How HGTV Stars Mary and Jon Pierre Tjon-Joe-Pin Turned Their Barren Backyard Into a Family Oasis
The stars of Going for Sold reveal how they built a DIY tank pool during a long, hot quarantine summer in Houston
Mary and Jon Pierre Tjon-Joe-Pin used their time in quarantine to create a dream backyard — complete with a mini pool!
When their neighborhood swimming pool shut down last year because of COVID-19, the stars of HGTV's Going for Sold (now streaming on discovery+) were desperate for a way to keep their daughter Harper, 5, and son Grayson, 3, entertained and cool during a long quarantine summer in Houston.
"A real pool was not in the budget, so I started researching stock tanks like farmers use for cattle," says Mary. She initially had her eye on a traditional round metal stock tank, DIYs for which cropped up everywhere when above ground pools started selling out across the country amid lockdown. But the trendy style had one major drawback: 6'3" Jon Pierre couldn't stretch out in it. "He's like, 'This is a baby pool,'" she recalls with a laugh.
As an alternative, they found a 750-gallon, 8-foot-wide plastic tank that's big enough for Jon Pierre and, at just 28-in. deep, shallow enough for the kids to stand. It cost around $500 plus a delivery fee, says Jon Pierre, and had some major pluses: The plastic material ensured the tank was simple to move, and the square shape made installing a filter pump (to a flat side rather than a curved one) a breeze.
Together the couple, whose new show Two Steps Home will premiere on HGTV this summer, watched "a lot of YouTube videos" and put in two work-filled weekends to construct a platform for the tank to sit on and some framing to make it feel built-in. (See the time-lapse of the construction from their own channel below.)
They chose to add a filter pump to help keep the tank free of algae and other contaminants with minimal maintenance, a process Jon Pierre ensures is simple and affordable. He bought theirs on Amazon for about $76, he notes.
After the filter pump is installed, "It takes a little bit of maintenance, but nothing like a regular pool," says Jon Pierre. Test the water regularly and treat it with chlorine as needed, he advises, "so it stays clean and looks good."
"It really turned out perfect," says Mary. "It's become our favorite place at our house." Harper taught herself to swim and both kids enjoy splashing around "every single day."
They also created built-in seating along one side with hidden storage underneath and a little bar top with stools on the other. Under the wooden pergola (another quarantine project) there's also a dining setup and seating area. "We sit out there all the time and have dinner and [the kids] have picnics," says Mary. There's even a makeshift outdoor theater. "We put a projector out there for movie nights," she says.
"The whole project was really special," says Mary. "It was just something we all did together, which is one of our goals, that we love doing things together as a family."
It also gave Mary and Jon Pierre peace of mind during an unprecedented year. "Just having that safe space for them to play in a tough time when they can't socialize, they can't be around other kids... It gave us a sense of like, we can still figure out how to make them happy."
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