If you’re looking for a beautiful way to bring privacy to your home, you might want to consider architectural screen block, also known as decorative concrete block or breeze block. This material is used most frequently with midcentury, modern or ranch-style homes, typically in outdoor applications. Like a solid wall or fencing, screen block can be used to define or section off a space. It offers the strength of concrete with the pizazz of cool geometric patterns. These blocks allow light and air to filter through and can be used when ventilation is a goal. Here’s a bit of history on this material, as well as some examples of how to use it in your outdoor areas.
Architectural screen block is a cast Portland cement block. During the 1920s and 1930s, screen block became popular in Art Deco architecture, and Frank Lloyd Wright used patterned concrete blocks in his designs. During its heyday from the 1950s to the 1970s, numerous patterns became available. These worked with a range of architectural styles, including Art Deco, tropical, midcentury modern and traditional ranch.
As architectural styles shifted in the late 1970s and 1980s, the use of screen block declined. With reduced demand, some block manufacturers stopped making certain patterns or ceased production completely. Today, the material is still available in limited patterns and is making a notable comeback. Due to shipping costs it is best to source the product from a local block manufacturer. However, your local supplier may not show its decorative concrete blocks on its website, so you may need to call to find out what’s available.
The allure of screen block is strong in warmer U.S. states such as Florida, Texas, Arizona and California, and it is also popular internationally in warm climates like Spain, Brazil and Australia. Here are eight examples of how to use decorative concrete block at home.
1. Entry screen. This application provides a sense of privacy for this home’s entry, while adding depth and pattern to the look of the home. Light passing through from the back side of the wall highlights the block’s unique pattern and adds drama. Screen block can be an ideal solution for creating privacy for rooms that are close to the street, or to the neighbors.
2. Courtyard ventilation. This installation shows breeze block inset into a stucco wall, which allows light and air to circulate throughout the outdoor space while providing privacy from the neighbors. And by integrating the graphic, geometric-patterned block into the stucco wall, the block not only provides ventilation, it also adds a lot of style.
3. Carport separation. Dividing the carport from the courtyard patio, this dark, painted screen block adds a graphic flair in addition to providing security for the enclosed courtyard. Paint can personalize your decorative concrete block installation.
4. Patio walls. Light, bright and airy, this screened patio provides a striking backdrop for this beach home’s outdoor living space. Sunlight gets diffused through the concrete blocks, while ocean breezes can fill the space.
5. Outdoor rooms. These screen block-enclosed patios, located off the kitchen and master bedroom of this home, create an element of drama in these outdoor spaces. With the lights on at night, backlighting enhances the dramatic effect of the screen block. The blocks also divide the patio into two separate spaces, making personal niches out of what might otherwise be one large patio.
6. Al fresco shower. Located just off the rear patio and swimming pool of a home in Palm Springs, California, this is another great example of screen block being used as a privacy wall, in this case to create semi-privacy for an outdoor shower. Screen block is a great option since the masonry will not rot or decay from the moisture of the shower.
7. Window privacy and shade. Concrete block has long been popular in Phoenix. In this Phoenix family room, the recycled midcentury screen block offers the benefit of shade against the solid glass window opening. The shapes of the decorative concrete block add style and flair to the room’s overall design scheme, with a geometric pattern that not only embellishes the window but makes gorgeous shadows on the floor.
Here is a view of the same home from the outside, showing both the screen block and the home’s beautiful ipe wood siding.
8. Geometric island. With all the great applications for screen block on the exterior of a home, using these blocks on an interior wall, partition wall or pony wall lets light and air flow though the interior space. This is a great opportunity to add pattern and even an accent color for added punch. In this particular example, screen block makes a stylish addition to a kitchen island.