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  • Writer's pictureElisha Rickward

Help: What paint goes where?

A common question I get asked is what type of paint goes where? Should the woodwork paint be different from the walls and if so why? Can you use one type of interior paint for every room in the house? Where do gloss levels come in? So many questions… and that is before you get to the fun part of deciding what colours go where and how to personalise your home with paint.

Ideally it would be fabulous if you could use the same type of interior paint everywhere across the house – it would certainly minimise the number of pesky paint tins at the end of the job that you need to work out how to dispose (or possibly and practically) stored for emergency touch ups.

However conditions across the house vary (much like the inhabitants who dwell within right). Different areas of the house have different microclimates and thus need different types of paint. Compare a wet area with a bedroom for example – completely different environments. So let’s delve into it.

As its likely the largest surface area a great place to start is with the walls. The standard interior wall paint is a water based emulsion with vinyl or acrylic added for durability. What becomes relevant as you move around the house is the level or percentage of sheen – from very low sheen in the flat (matt) finishes to high sheen (gloss) with other choices in between.

Image Credit: Style by Emily Henderson

In recent years the trend has been towards the ultra flat matt paints. With more pigment particles (and less resins and binders) – they give a beautiful soft chalky finish and they hold and display the colour really well.

This trend for matt based paints is still continuing. In addition to their beautiful finish these paints are very low sheen (think as low as 3 to 5 per cent for ultra flat). Their low sheen nature makes them wonderful for covering up and minimising uneven surfacesimperfections, such as in older homes or on walls where you’ve recently taken down wallpaper. Think of them a bit like your favourite primer and foundation combo..!)

Traditionally their soft chalky finish has come at the expense of durability. The flat nature of the paint means when on the walls they can tend to attract finger prints and scuff marks easily and they have therefore suffered from being wiped down with spray cleaners – so removing vegemite finger marks only to be left with markings from the wettex – not exactly a win-win!

Fortunately this is changing somewhat with technological break throughs from the big paint houses seeing wash and wear qualities being added to low sheen paints optimising stain resistance.

Breakthroughs aside I would personally still recommended you pick something with a bit of sheen for high traffic areas – most notably stair cases, entrance ways, halls etc where quite frankly we know life happens. Low sheen paint has better washability than its flat / matt counterparts.

For rooms with a high degree of moisture – like laundries and bathrooms – it helps to have a wall surface that you can easily wipe down. Look specifically for mildew-resistant paints designed specifically for these spaces. The finish of the paint – or the sheen level – goes beyond the aesthetic in the bathroom – as the glossier paints have a tighter molecular structure than flat paints, making it more difficult for moisture to penetrate. This means that you can scrub stains away without worrying about moisture from your cleaning endeavours ruining you painted finish.

Image Credit: Studio McGee

Whilst talking about bathrooms of course you can now buy special paint for tile rejuvenation – it does require a good deal of prep work but the results are wonderful – particularly when used on the walls – though they have been successfully used on floors too… just talk to your painter about suitability. As an aside you might like to refresh the grout at the same time as you don’t want it laughing at your new and improved tiles.

Image Credit: Making Pretty Spaces

Gloss used to be the go-to for woodwork but it has slightly fallen out of fashion. Its tougher robust nature is part of the reason it was so popular. Gloss requires long to dry but again technological advances have seen one coat and no drip options making them a bit more user friendly. Back in the day it all used to be oil based but these days you can readily find water based paints in all finishes of paint including gloss. A bonus is that water based whites stay white for longer than their oil based counterparts that can tend to yellow over time to a not so nice custard colour.

These days of course you don’t have to use gloss just on woodwork – its shine and durability means that it’s making an appearance on walls to make an impact. It’s high sheen can help to bounce light around in darker rooms. As gloss is so easy to clean it can also look good on the lower half of a wall – perhaps beneath a dado rail or used with some form of panelling.

Image Credit: Veranda

As the image above shows gloss also has its place on the ceilings – though of course your painter might not love your request as its harder to use and you would want your ceilings to be in good condition otherwise you will be highlighting every imperfection!.

Of course painters are always a great resource when it comes to looking to for advice on the more practical side of paints – what paint is best for where…they are dealing with transformations day in day out. But of course don’t always feel you need to take their advice as to colour – on many occasions I have encouraged and cajoled them to trust me when specifying dark colours for dark rooms as they have said ‘nah not a good idea’ and then they have been pleasantly surprised with the outcome.

Remember to have fun with paint… if you don’t like the colour there are (seemingly) a million more options out there. Be brave and have fun.

Elisha x


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