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The Finished Product: Tips for Choosing Paint Color & Finish

There are some simple paint tips that will help with your decision when you are considering what you want your finished product (in most cases, a wall or room) to look like. It can get confusing and overwhelming at times when you start thinking about all the factors: color, color scheme, interior paint, exterior paint, eggshell, distemper, primer, gloss, flat… and the list goes on. People ask me all the time so I thought to share a few tips with you all.

To keep things clear and easy to find I am going to split them up by the different finishes and describe when its best to use each one.

When to use flat. For interior walls and ceilings with a chalky matte appearance (little or no gloss or shine).  This finish does not reflect the light. It is excellent for hiding imperfections on the wall, but usually cannot be washed. I don’t recommend it for families that have little ones that like to put hands, crayons etc on the walls. The image below has flat or emulsion paint on the wall.

When to use eggshell. This finish has a semi-gloss and satin in it giving it a noticeable sheen. This finish also tends to reflect the light which you should take into consideration. It is excellent for high traffic areas in your home like your bathroom, kitchen and hallways. Benefit? Usually washable. Usually I use it and am happy with the results.

When to use high gloss. This dramatic finish has a high degree of gloss and shine. It is easily washable and reflects the light. Traditionally high gloss paint finish was used on doors and metalwork but people are now branching out to create dramatic and dressy looks elsewhere in the home including on ceilings.

When to use lacquer. This finish is mostly commonly used on wood furniture to give it a smooth finish and provide a hard and durable finish, but it can also be used on walls. It is important to know that using lacquer on walls is difficult – be warned! Based on my experience, your walls have to be flawless (lacquer highlights imperfections), apply lots of coats and is extremely labor intensive in general.

Steven Gambrel uses black lacquer in an urban loft on the walls and ceiling.

Amanda Nisbet used lacquer on a wall as well, and I think they both look great!

Low VOC ( Volatile Organic Compounds) paint. VOC refers to an organic chemical that affects human health and the environment. Most paint companies now offer low or zero VOC paint ranges in an attempt to become more environmentally friendly. Depending on where you are in the world there are different environmental legislation, so the level of VOC in the paint may be different. It dries quickly and doesn’t smell so bad.

If you want an extra hand trying to figure out which finish would be best for your project, head on over to Farrow & Ball as they have a Paint Finisher Chooser.  Benjamin Moore also has a paint chooser available.

Hope this helps!

Image Credits: Farrow & Ball (1-2), House and Home (3), S.R. Gambrel (4), Amanda Nisbet Design (5).


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