Cinder Block House

Cinder blocks, also called concrete blocks or breeze blocks, offer broad range of benefits for home construction. Compared to filled-in blocks, they are lightweight, easy to install, and cost-effective.

They provide excellent insulation, block noise, and are durable and low-maintenance.

Looking for inspiration for your own cinder block house? In this post, we will share four of our favorite cinder block building designs with you.

1. The Sawmill House By Olson Kundig

Off the grid in the California high desert, you will find the Sawmill House by Olson Kundig, which won the AIA National COTE Top Ten Award and AIA National Small Project Award in 2018.

The inspiration for this cinderblock house, which also contains elements of steel and glass, was the concept of tents surrounding a desert campfire. At the center of the dwelling is a hearth, while the three wings around it are like the “tents.”

Kundig is known for creating structures that residents can transform to suit their needs in response to weather and lifestyle. The Sawmill House is no exception. A wheel in the living room allows the occupant to turn a wheel, retracting or extending a 12’ x 26’ window. When the window is retracted, the living room is open wide to the beautiful desert landscape beyond the concrete patio. A wide awning ensures that the patio receives shade from the bright sun.

The fireplace also has a glass frame that can be pulled completely aside. When the frame is closed, it surrounds it on three sides.

Did we mention this is a net zero home that is environmentally friendly and keeps power requirements to a minimum?

The AIA COTE Top Ten Jury does a great job summarizing the appeal of the design, stating, “The house, through its breathtaking simplicity, provides a calm but very smart connection with this profound and sometimes hostile place.”

Olson Kundig has a number of other stunning concrete home designs that do a wonderful job connecting interior and exterior. Be sure to check out the full portfolio.

2. Melon House by Sin Título Arquitectura

First in our selection of modern cinder block homes is the Melon House by Sin Título Arquitectura. The house measures 160 m², and was completed in 2019 in Morelia, Mexico.

The residence was constructed with cinder blocks, glass, wood and steel, and is described by the architects as a “living machine.” The multi-level structure integrates well with the surrounding neighborhood with a floor plan designed to offer just the right blend of privacy and connection.

The architects write, “The program was developed according to the needs and hobbies of the couple, as well as the relationship of the project with their environment. Outside, the project is isolated on the ground floor to give privacy to the living spaces, while on the upper level, a large window allows the entrance of daylight in the studio, which is opened to the outside and dialogues with its urban context -where small windows predominate-. Inside, an interior patio protects the private spaces, creating an interesting play of light and shadows through checkered windows and blacksmiths.”

The materials of the home are largely left raw and exposed. Nonetheless, the cozy, intimate layout suffuses the residence with a sense of warmth. The effect is one that is at once stark, yet inviting.

3. The Full Montara by Michael Maltzan

Montara, California Cinder Block Home
Photo by Noah Webb

The home in which product designer Thomas Meyerhoffer and his wife, graphic designer Mary Kate, live in, looks quite different from the original cinder block house they resided in.

After moving from San Francisco to the small town of Montara, they purchased a cinder block home that they worked on themselves. But they had less and less time to renovate, but also less and less time to get it down. Within six years, they had a son, and they needed to get serious about changes.

Thankfully, architect Michael Maltzan happened to be Mary Kate’s brother. Three years and three contractors later, they were able to move into a gorgeous renovated home.

While the changes to the home were extensive, the new home has the same foundation as the original. Maltzan’s renovated structure also includes some of the original cinder blocks.

Maltzan said, “I think the design responds to two things, the way Mary Kate and Thomas live, and the bigger, more general aspects of the context—where the ocean is, where the views are, and how tight the site is. I think especially the way that they live and the site are so intertwined that those two issues of context and lifestyle are in some ways the same.”

With its seaside location, Maltzan needed to find ways to make the most of the picturesque scenery while still protecting the home from the cold, foggy weather that can roll in from the ocean.

To make this happen, Maltzan put in three fireplaces along with radiant heating. But there are also huge doors and windows throughout the home along with ample deck space for when the weather is fair.

Aesthetically, the home stands out both from the openness of its design and its distinctive “Escher-like” angles. The design is every bit as beautiful as it is practical.

4. The Double Residences by Ibarra Rosano Design Architects

Photos © Bill Timmerman

The Double Residence is a cinderblock home completed in 2003 in Tuscon, AZ, designed by Ibarra Rosano Design Architects.

The design of the Double Residences started by considering the site, which is in Barrio Blue Moon, a somewhat derelict part of the city. The architects write, “The project’s use of lots left vacant in the heart of the city was a conscious effort to bring vitality to urban areas and act as a countermeasure to the thoughtless sprawl into the desert so often seen in the housing developments of our time and region.”

Simplicity was emphasized in the materials and the layouts of the Double Residences, which feature open floor plans and “extensive private gardens.”

The entrance to each residence features windows upstairs and down, providing a welcome glimpse of the warm, inviting interiors between cinderblock walls. The lower floor of each residence includes the main living spaces as well as the master bedroom and bathroom. Additional bedrooms are located upstairs along with a second bathroom.

Among the most innovative features in the residences is the inclusion of custom shade screens. These cover the glass doors that face east. These were necessitated by the climate. Without them, the sun could be quite intense in the mornings, but with them, the interiors receive “balanced light.”

The completed residences won the Home of the Year Honor Award by AIA Southern Arizona as well as the Merit Award by AIA Southern Arizona in 2009. Summing up their accomplishments, the architects write, “The result of resourcefulness combined with smart planning is a space that responds to its place, time, and circumstance.”

Ready To Build Your Own Cinder Block House?

Inspired by the four cinder block houses we shared above? It may be time to start coming up with your own cinder block home design.

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