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How Julian Benchley used external cladding to reimagine House 4 as seen on The Block

Architect Julian Brenchley has been a mainstay on The Block since day one, and this year he took things to the next level by completely reimagining the façades of five dated brick homes. But just how did he breathe new life into those 1950s properties? We sat down with the man himself to discuss all things exterior cladding.

If you’re feeling stuck in your own brick home and want to be proud of your façade every time you pull into the driveway, take inspiration from Julian’s House 4 makeover made possible by cladding over brick and creating a modern extension.

A “dream project” at House 4

Every season of The Block is special to Julian, but this year – and House 4 in particular – has been a whole different journey. Central to Julian’s designs, the Hardie™ Architectural Collection was used to completely transform the exteriors of five 1950’s brick homes. But it’s House 4 that Julian describes as being the pick of the lot – or as he puts it, “a dream project”.

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“We used a suite of James Hardie products – Hardie™ Fine Texture Cladding , Hardie™ Axent™ Trim, and Linea™ Weatherboard – to turn House 4 from an old bungalow to a really smart-looking, modern Hamptons-style property,” he says. “We basically dressed the whole building in all James Hardie products.

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”By mixing Linea™ Weatherboard and Hardie™ Fine Texture Cladding, you're getting a varied surface and changing the look – it's limited only by the imagination of the designer.”

The secret to a modern façade

Brick might be a thing of the past, but Julian says that doesn’t mean you need to feel stuck; cladding over brick gives you the potential to modernise your house’s exterior. He hopes what he’s managed to do for the properties as seen on The Block will inspire homeowners to rethink just what they can do with exterior cladding. For House 4, Julian essentially wrapped the building in “an additional skin” with a complete clad over brick, and building up with a modern extension to completely refresh the dated façade of the existing brick home.

“The cladding goes across the existing brick, which involved putting battens on top,” he says.

Getting uniformity with cladding

There are two schools of thought when it comes to renovating. First, you can keep your brick as is and add your modern extension, creating an eye-catching contrast to the overall home design. But Julian envisioned uniformity, too, for House 4, which is exactly what he applied.


“Cladding both the extension and the existing house in a product like James Hardie creates a homogenous design that doesn't look ‘bitsy’. It’s very achievable, and you can get an absolutely amazing outcome.”

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It doesn’t matter whether you want Hardie™ Fine Texture Cladding or the fresh, flowing lines of Hardie™ Brushed Concrete Cladding – to achieving the board-and-batten look – it’s all about finding that spark of inspiration. Julian says much of his own inspiration for this year’s designs came from a recent trip to Sweden.

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Board-and-batten blends tradition with modernity

On his European travels, Julian spent much of his time visiting modern buildings, looking at the board-and-batten home designs ever present in Scandinavia, which are becoming more popular here. The charm and beauty of House 4 is accentuated by a board-and-batten façade, curated by a combination of Hardie™ Fine Texture Cladding and Hardie™ Axent™ Trim. By using textured cladding, this delivers a modern twist to a classic look, whilst also integrating Linea™ Weatherboard for stunning versatility.

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“You get a more fine-grain look to the sheet panels to create that modern, sleek external look. It was inspiring to see a whole lot of different applications and ways you could use sheet boards to create really dramatic external finishes.”

If you’re ready to follow in Julian’s footsteps and transform your brick home into a modern-day masterpiece – just like House 4 – then get started by exploring the Hardie™ Architectural Collection. Discover how you can reshape the exterior of your own dated brick home in our Transform Your Brick Home Guide.

©2023 James Hardie Australia Pty Ltd ABN 12 084 635 558. ™ and ® denote a trademark or registered trademark owned by James Hardie Technology Ltd.

Make Modern: Transform your brick home

Unlock the potential of your home. Discover three smart ways to transform your dated brick home in our NEW Interactive Guide. Complete with top trending looks as seen on The Block 2023 and expert advice from renowned architect, Julian Brenchley.

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