Once a derelict substation full of cows, Trevolt is now a stunning tower featured on TV

When buying a doer-upper, it is important to be able to see its potential. But when said doer-upper gets his ‘doors and windows blown in by the wind, and cows roam through it’ – well, it must have been a stretch to see the potential.

“It was a tough shell,” admits interior designer Abi Ward from the power transformer tower in Nancledra, near St Ives, that she and her husband Morv have turned into a three-storey, three-bedroom home they now share with their whippet Wilf. and Daphne.

In fact, the substation tower, which they bought from a farming family in 2019, was such a big project that their families and even George Clarke (the property featured on his Channel 4 show Remarkable Renovations earlier this year) thought they were “mad”. ‘ to take it upon himself. ‘I understand,’ laughs Abi. ‘It didn’t even have a clue to access it. But we saw it as a chance to turn a diamond in the rough into a family home.’

Named ‘Trevolt’ by the pair – ‘tre’ meaning homestead in Cornish, ‘volt’ referring to its earlier history – the substation tower was built in 1910 and supplied electricity to nearby towns. It had been decommissioned since the 60s, when the electricity system was automated. Abi and Morv had certainly worked to restore it.

Abi and Morveth Ward (pictured) took on a challenging renovation project, transforming the property they bought in St Ives

Abi looks out from the terrace. An extra storey was added to the tower, plus timber-clad rear and side extensions, all connected to the original building by a glass section

For an industrial feel, a slate worktop was added to the wooden kitchen by devolkitchens.co.uk. The lights are in hand and eyestudio.co.uk. The antique copper pots were a gift from Abi’s mother

As well as moving the cows, the first major step in their £350,000 renovation project was to remove the reinforced concrete floor that divided the tower into two levels. “It was a huge threat to its structure and many builders refused to touch it,” says Abi. But it allowed them to add another 80 square meters to the existing floor plan. ‘In the end it was worth it.’

Other major structural works included making it three storeys and adding timber-clad side and rear extensions.

As for the inside, Abi – who cut her design teeth converting a horse box into a glamping station and renovating a cottage for herself and Morv – saw every surface as a textural opportunity. The resulting interior is a warm mix of rustic and modern pieces.

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Most people finish their construction work before they go hunting for furniture. Not Abi and Morv. ‘We trawled antique fairs, salvage yards and boot sales, looking for unique quality pieces from the start. When we found something we loved, we bought it – and later worried about the storage situation.’

Left: In a quiet corner of the kitchen, Daphne the whippet poses by a painting of the original substation tower. The bench is from tobysreclamation.com. The runner is amara.com. Right: The stylishly distressed chair was an antique fair find. For similar try birchandyarn.co.uk. The book – The Kinfolk Home – is Abi’s go-to ‘for inspiration for future projects’

Throughout the house, Abi kept an earthy palette using organic colors from earthbornpaints.co.uk that reflect the surrounding landscape. Chair by sixtheresidence.co.uk

Among their finds were marble sinks picked up for £50 from Facebook Marketplace, and distressed pendant lights picked up from an antiques dealer for £35. Pièce de résistance? A painting of the original substation tower that Morv bought for £180 (original gallery price £1,000) at a local auction house, which now hangs in the kitchen. ‘It was fate,’ he smiles.

In terms of colour, Abi chose soft shades of cream, caramel and putty to act as a foil for the exterior greenery. ‘I wanted the tower’s views to do most of the talking,’ she says, ‘so I kept the interior scheme pared down and demarcated quieter areas with glimpses of copper or a glimmer of glass.’

Left: “We loved the dynamism the slope added to the straight lines of the building,” says Abi of her bedroom’s angled ceiling, which was a key part of the design. Right: The perfect place from which to enjoy the view of the heath? The deep bath from bcdesigns.co.uk

Alongside her touches, the substation’s industrial history is honored in every detail. The brickwork windows that frame the far-reaching views, the exposed beams and joists, whitewashed walls and bare pipework are reminders of its heritage.

‘The transformer station will always be part of our home,’ says Abi, as everything excavated from the original building was reused for the renovation. The track leading up to the property is an example. It is made from recycled material from the original tower and even the redundant electricity pylons are recycled to create a garden fence. “It’s the little things that make Trevolt Trevolt,” says Abi.

  • To see more, go to @trevolt_

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