In my Miniview of the newly refurbished St. Ermins Hotel in London I bemoaned the fact that so many top London hotels are being refurbished by overseas interior design practices. In COO Jon Cummins Amerimar have a Chief Operating Officer who is not only not afraid to talk about design appointments but is willing to talk about design management and what attracts him to work with particular people.St Ermins designers are US practice Powerstrip Studio, led by Dayna Lee. With a record of accomplishment that includes many hotels done for Amerimar (the George in Washington, the Hutton on Nashville, Hotel Derek, etc.) they are experienced designers and have done a great job of bringing drama into the hotel. The pure white lobby is spectacular, with restored plasterwork theatrically uplit.
One of the small pleasures of being a designer is building a long-term relationship with a Client. That is exactly what Amerimar are doing with Powerstrip. Jon Cummins was frank in his reasons, and they are reasons to which many practises should listen.
Asked what qualities he looked for Cummins was straightforward in saying he liked to deal with “good people who are good at what they do” and dealing with smaller organisations where they received a level of service that they appreciated. This chimed with my own practise record where we built a 25 strong practise around relationships with Clients who wanted to deal with the principals. Generally my impulse was to work directly with decision makers not committees, and Cummins obviously enjoys being a part of the process.
Cummins says, “design is a sensitive touch point for guests”, and they like the people they worked with to deliver the product. Their designers (“like the PR company,” he smiled) had a way of communicating that gave some comfort to them as a Client. The designers welcomed owner and operator input.
I first asked him what attracted Amerimar to purchasing the St. Ermins. He admitted it was an ‘opportunistic’ buy from Spanish operator NH, but the hotel “cried out for it”. “It’s rare to find such an interesting and characterful building in such a prime position,” he commented. “We like to develop really distinctive, individual hotels – always one of a kind – so we have enjoyed making this ‘grande dame’ beautiful and relevant again whilst celebrating her rather colourful history and dramatic original styling.” Amerimar preference as an operator is for projects that are interesting to do, creating hotels that are special. Cummins also said, “Doing things that are interesting is more fun”.
Having worked with the designers on a number of projects previously the company wanted to continue to develop the understanding and working relationship that they enjoyed. They had a clear idea of the kind of hotel they wanted to create and the designer understood this. Asked if he felt that the limited space available for bathrooms was a problem Jon Cummins shook his head and said that US guest expectations were not high of the bathroom provision in European hotels.
This last is a worrying comment for major European operator. After all what does it say about UK and European standards generally if US guests come to Europe with low expectations and a leading US operator doesn’t feel the need to exceed them? With supposed five star hotels like the new W Leicester Squareand the Missoni in Edinburgh driving a coach and horses through the 5 star guidelines but still being accredited as such is it any surprise the government is running away from this issue?