Next week I’m going to build the primary steel staircase for the house. Over the last 24 hours the design has changed more than three times. It’s not that I don’t know what I want, it’s just that I have a crazy architect, Timon Phillips, and an even more crazy friend, Vin Marshall, who engineered and designed what I’m calling the “mouse tower” concept and will be welding it with me. (Lesson one of a DIY build: If your friends are as nuts as you are, nothing in your home is going to be normal or easy.)

The idea of the Swiss cheese look is to let light through, but I also need it to be rigid and not scare my wife and kids. So the center structure, to which we’ll weld the treads, is a 5-inch thick hollow shell with two ¼-inch steel plates for sides. We’ll use the plasma cutter to create the round holes and put 5-inch long pipe sections into them, overhanging each side by a quarter inch, giving us a lip to weld to the plates. We’ll weld the mouse tower to a structural steel base and the landing to hold it all up and add a bit of reclaimed wood on top. That is, unless we change the design again tonight. And given that I don’t have time to do a plywood model, the whole build is going to be one big dice roll.

Our goal is to have it done in seven days, and I’ll do some time-lapse photography along the way. IN the meantime, check out more inspiring staircase designs at (SFW!).

Blueprints for Swiss cheese stairs.
Swiss cheese staircase, side view. Timon Phillips

John B. Carnett, PopSci’s staff photographer, is using the latest green technology to build his dream home. Follow along as the project progresses on his Green Dream blog: