Couple to spend three months living in Federation Square eco home

There are yabbies on the roof, crickets and snails on the dinner menu and a worm farm for toilet waste.

This newly built house at Melbourne's Federation Square, to be occupied by two chefs for months, is not your usual CBD home.

Our home for three months: Chefs Matt Stone and Jo Barrett at the sustainable house at Federation Square called Greenhouse By Joost.Credit:Wayne Taylor

It's in a location – beside the Yarra River and 100 metres from Swanston Street – that most real estate agents would kill for.

And it could be the model for future inner city homes. That's the hope of chefs Matt Stone and Jo Barrett, who from this weekend will live rent-free in the solar-powered house for three months, growing and eating all their own food. But the couple won't be shutting themselves off.

Passers-by can peer into their kitchen and the patio garden the couple have tended for months, yielding everything from pumpkin to beans and pomegranates, and which also boasts a bee hive.

The couple will host $395-per-head dinners from January 30 and give $10 tours of the house. Guest experts will present free live-streamed talks on topics such as architecture and mushroom growing.

The project’s producer, Joost Bakker, in the kitchen, which has tiles made from skateboards.Credit:Wayne Taylor

The house, called Greenhouse By Joost, is the idea of environmental advocate Joost Bakker, who has contributed $150,000 to the project.

His mother, Lia Bakker, invested $500,000 from the proceeds of the sale of her Monbulk farm. When the Federation Square project finishes in April, the Greenhouse will be moved to her new property for her to live in.

Mr Stone and Ms Barrett, who have starred on TV show MasterChef and who until last year were executive chefs at Oakridge Wines in the Yarra Valley, said they've loved learning everything from how to make milk from tiger nuts, to how to raise trout, yabbies and barramundi in an aquaponics system that uses fish poo to fertilise plants.

But the couple's main aim is to inspire others to grow and make their own food.

Prime real estate: the house is beside the Yarra River behind Federation Square.Credit:Wayne Taylor

"I think after COVID, people are ready to make changes in their lives," Ms Barrett said.

"They're focusing on their homes. They want to be connected with nature. And if you do live in the inner city, here's the perfect way to do that."

Mr Stone advised newbies to start with parsley, basil and tomatoes in pots. "It’s not going to change overnight, it's about small steps."

The Greenhouse also showcases sustainable building. The kitchen wall tiles are made from old skateboards, while the wall panels are derived from recyclable and biodegradable wheat straw.

The stairs, cupboards and tables are made of wood from fallen sugar gum and cypress trees.

Federation Square acting chief executive Suzana Bishop said the organisation supported the Greenhouse as "a way to showcase sustainability and show what the future of living sustainably can look like".

Dinner and tour dates (bookings essential) and live-streamed talks can be found at

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