Most talk about paint revolves around the latest colours or the best brands.
But the place where appearance meets functionality (when it comes to paint) is finish.
Paint finish is another way of saying paint shiny-ness. And there are good reasons to choose the right shiny-ness for each surface inside your home.
Nearly all ceilings are painted in a Flat or Matt finish. The main advantage of Flat paint is that it doesn’t reflect. So light fittings illuminate the room below and don’t create any distracting shapes on the ceiling. Also until recently ceilings in old houses were a bit flimsy and prone to cracking. A flat paint hides minor imperfections very well.
In the USA it is not uncommon to use a flat paint finish on walls. I tried this myself on an investment property I own. It looked great and hid centuries of patching and plastering. BUT … when my dear tenants wiped the marks and scuffs on said wall, the wiping left lots of visible swirls and scrub marks, which is why nearly all Aussie walls are painted in … Low Sheen finish.
Low Sheen is a tiny bit shiny. Dulux have a range of Low Sheen wall paints the best of which is ‘Wash and Wear’. Taubmans’ low sheen range is lead by ‘Endure’.
Choice did a side by side comparison of various Low Sheen wall paints and found that most were pretty much similar EXCEPT when it came to scrub-ability. Cheap Low Sheen paint literally comes off when you wipe or scrub it. Expensive stuff doesn’t.
TRIM (DOORS, WINDOWS, SKIRTING BOARDS, PICTURE RAILS)
Trim has a hard life. It suffers constant bumping and knocking so needs to be resilient and tough. Traditionally a High Gloss Finish has been used to paint trim. But high gloss can look a bit ‘syrupy’, especially on old surfaces that are not completely smooth. A more contemporary finish is ‘Semi Gloss’. It’s shinier than the Low Sheen walls but hides some imperfections and just looks more up to date.
EXCEPTIONS TO THE USUAL
There are some exceptions to these 'rules', mainly in very wet rooms (bathroom or laundry) or greasy rooms (kitchens).
Bathrooms and laundries can fight mould much better if both ceilings and walls are painted in Low Sheen or even Semi Gloss. The mould has more difficulty taking root on these smoother surfaces.
In even the cleanest kitchens a thin layer of oil builds up on the walls and it soaks into the ceiling. Over time this spoils the appearance (unless you like the 'Heavy Smoker House' look). So when it comes time for a good scrub, a slightly shinier surface can make the job easier.
Having said that ... the 3 finishes are standard for the good reasons outlined above, but really you can do anything you jolly well want when it comes to finishes. A bold, decorator statement can sometimes be more important than super-longevity.
A Low Sheen ceiling could work if you want an exact match with your walls. Super High Gloss new doors could look great in say black. And walls that don't get many sticky fingers would look nice in a matt finish.
I've been drawing and painting since I was a kid. I've studied art and design and have worked in visual areas my whole life. Now I'm a house painter!