The old Admiral Benbow in St Leonards used to be one of the roughest pubs on the south coast, regulars exiting the windows as often as the doors. Even today, no longer a pub, it is still perhaps just a little forbidding – battleship grey and all but one window shuttered. That one window, however, gives you the vital clue to what you’re likely to find inside – for in that window is a large electric sign that announces, intriguingly, ‘FUN’

The long hallway, which greets visitors who enter the living accommodation, is lit by a ceiling covered with pieces from Blackpool and fitted with blue and red golf ball LEDs

The long hallway, which greets visitors who enter the living accommodation, is lit by a ceiling covered with pieces from Blackpool and fitted with blue and red golf ball LEDs

Centrepiece of the kitchen is a giant ceiling-mounted star. The copper-fronted units that Philip and Olivia found in IKEA reflect the light into every corner of the room

Centrepiece of the kitchen is a giant ceiling-mounted star. The copper-fronted units that Philip and Olivia found in IKEA reflect the light into every corner of the room

Geometric grey wallpaper lines the rear wall of the cosy ‘snug’ sitting room, whilst a zebra-print chaise longue is positioned next to the shuttered window

Geometric grey wallpaper lines the rear wall of the cosy ‘snug’ sitting room, whilst a zebra-print chaise longue is positioned next to the shuttered window

Hairdressing training heads line one shelf in the sitting room

Hairdressing training heads line one shelf in the sitting room

Hairdressing training heads line one shelf in the sitting room

Next to the sitting room, in the first of two guest bedrooms, Philip’s passion for Blackpool Illuminations is again given full reign in the shape of three spectacular flying ducks

Next to the sitting room, in the first of two guest bedrooms, Philip’s passion for Blackpool Illuminations is again given full reign in the shape of three spectacular flying ducks

In the master bedroom the period French bed, framed by sets of antlers is upstaged by the superb, bow-fronted 1970s Fornasetti chest of drawers

In the master bedroom the period French bed, framed by sets of antlers is upstaged by the superb, bow-fronted 1970s Fornasetti chest of drawers

In the second spare bedroom the light over the bedhead is a wooden carving of the stern of the Victory which swings out from the wall to reveal a secret cupboard

In the second spare bedroom the light over the bedhead is a wooden carving of the stern of the Victory which swings out from the wall to reveal a secret cupboard

Everywhere are spectacular lighting features, some sourced from seaside promenades, others designed by Philip specifically for this room, others part of his own lighting range

Everywhere are spectacular lighting features, some sourced from seaside promenades, others designed by Philip specifically for this room, others part of his own lighting range

Philip and Olivia’s cocker spaniels, Joe and Jarvis, make themselves comfortable in the main reception room. On the wall is a neon sign designed and made by Philip in the shape of a cross bearing the illuminated quotation from Edgar Allan Poe’s short story ‘The Masque of the Red Death’

Philip and Olivia’s cocker spaniels, Joe and Jarvis, make themselves comfortable in the main reception room. On the wall is a neon sign designed and made by Philip in the shape of a cross bearing the illuminated quotation from Edgar Allan Poe’s short story ‘The Masque of the Red Death’

An almost full-length picture of an elegant society lady to the left of the fireplace isn’t what it seems. It swings back and down comes a little staircase that leads up to a secret pub bar complete with stools and miniature banquette – a tribute to the building’s origins.

An almost full-length picture of an elegant society lady to the left of the fireplace isn’t what it seems. It swings back and down comes a little staircase that leads up to a secret pub bar complete with stools and miniature banquette – a tribute to the building’s origins.

Above the former operating- now dining- table, in pride of place is a beautiful neon tribute to Philip’s mother: Lots of love, Mum in his mother’s handwriting taken from a letter she wrote him from Venice

Above the former operating- now dining- table, in pride of place is a beautiful neon tribute to Philip’s mother: Lots of love, Mum in his mother’s handwriting taken from a letter she wrote him from Venice

Philip, a former director of the Blackpool Festival, sourced the 30-year-old, seven-foot high, 150-lamp road feature, which stands in one corner of the room, from Blackpool Illuminations

Philip, a former director of the Blackpool Festival, sourced the 30-year-old, seven-foot high, 150-lamp road feature, which stands in one corner of the room, from Blackpool Illuminations

A 40-year-old horse from a fairground Kiddie Ride stands beside the door to the first floor washroom, complete with illuminated mirror

A 40-year-old horse from a fairground Kiddie Ride stands beside the door to the first floor washroom, complete with illuminated mirror

The timber-clad bathroom is home to an old full length, glass-fronted-and-sided surgical cabinet and French basin – another Old Town find. Old penny-in-the-slot scales stand beside the loo, the flush handle for which is a chrome wheel valve-opener from a fire engine

The timber-clad bathroom is home to an old full length, glass-fronted-and-sided surgical cabinet and French basin – another Old Town find. Old penny-in-the-slot scales stand beside the loo, the flush handle for which is a chrome wheel valve-opener from a fire engine

Philip’s lighting workshop occupies the basement of the building. “Space was a major attraction because it allowed me to live and work from the same location which hadn’t been possible in London,” he said. “The pub was perfect because it was already divided into commercial and domestic space and that meant the minimum of planning problems.”

Philip’s lighting workshop occupies the basement of the building. “Space was a major attraction because it allowed me to live and work from the same location which hadn’t been possible in London,” he said. “The pub was perfect because it was already divided into commercial and domestic space and that meant the minimum of planning problems.”

‘Something of a collector’, however, doesn’t quite cover his commitment – this is a man who owns, for instance, 1,000 sets of Christmas fairy lights.

‘Something of a collector’, however, doesn’t quite cover his commitment – this is a man who owns, for instance, 1,000 sets of Christmas fairy lights.

  • words:
  • pictures: David Merewether
  • styling: Lucy Fleming

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