A crumbling Grade II-listed lifeboat station building on a beach would be a risk too far for many grand designers, but for Tim and Philomena O’Donovan it was one worth taking.
During its heyday Tenby lifeboat station was one of the busiest in Wales. Its listed status meant that Tim and Philomena had to replace the exterior cladding like for like
Philomena with son Brendan who helped with the build
Plots don’t get much more spectacular than Tim and Philomena O’Donovan’s renovated lifeboat station on the Tenby coast. They don’t get much more difficult either. It took them seven years just to start building, which involved negotiations with the Crown Estate to buy the freehold for their strip of the beach.
Next came the hard part: getting steel, glass and other materials to the site with no road access. Most were transported across the sand and craned up the 40ft-high pier, which meant regular dashes between the tides. Once on site, it transpired that the building was so warped that it was almost impossible to fit the straight steel beams, which doubled the initial nine-month build time.
A new steel frame inserted into the building supports a stepped interior that drops down the original slope and defines the different zones
The curved ceiling and wood panelling of the master bedroom create the impression of being in the cabin of a luxury cruise liner
Local architects Michael Argent and Adam Chandler designed the house to include a second storey, tucked into the original roof. The master bedroom sits at one end with a library at the other, connected by a bridge that floats over the kitchen below. Downstairs, a cluster of bedrooms and bathrooms is arranged around the entrance, while the open-plan kitchen and living space, decorated in nautical style by Philomena, gives a sweeping view down to the water.
For Philomena, who grew up in a small coastal town, the connection to the RNLI is especially significant, as her earliest memories are of watching the rescue boats launch. ‘This kind of property,’ says Tim, ‘comes up once in a lifetime. I can’t imagine anything that would hold a candle to it.’
The lifeboat station is a local landmark in the popular seaside town of Tenby
Photography: Chris Tubbs