Exterior finish trends are moving to greater customization. This is happening across materials and is even making standard paint colors something to avoid. Part of the reason for the trend is that owners want to make their buildings more closely match their brand identities. They also want to provide a deeper brand experience for those who use and visit their buildings.

Construction Informer asked Geoffrey Hahn, creative director at Pure + FreeForm to share exterior finish trends his company is working on in 2016.

Are you seeing regional differences in the types of exterior finishes clients ask for?

Surprisingly, we are seeing similar requests across the country, though California cities (especially Los Angeles and San Francisco) are demanding some of the most avant­garde finishes. For instance, we’ve seen many exterior abstracts using optical embossing and pearl clearcoat metals—very exciting and innovative concepts. [Exterior finish trends examples in the slider on the right are Pure + FreeForm creations and photos courtesy of Pure + FreeForm]

Neo Spritz

a terracotta-inspired finish

Sagg Shell

a shell-inspired finish

What types of exterior finish trends are you seeing in residential? In commercial?

The big trend we see is site specific and contextual design, which means a decline in commoditized materials and standard paint colors, which at the end of the day, are rather inflexible in terms of design and color. Firms are using purposeful design that imparts a sense of place or brand identity. Charleston Airport is a great example of this; it took a historic localized color, Haint Blue, and brought this to the ceilings, soffits and fascia panels of the terminal. When you are in that space, there is a sense of an experience unique to that place. I also think we will soon see exterior wood interpreted in new and interesting ways, not just for soffits and accents. [Exterior finish trends examples in the slider on the right are Pure + FreeForm creations and photos courtesy of Pure + FreeForm]


From your perspective, what do the trends in exterior finishes say about client expectations?

In a market full of development and speculation, each project needs to exist in its own space to survive—this is clear. But at the same time, owners expect them to perform well, carry little maintenance and appeal to diverse groups. Metal is a great option for these needs since it’s easy to fabricate and offers so much panel versatility.


a wood-inspired finish

Deco Bronze

a vintage, luxury metal finish

Are you seeing any issues with finding qualified contractors to install exterior finishes? If so, what types are the most problematic?

The biggest issue is just how busy everyone is! I see opportunities every day for buildings to utilize better materials, often at no upcharge, but with people so busy it is sometimes hard to find the time to invest in learning about new trends and how companies like Pure + FreeForm can help realize even better buildings.


Are there longer term trends in exterior finishes that seem to be holding? If so, what are they?

Currently, vintage luxury metals—corten, patinated steel, copper, antique bronze, blackened steel and brass—continue to make up the majority of requests. There is sense of urban history and familiarity in those metals, and the subtle range of colors usually pairs well with other materials. We expect an increase in demand in the brass and even tarnished gold requests, while the warmer colors (rust, copper, corten) will wane slightly. JDS & SHoP, 626 1st Av, KPF & Related, 55 Hudson Yards, and the Moxy Hotel in the Nomad (Stonehill Tayloer & Lightstone Group), will be the best examples of this style. I also think we will see exterior wood interpreted in new and interesting ways shortly, not just for soffits and accents.

Pure + FreeForm is an international bespoke metal studio based in NYC. The studio creates custom metal paneling systems that offer a truly contextual experience. Wanting to break the perception of metal as something that is basic, rigid, and monotonous, the company makes the material approachable and distinctive with their solutions­-based manufacturing style. Founded on the principles of quality, craftsmanship, and unrivaled design, the firm is committed to working closely with clients to create self­ actualized concepts that are functional, beautiful and simple for both interior and exterior projects.

Getting Flexible with Metal

 Metal’s ease of fabrication and the versatility of using panels is adding to its growing appeal. It is featured on the Under Armour Brand House in Chicago. [Exterior finish by Pure + FreeForm; photo courtesy by the same]

Adding Warmth with Wood

Owners are warming up their buildings by warming up to wood as seen in the arch at the entry of the NBA Flagship in New York.  [Exterior finish by Pure + FreeForm; photo courtesy by the same]