Highly loaded polymer/clay nanocomposites with layered structures are emerging as robust fire retardant surface coatings. However, time-intensive sequential deposition processes, e.g. layer-by-layer strategies, hinders obtaining large coating thicknesses and complicates an implementation into existing technologies. Here, we demonstrate a single-step, water-borne approach to prepare thick, self-assembling, hybrid fire barrier coatings of sodium carboxymethyl cellulose (CMC)/montmorillonite (MTM) with well-defined, bioinspired brick-wall nanostructure, and showcase their application on textile. The coating thickness on the textile is tailored using different concentrations of CMC/MTM (1–5 wt%) in the coating bath. While lower concentrations impart conformal coatings of fibers, thicker continuous coatings are obtained on the textile surface from highest concentration. Comprehensive fire barrier and fire retardancy tests elucidate the increasing fire barrier and retardancy properties with increasing coating thickness. The materials are free of halogen and heavy metal atoms, and are sourced from sustainable and partly even renewable building blocks. We further introduce an amphiphobic surface modification on the coating to impart oil and water repellency, as well as self-cleaning features. Hence, our study presents a generic, environmentally friendly, scalable, and one-pot coating approach that can be introduced into existing technologies to prepare bioinspired, thick, fire barrier nanocomposite coatings on diverse surfaces.