A Glass Block House in Australia Modernizes the ‘80s Design Trend

updated Oct 25, 2020
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Credit: Katherine Lu

A home in Sydney, Australia is making the case for the return of a dated design trend: Glass blocks. Yes, glass blocks, otherwise known as glass bricks—an architectural element that evokes vintage Madonna, John Hughes’ flicks, and carpet floors. A recent home renovation by Sibling Architecture utilized the design element from yesteryear with a contemporary twist, and the results will make you reconsider your feelings about glass blocks. 

With the home’s original Federation-style exterior and triangular-tiled roof in good condition, the design team left the front of the house intact. The renovation goal was to better connect the back of the house to the yard. Enter: glass blocks. From the street, the house looks like any other suburban home in the area. It’s the back of the two-story cottage, however, that tells a different architectural story, as seen in the photos below.

Credit: Katherine Lu
Credit: Katherine Lu

“Our approach was to create a very open plan consisting of a double-story addition that let as much light in through the whole house as possible,” Sibling Architecture founding architect Qianyi Lim told Clever.  “We focused the key social spaces—living, kitchen, and dining—around a wall of shelves.” Lim cited the “great opportunity to work with glass blocks” and added, “I learned how to detail it and appreciate the way it filters light in.” 

Credit: Katherine Lu
Credit: Katherine Lu
Credit: Katherine Lu

The result is a mixture of wood and plywood that connects the glass-blocked rear of the home to the home’s original exterior. A royal blue hue completes the look throughout, with blue staircases, blue kitchen cabinetry, and blue floors on the upstairs loft space. A massive bookcase spans both the ground and upper level. At night when the lights are turned on, there’s a nice illumination that can be seen through the glass blocks from the backyard. 

As it turns out, the glass blocks also have a significant function other than just a unique design choice in the modern era. The home is located behind a busy highway and under flight paths that lead to the airport, and the glass blocks are better at muffling noise than just regular clear panes. In sum, the ‘80s-era design choice is both visually pleasing and utilitarian.