Tickle Tank, the enchanting water tank turned home and garden, will do more than just tickle your fancy. This house, and its talented owner, is bound to capture your imagination.

You only have to look at the photos in this article to fall in love with Tickle Tank. This property defines the term “larger than life” as its bright colours, exuberant garden and natural tones jump out off the page at you. However, in 1998, it was simply a rundown water tank. It was thanks to the vision of sculptor and artist Irene Pearce that it progressed to the beacon of beauty it is today.

“I had some life-changing situations happen and I needed to find myself a new home on a very small budget,” Irene says. “I didn’t want to borrow money and have a mortgage tying me down in my mid-50s.”

Irene went to the council to enquire about developing the land, curious to see if her housing idea would comply with engineering standards and health regulations. When she encountered no obstacles, she straight away purchased the 450m²-block and started her developments.

“I designed it myself,” Irene says, adding that she then got an architect in to insert the correct terminology the plan needed to make it through council.

Still, this home is very much Irene’s, with the initial plans developed by her and the talented lady doing a lot of the work herself. Irene put in the doors and windows and finished the frames and other internal fixtures. She also ordered three smaller tanks, had those lowered into the foundations via cranes and then fit them out on her own.
One of the first projects Irene had to undertake, however, was some basic work in the garden — particularly since the original tank was partly underground.

“The winter of the year I bought it, 1998, I removed all the soil and cut the holes in the house,” Irene says. “Then I had to think about [what would normally be considered] ‘stage three’, which was an urgent landscape to retain the walls, as otherwise I’d have all the dirt I’d removed from the tank wash back towards the house.”

Due to the block’s natural lines, Irene chose to optimise existing sunken areas and retain them, holding back the earth with stonework and other materials she salvaged from the building site, such as sandstone blocks and bricks.

Irene then set about developing the garden in a fashion that would best suit the climate and her own lifestyle.

This story was originally published in the April 2014  issue of Australian Country. Order the back issue here.

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Words Lauren McKellar
Photography John Downs
Styling Bronte Camilleri
Watercolour work George Cooper