On the Block: Cinder Blocks as Design Elements

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I’ve had a long-lasting love affair with concrete as a design element, and have gorgeous stained concrete flooring throughout my home. But even the lowly “concrete masonry unit” -- or cinder block -- has a special place in my heart due to the versatility and texture it brings to just about any home—indoors or out. In addition, they don’t break the bank, which is always a plus.

Unexpected Modern Shelving

Modern Shelving
Image: Zack Benson

This terrific modern multi-level planter is not what I typically think of when someone says, “cinder block shelving” – and am I ever glad about that! The options and ability to create your own special outdoor installation inspired by this design make it one of my favorite uses for this material.


Concrete Walls
Image: Roger Davies for Dwell

Exposed cinder block walls sound cold and uninviting but their inherent color variations and texture make for the exact opposite. Plus, with the staggered placement and lightly contrasting mortar shown here, this seems more like a giant wall of subway tile. This treatment brings a tremendous amount of life to an industrial space.

Concrete Kitchen

Concrete Kitchen
Image: Eric Bossic on Dezeen

The close relatives of cinder blocks, concrete blocks – same idea, just without the decorative openings – are used in this minimal kitchen along with plywood and stainless steel to create a durable, workman-like space. Elevating these every day materials into an almost artistic look and feel speaks to me of smart modern design.

Wooden Wonder

Wooden Wonder
Image: Modern Urban Living

Finally, if you’re taken with the form of the cinder block element but not a fan of concrete, there are a variety of modern takes on the old standard – from walnut, shown here, to ceramic – so you can keep the design inspiration without the risk of scraping your knuckles.

What unusual items do you have as art pieces in your home?

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Dave Hime, founder/curator of JapaneseTrash.com, has been an interior design addict for as long as he can remember. In 2005, he bought a house-in-progress and missed several opportunities to have an influence on his own home decor–leaving him wanting more. With design heroes such as Blake Dollahite (ruraltheory.com) and Robert & Cortney Novogratz (thenovogratz.com), Dave began seeking out online resources that would exemplify the interior design practices he's most drawn to: using color, texture and simple materials well. Bringing all of this together, along with his specific focus on providing interior design inspiration from a man's point of view, is Dave's mission: masculine design.