So you are sure that you want that high gloss luster on the plaster walls of your 1920’s bungalow?
What about that flat you want to put on your family room walls where your young ones play and spend most of their time?
The fact of the matter is a definitive “no” to both of these questions.
Sure that high gloss look is great on a nice smooth surface, but most likely your brushed plaster walls have imperfections and textures that will literally shine, with light reflecting off the uneven surface, drawing attention to every detail of the surface.
And while that flat in the family room will hide those imperfections because there won’t be any light reflecting off the surface, it’s pretty much guaranteed that you will be cursing like an actor fired up on a weekend in Vegas, every time you have to attempt to wipe off messy fingerprints, or even a footprint (if you have children you know the high of this happening), off the wall.
Picking the right sheen for your wall is nowhere near as challenging as trying to guess what new surprise will appear on a newscast about actors going through “life” changes.
Just ask yourself a few questions…
1) What is the overall function of the room? Is it a den or office space? A Main family gathering place? A little used room? The main thoroughfare for household traffic?
2) Will the walls need to be washed? A bathroom, kitchen, or utility room will need a good washing every now and then.
3) Are the walls in a condition that there isn’t a worry about imperfections “shining” through?
With these things flowing through the thought process, take these following things into consideration:
1) Flats are great for hiding surface imperfections and textures, but terrible for washing ability, and not to mention burnishing problems with darker colors (burnishing, on a microscopic level, is essentially breaking off the uneven edges of the pigments in the paint film, creating an area shinier than the surrounding area that wasn’t scrubbed down or brushed up against).
2) Semi-gloss and gloss are fantastic as far as being easy to clean, but every texture and imperfection will be highlighted because of light reflected off of the painted surface.
There is a middle ground though. You don’t have to go to sheen extremes.
Eggshell sheen will give some washability, but still help to hide imperfections because there is not a lot of light refraction coming off the surface.
A satin sheen will offer a little more shine and luster than an eggshell, hence giving better washability (although a heavy orange-peel texture will be a little more apparent with the higher sheen level).
There are options available if that low sheen look is desired. There are matte finishes available that, while not a true flat, will help hide those bumps and divots accumulated over a long lifespan of a wall in an older home. Ceramic matte finishes are fantastic alternatives to flat paints. They have great resistance to burnishing from scrubbing the surface (the aforementioned footprint? Wiped away remarkably well with Miller Evolution matte as the coating on the wall without creating a shiny spot).
Just keep these simple suggestions in mind when getting paint together for a project.
Flat – helps minimize visibility of imperfections due to limited light refraction from painted surfaces. It is less washable, therefore use in areas where traffic is kept to minimum. Great for most ceiling surfaces (not for bathrooms or kitchens though). Also works well in a media/theatre room.
Eggshell – Has a little bit of washability, but still helps to hide imperfections. Works well in an office/den area, as well as adult bedrooms or areas of less traffic where there is not a need to wipe down the surface on a regular basis.
Satin – Better washability due to a noticeable sheen. Textures and imperfections will be more apparent than with a flat or an eggshell. Ideal areas for use would be higher traffic areas like an entryway, main hallway, and is a great finish for kids rooms. Also works well as a trim/door finish on those less than perfect surfaces.
Semigloss – Higher sheen means a very washable surface, but also means more light reflecting off of the surface. This is the type of finish you would like to use in bathrooms, kitchens, and laundry rooms for the ability to wash the painted surfaces easily. This is also one of the more common trim/door finishes.
Gloss – A door/trim finish on the most perfect looking of surfaces, although there are those situations on a wall where it would work because of the need to be constantly washed, and help minimize dirt pickup, it is still not the norm.
Choose what is right for needs of the room, but still has a touch of your style to it. Sometimes functionality is better than overall appearance, but remember that there are middle grounds of compromise available. You don’t need to go to extremes and draw unwanted attention. Subtlety speaks louder than an obnoxious jet setter, in the right application.