The Gruen Eco Design blog about how to convert your dream from an energy efficient home into a reality.



After several weeks not looking at the plans for our dream home we finally managed to find some time together to work on the plans.

As I have explained previously, we are planning to design a relative compact family home. With 3 bedrooms upstairs, and a multi-functional room on the lower level, that can be used as a guest bedroom as well as a study.

We are aiming for a house between 150-180 square metre.

However, this is not that easy. We have to make allowance for the additional steps required for the split level, between the entry level and the living area, due the fall of the side. We came up with 2 design solutions that we really liked, but the house ended up 200 square metre in the one version and 210 square metre in the other version. And although we liked the general layout, we knew we can not afford this, or to be more precisely, we do not want to spend that much money.

We had to come up with a different design. In our case the thing that makes and breaks the design are the stairs. Depending on where they are located the entire orientation of the house changes.

We will have a nice east/south view onto Mount Dandenong from the upper level. Therefore, we do want the master bedroom in the south-east corner.

We also want the bathroom and ensuite back to back. Having said this, I would actually prefer to only have one bathroom with a separate toilet. But my partner really wants an ensuite, so I’ve given in J

The kid’s bedrooms should be oriented to the north/east. We won’t be much in our bedroom during the day. Because of that we have decided it does not matter as much if our bedroom does not have much solar access. Whereas the kids will most likely spend quite a lot of time in their rooms during the day. Therefore, we want to have nice solar access for them.

We tried a total of 6 different stair scenarios. Different kind of u-shapes and L-shapes. Straight flight of stairs and placed the stairs to different spots in the house. Until we finally found a solution that we think could work. The house sits now at 180m2. Still on the larger side but we should be able to make it work. The layout still needs to be fine-tuned. But we think we are on the right track.

When designing stairs there are basically 2 different ways on how to approach them.

  • Free standing / open / feature stairs
  • Build in/ hidden stairs

You can either use a staircase as a design feature. For instance, have them nice and dominant in the living area. Or have a nice and beautiful staircase in the entry area. Typically, those stairs are kind of free standing. Maybe with open raisers and a beautiful balustrade and handrail. Stairs can be a really beautiful feature. However, stairs like this can also be quite dear and they can take up a lot of space.

Although we love a nice open staircase, we have decided to be more practical and have the stairs tucked in. Which means the construction itself can be cheaper. You could basically just have mdf stairs, covered with carpet or timber. We will also use the area underneath the stairs to place our powder room/guest bathroom.


So hopefully we are on the right track with our concept design. Stay tuned for updates.