2017 Trends in Exterior Materials & Colors

The one area in this industry that remains constant is the need to enhance architecture through the use of strategically selected materials and colors applied to provide balance between variety and harmony for timeless community development
By Donna Aldrich

Current trends in our building industry couldn’t be more divergent. At every level, from large master-planned community designs to the colors of our buildings, contrasting themes prevail. Exterior building materials are evolving in new and often different ways including stone, brick, wood and metal. It’s a transitional world, including where we live, with hyper-contrast vying for our attention.

Many of the latest community developments are mixing old with new. Purely modern-style homes reside next to traditional and eclectically blended homes with new hybrid architectural styles evolving for both single-family and multi-family buildings. Historically referenced and adaptive variations of traditional, farmhouse or bungalow comingle with mid-century modern or other contemporary designs for maximum neighborhood diversity.

Masonry has gone extreme with preferred stone colors trending light to white and preferred brick colors trending dark to black.

Building supply companies tell us they can’t keep black brick in stock. Stone is scaling up; brick is scaling down. Contemporary, large-sized, rectilinear shapes with flat surfaces in a variety of textures dominate new product design for manufactured stone. Brick is often longer and thinner with stacked bond coursing the rage; we recommend your best mason for this application.

The look of wood has never been more popular, especially natural and bare, for a sense of purity, substance and authenticity. A plethora of easier to maintain materials now replicate natural wood including aluminum siding, concrete panels, fiber cement board and porcelain tile in large formats and uncommon sizes. Board-formed concrete and its rebirth, as easily applied thin-set concrete panels, are regular features on buildings and in landscapes. The warmth of stained, natural wood is rampant and believable in many of its non-wood replications. Stain colors used for wood-look siding vary from monochromatic installations, for subtlety, to high-contrast installations, for drama, often combined with white stucco and black accents.

Metal architectural details abound, including standing-seam roofing, canopies and railing. Laser-cut panels, less cost prohibitive today, punctuate buildings and other structures used as railing, screens and shading devices with geometric, organic and playful patterns in metallic finishes or contrasting colors. Metal finishes range from glam-gold and brass, shiny or burnished, to the rugged and rusty look of Corten steel, while chrome remains popular at the midrange.

White window frames are out; dark window frames are in, especially brown to bronze-tones and black. Black window frames, set against stark white stucco or board and batten siding, are everywhere when affordable. The challenge is that standard-priced window frame colors are typically offered in only white or tan.

Favored patterns of design are equally varied from fluid organics to dynamic geometrics with an overriding emphasis on simplicity, order, repetition and rhythm. Linear patterns with clean lines and sharp edges are dominant including large-scale designs. Structure is exposed and celebrated. “Less is more” and “form follows function” are back in style.

Matte finishes are having their day, especially in white, black and chalky gray tones. Even your car’s paint finish can coordinate with this trend as it infiltrates the automotive industry too. Matte finish dark woods are very striking paired with burnished or polished metals. Stone is honed in lieu of high polish whether natural or manufactured.

Color trends are literally black and white, but there is plenty of gray in between with dashes of bright color. Black is back in vogue, considered both a neutral and a classic color. Gray has become the “new beige” and the natural backdrop, along with white, for pairings with bolder colors used in measured quantity. Trend-forward colors for 2017, outside the neutral zone, vary from Honey Glow, a yellow, on one side of the color wheel to its polar opposite Violet Verbena, a purple, on the other side as published by major paint companies. Denim Drift, a blue, gets a nod too but Greenery, a leafy, yellow-green, the Pantone Color Institute’s 2017 Color of the Year, is poised to take first-place as the favored accent color. New beginnings, health, and nature are primary rationales for the latest color trends.

WHA regularly tracks the building industry’s design, material, and color trends as well as those preceding them in fashion and home decor. Exterior building design responds to current trends at a comparatively reduced pace, thankfully, for the longevity of our structures. The one area in this industry that remains constant is the need to enhance architecture, whether modern, traditional or eclectic, through the use of strategically selected materials and colors applied to provide balance between variety and harmony for timeless community development. The latest trends, incorporated within this context, produce the most sustainable, dynamic and memorable projects.

Donna Aldrich is a principal at William Hezmalhalch Architects in Santa Ana, Long Beach and San Ramon, California. Donna lends her vision and innovation to the collaborative development of community design guidelines, master color and materials palettes, residential and commercial building designs including interior and exterior design. She may be reached at donna@whainc.com.

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