06 Dec 2021

Interiors: Which paint finish is best for your surface?

All About Interiors with Louise Higgins

Interiors: Which paint finish is best for your surface?

Choosing your paint for your home

With Covid-19 we are spending more time in our homes, so it is the perfect time to do a little DIY.

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

For your interior walls and ceilings

Let’s start with walls, as they 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, depending 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 day, always test your paint colour in your room to ensure you are happy with the colour.

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 is a good choice for children’s bedrooms and bathrooms, provided there are no imperfections on your walls.

To create a fun feature wall in a child's bedroom or playroom, consider chalkboard paint or magnetic paint to create fun surfaces for playtime.

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 before you paint your exterior walls.

Wood Surfaces

For wood surfaces, you should 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.

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 drying time.


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.


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 finishes including 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.

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.

Louise is a former winner of TV3’s Showhouse Showdown. Contact 086 3999926; email;

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