Nanoscale building blocks are individually exceptionally strong because they are close to ideal, defect-free materials. It is, however, difficult to retain the ideal properties in macroscale composites. Bottom-up assembly of a clay/polymer nanocomposite allowed for the preparation of a homogeneous, optically transparent material with planar orientation of the alumosilicate nanosheets. The stiffness and tensile strength of these multilayer composites are one order of magnitude greater than those of analogous nanocomposites at a processing temperature that is much lower than those of ceramic or polymer materials with similar characteristics. A high level of ordering of the nanoscale building blocks, combined with dense covalent and hydrogen bonding and stiffening of the polymer chains, leads to highly effective load transfer between nanosheets and the polymer.