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.

TV House Lifeboat Station in Tenby South Wales4

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

TV House Lifeboat Station in Tenby South Wales4

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.

TV House Lifeboat Station in Tenby South Wales4

A new steel frame inserted into the building supports a stepped interior that drops down the original slope and defines the different zones

 TV House Lifeboat Station in Tenby South Wales4

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.’

TV House Lifeboat Station in Tenby South Wales4

The lifeboat station is a local landmark in the popular seaside town of Tenby

Photography: Chris Tubbs

Kevins Column

Top self build highlights at Grand Designs Live 2019 hosted by Kevin McCloud

Find top experts, specialist exhibitors and a wealth of inspiration for your self-build or renovation project all under one roof.
visit-award-winning-grand-designs-live-hosted-by-kevin-mccloud
 
 
q-a-with-the-creator-of-the-rockhouse-retreat-angelo-mastropietro
Grand Designs TV Houses

Q&A with Grand Designer of The Rockhouse Retreat Angelo Mastropietro

Angelo Mastropietro is the creator and mastermind behind The Rockhouse Retreat. We speak to him all about his story so far.
grand-designs-tv-house-2019-episode-5-west-suffolk
Grand Designs TV Houses

Grand Designs TV House 2019 episode 5: West Suffolk

Find out more about the West Suffolk TV house featured in 2019's Grand Designs TV series, airing on 2nd October 2019 on Channel 4 and...
grand-designs-2019-episode-2-lincolnshire
Grand Designs TV Houses

Grand Designs 2019 episode 2: the dramatic Lincolnshire round house

Take a tour of the second TV house featured in 2019's Grand Designs TV series, aired on 11th September 2019 on Channel 4 and hosted...
grand-designs-2019-first-episode-galloway-scotland
Grand Designs TV Houses

Grand Designs TV House 2019 episode 1: a breathtaking Galloway self build

Take a tour of the first TV house featured in 2019's Grand Designs TV series, aired on 4th September 2019 on Channel 4 and hosted...
grand-designs-tv-house-2019-episode-4-hull
Grand Designs TV Houses

Grand Designs TV House 2019 episode 4: The Water Shed in Hull

Find out more about the Hull TV house featured in 2019's Grand Designs TV series, airing on 25th September 2019 on Channel 4 and hosted...
kevin-mccloud-grandest-design-special
Grand Designs TV Houses

Grand Designs' special 20th anniversary episode

To mark Grand Designs' 20th anniversary Kevin McCloud hosted a one-off special show before the new series starts. Find out more about the one-off episode.