Basically, every block in Minecraft would have an additional piece of related data called orientation, and blocks placed normally would have their default value for orientation be +y. to place a block down with a different orientation the player would hold alt while placing the block, and the block would be placed with its orientation set in the direction the player was looking, or if the player holds ctrl+alt, while placing the block, it would be placed with its orientation set opposite the direction the player was looking. Alternatively, the orientation could be chosen using the arrow keys to change the placement orientation before placing.
This would allow for things like houses built sideways, iron trapdoors that default to open when unpowered, fun details like hoppers used up-side-down as rocket engines or a drain made of iron bars, etc.
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