Shine and Sheen


Let me paint you a picture: You’re at the paint store. After sorting through thousands of slightly different colors and arduously selecting the perfect tint or shade to embellish your bedroom walls, the indifferent sales clerk asks, “What finish do you want?” Wait, what? You are already emotionally exhausted from sorting through heaps of colors. Dearest reader, let me help.

Choosing the right paint finish is dictated by two things, appearance and function. Finish options range from dull matte to overwhelming sheen.

FLAT paint provides a smooth, matte finish that softens facades and disguises surface imperfections. This finish is difficult to keep clean, so avoid high traffic areas (children and pets will not get along well with flat finish paint). Flat paint is less durable than other options, so keep a reserve of the paint for touch ups. This finish absorbs light and is ideal for hiding bumps, cracks, and flaws.

“¢ Suitable for (adult) bedrooms, dining rooms, formal living rooms, libraries, and ceilings.

EGGSHELL/PEARL/SATIN finishes are similar to flat, but with an added hint of sheen and a large dose of functionality. This cleanable, velvety finish has a charming texture and is ideal for high traffic areas.

“¢ Suitable for hallways, bedrooms (even children’s), family rooms, living rooms, powder rooms, kitchens, bathrooms, and woodwork.

SEMIGLOSS paint is lustrous and durable, perfect for areas that are exposed to moisture and get cleaned frequently.

“¢ Suitable for kitchens, bathrooms, utility areas, laundry rooms, doors, trim, and woodwork.

GLOSS paint is an extremely hard and durable finish that exudes a glossy, shiny luster. Gloss finish reflects light and tends to magnify imperfections, so meticulous sanding and surface preparation is essential.

“¢ Suitable for woodwork, trim, floors, cabinets, doors, and furniture.


Because the different finishes absorb and reflect light in different ways, consider the lighting of your space when selecting your sheen. For example, if your dining room has very dim lighting, the space will benefit from a finish with enough gloss to subtly reflect light. In this scenario, an eggshell finish would add a little more sparkle and ambiance than a flat finish.

Add a handful of contrast and dimension to any room by combining several paint finishes. Cover the ceiling with a flat finish to hide surface flaws. Use an eggshell or satin finish on walls for a functional surface with a bit of shine. Select a semigloss finish for doors, trim, and woodwork for a durable, easy to clean surface. Using different sheens within a space is aesthetically pleasing, but ultimately it’s a functional solution, too.

Need a few more tips? The EcoSalon archives offer great painting advice. How about a guide to eco-friendly paints? Or a little color guidance? Grab your paintbrush!


(Photographs by Emma Lee of Pearson Lyle Management.)