Interior Painting: Sheen Choices

living room painted in a light neutral tone

Deciding to re-paint the interior of your home is one great way to express your personality in your home.  The experience of customizing your home can be both exciting and overwhelming. In the beginning, all you are deciding upon is which color to apply in which room. Then suddenly you realize each color is available in about 30 different shades and before you know it your head begins to spin. Amazed that you finally decided on those perfect shades of Grey and Blue for their respective rooms of the home, you get asked if you know which level sheen you would like in each color and you realize you have no idea how to respond. Is there a right or wrong sheen to have in certain areas of the home? How many levels are there and does each level offer something special other than more or less shine? In a nutshell, placing the appropriate level sheen is certain spaces will ultimately enhance the look and even the durability of the paint so it is important to that you make yourself familiar with exactly what it is each level has to offer.

Paint Sheen Levels

The most important thing to remember with paint sheens is that the higher the level of sheen, the more shine you are ultimately going to get. The highest level sheens, referred to as gloss sheens, have increased light-reflective appearances. Therefore, the farther away you travel from gloss sheens the more flat the pain will appear. The levels are ordered as follows:

  • High-Gloss
  • Semi-Gloss
  • Satin
  • Eggshell
  • Flat (Matte)

Where to Apply Different Levels of Sheen in the Home?

Deciding how shiny you would like each room to look ultimately has little to do with deciding which level sheen goes in which room of the home. Of course some prefer the Matte look over the Gloss look and preference is always something to keep in mind however, the first thing you should be considering is if the room is high traffic or not. If it is then it’s important to consider how durable you might need the paint to be based on how often, as well as how rigorously, you will be cleaning the painted area (walls, cabinets, furniture, etc.). If you plan on using some serious elbow grease to scrub the area clean you are better off going with a higher sheen rather than a flat sheen. This is also where, as previously mentioned, preference comes into play.

High-Gloss: Because High-Gloss paint is so durable it is recommended for the re-painting of extremely high traffic items such as furniture, doors and cabinets. More often than not however, High-Gloss paint is primarily used for furniture only.

Semi-Gloss: This level of sheen is preferred over High-Gloss for items such as cabinets and doors for the reason that is maintains its durability but is not overwhelmingly shiny. When painting trim however, Semi-Gloss is considered the best route hands down for the aforementioned reasons. Using a Semi-Gloss sheen on trim will leave it looking elegant even after you have used a little elbow grease cleaning off any scuff marks it may have accumulated. When it comes to choosing a level of sheen for the Bathroom, Semi-Gloss is bar none the best! Before painting a Bathroom you will want to seriously consider how well the paint will hold up long term after it has undergone years of moisture and humidity leading to stains, chips in the paint and peeling of the paint. For the same reason Semi-Gloss is one of the more washable sheen choices, it is a perfect fit for the walls and ceiling of a Bathroom as it will hold up best without being as overwhelmingly shiny as the High-Gloss option.

Satin: Considered to be one of the most frequently used sheen levels through-out the home, Satin is a perfectly acceptable choice for just about any room in the home including the Kitchen, Living Room, Dining Room, Bedrooms (specifically Children’s Rooms), Laundry Room and although not the preferred choice it is even acceptable to use Satin sheen in the Bathroom or on the Trim if you desire a little less shine to your sheen in those areas. Because of Satin’s ability to maintain after having frequently been cleaned, it is considered to be most desirable in the Kitchen. This is such a high traffic area that it requires a regular wipe down but is rather neutral in regards to the level light it reflects.

Eggshell: Just as the name suggests, the amount of shine this level sheen gives off is identical to that of an actual eggshell. Still able to maintain after a mild cleaning, Eggshell is appropriate for areas such as the Living Room, Dining Room and Bedrooms.

Flat (Matte): This level of sheen is most appropriate for a little to no traffic area such as a ceiling although, it is surprisingly the most common choice of interior paint used in Bedrooms and Common Rooms. Just because it is the lowest level sheen choice does not mean it cannot maintain after a cleaning. The trick is to test out a spot of the painted area and make sure you are aware how much pressure you can wipe with before the paint begins to fade. It is recommended though, to only use water when wiping this type of paint rather than any harsh cleaners.

As long as you keep in mind both the look and durability you will get with each option, the decision of which level to use in each area of the home will be a much easier one to make. It is important to note however, there is no industry standard with paint sheens meaning different brands may show different results in regards to the amount of shine you end up with. Though as long as you compare your choices, you will know which brand best suits your needs.

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