await in the wardrobe. Furniture has been sourced, as with FF&E throughout the hotel, by procurement specialists Benjamin West.
The one theme that comes across strongly in this hotel is hospitality. Almost everywhere you go – lobby, library, bar – seems to be designed as an invitation to sit there all day and no one would mind. There is a warm welcome at the door and the reception desk is to the right of the entrance, rather than lurking like a challenge in front of guests as they walk in.
Owner-operator Amerimar Enterprises aims to bring a residential feel to the guestrooms that extends to the public spaces. “They should be spaces you feel at home in. We try really hard with that,” says Chief Operating Officer Jon A. Cummins. I’d say they have succeeded.