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All things interior with Louise Higgins of Aspire Design

Painting finishes explained

All things interior with Louise Higgins of Aspire Design

Entrance hall with various paint finishes

Choosing the perfect paint finish for your home can be a little daunting so this week I thought I would explain the different paint finishes to suit different surfaces in your home e.g. a door frame, radiator etc. to help demystify the decision process.

For your Interior Walls and Ceilings

Let’s start with walls as there are the largest surface that you will paint. Emulsion is the main paint used for interior walls and ceilings, but you also need to be aware of the finish you would like to achieve.

Sheen is a major consideration for all surfaces as sheen has a direct impact on how shade looks. Different sheen levels enhance or hide imperfections dependent on the sheen level you opt for. Sheen levels can vary from enhanced matt to soft sheen depending on your required finish. Today matt finishes are still trending with many homeowners as it helps to hide imperfections in the walls and has great depth of colour. As paint colour changes in natural and artificial light and according to the time of time always test your paint colour in your room to ensure you are happy with the colour.

Painted paneled walls

For high traffic areas such as a hallway or kitchen a 3%-7% soft sheen is a preferable sheen level as it is easier to clean and more forgiving. However, if you just love the look of a matt finish then you could consider a more durable stain-resistant finish like ceramic matt which gives a flat matt finish that is silky smooth yet washable.

Bathrooms tend to require a higher sheen level as flat matt finishes may show water marks and stain easier. You will find some paints on the market today that are moisture resistant and mould resistant, so these are options to consider for a busy bathroom. Semigloss paint stands up the best to water and cleaning and therefore ifs a good choice for childrens bedroom and bathrooms provided there are no imperfections on your walls.

To create a fun feature wall in a childs bedroom or playroom consider chalkboard paint or magnetic paint to create fun surfaces for playtime.

Painted built in units above

Exterior Walls

For exterior walls you need to ensure you use an appropriate exterior masonry paint to ensure it can combat the demands of our Irish weather. Opt for a paint that is mildew and mould resistant and resists dirt pick-up. Ensure you treat any algal growth or mould prior before you paint your exterior walls.

Painted walls and wardrobes 

Wood Surfaces

For wood surfaces you can not use an emulsion paint as it will chip off. Instead you need to use either an eggshell, satin or gloss finish for your surfaces. Most paint companies supply paint colours in all finish types so it is easier to match paint colours. If you have chosen an emulsion paint for your walls and you want your radiator cover painted in the same colour then you simply opt for an eggshell, satin or gloss finish depending on the sheen level you prefer.

Other surfaces that would require a specific wood finish are doors, architraves, skirting, wood paneling and kitchen cabinets. Eggshell tends to have a discreet low sheen to create a calm classical look. Whilst a gloss finish can have a sheen value of 90% which can add an energy to a space.


When painting your radiators, you may wish to paint them in a contrasting colour to your walls or in the same colour. An Emulsion paint cannot be applied here, but you can opt for an eggshell, satin or gloss finish depending again on the sheen level you like. Gloss paint can be a good choice as it is exceptionally hard wearing and easy to clean. Gloss paints can have a 80-90 % sheen level, whilst an eggshell water based alkyd for metal can have 25% sheen.

Painted fitted wood unit

Floor Surfaces

If you want to update your existing flooring there are a few paint finishes to consider such as oil based paints or water based floor paints. Oil based paints tend to be more durable but have a longer dryer time.


Today we are all very conscious of the environment and upcycling and repurposing items is experiencing major growth as people experiment with creative paint finishes. As mentioned earlier eggshell, satin and gloss finishes can be used on all wood surfaces, but you might also like to try some alternative specialist paint finish depending on the look and style you want to achieve. Some of the trending paint finishes today to create specialist effects include chalky paint finishes, metallic detail, distressed finish, stenciling and spray paint finishes.

Mismatched older furniture can be unified by using one paint colour to create a cohesive scheme.

Alternatively, if you love to embrace bold colours then a splash of bright colour on a statement piece of furniture can brighten a room and create a stunning focal point.

Painted staircase

Top Tip

Primers can make or break your decorating project. Make sure to use the relevant primer for your paint finish to achieve a hard-wearing finish.

Remember if there is a topic that you would like covered in 2020 then please drop me a line with your suggestions. Thanks, Louise winner of TV3’s Showhouse Showdown, 086 399 9926

See my weekly column every week in the Kildare Post,  10,000 copies delivered to newsagents across Co Kildare, and it's free of charge!

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