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London hotel goes from bottom to top of TripAdvisor reviews

Two years ago, when Amerimar Enterprises bought the St. Ermin's Hotel in Central London, its TripAdvisor ranking was in the 400s.
By the end of 2011, the hotel was ranked 29 on the travel review site, and has jumped as high as 18.

How did one of London's least favorite hotels become one of its most favorite among travelers?

It took four months and nearly $50 million to turn the 331-room property into a world-class establishment. As did paying close attention to readers' comments on TripAdvisor, St. Ermin's co-owner and chief operating officer Jon Cummins told Hotel Check-in. The hotel re-opened in time for William and Katherine's royal wedding. (A coincidence, hotel officials say.)

"The property looked like a beautiful property that had been let go for a long period of time," Cummins said. "All the furnishings, fixtures, decorations were very old and it felt dingy, sort of like your grandmother's house had she not done anything with it in 50 years."

By the end of 2011, the hotel was ranked 29 on TripAdvisor, and has jumped as high as 18.CAPTIONSt. Ermin's HotelBuilt in 1900, the building, a short walk from St. James' Park, had design elements that Cummins wanted to keep such as sweeping staircases, curved balconies, and a Baroque ballroom. "There was something beautiful hidden beneath the surface," he says.

He enlisted L.A.-based designer Dayna Lee of Powerstrip Studio to help. Among the new features: a collection of 40 or so teapots of various styles, an antique Chinese desk alongside hand-made Chesterfield sofas in plum velvet, vintage 1950s clocks beside new and antique books in the library, and artisan-carved wood chairs from Scandinavia.

Also among the new items is something quite old: The original Turkish carpet commissioned for the hotel's first opening, which was found and returned from an antique dealer in Istanbul.

The changes weren't just physical. Cummins says he kept most of the staff but changed the service approach something "more friendly, less formal and stiff."

"We were able to reengage with the existing staff of the property. Many of the people who were there when we purchased the property were rejuvenated," he says.