Matte or Gloss? Which Paint’s Best for Your Apartment?

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Thee open cans of paint

If you’re like most people out there, it’s important to you to put your own personal touch on your home. One of the first things you’ll probably consider in that regard is painting the walls a new color upon moving in. But take a quick trip to your local home improvement store and scan the dizzying array of color options at your disposal, and you’ll understand just how easy it is to feel overwhelmed by it all.

The endless palette of hues (not to mention the wide variety of finishes) can leave even the best of us feeling puzzled as to which paint to choose for a particular room. Lucky for you, we’re here to help! Read on to get “in the know” about all the different possibilities available to you — then get to painting!

What’s the Room’s Purpose?

Your initial job is pretty simple: you need to figure out what the room you’ll be painting is going to be used for. Do you anticipate this being a high-traffic area? Will food be eaten in this room? Both of these are important questions to ask yourself. Gloss finishes are usually quite easy to maintain, so if the room is going to be prone to messes or lots of people gathering (i.e. kitchens and living rooms), a high-gloss paint will be everything you’re looking for. Glossy paints are also perfect for those with young children, as spills and dirty fingerprints can be wiped off them with minimal hassle.

By contrast, matte finishes tend to be the better choice for bedrooms and dining rooms. After all, matte is tasteful in its simplicity and makes an elegant statement, which is exactly why so many people gravitate towards it. Unfortunately, it’s a more difficult task to keep a matte-painted surface looking its best. Indeed, any minor scuff marks or stains can be notoriously hard to remove from this kind of a finish.

Special Surfaces

Of course, walls may not be the only surfaces you plan to paint. Many units have trim or baseboards in their entryways to which you might want to add a fresh coat of paint. As we mentioned above, your safest bet here would probably be a gloss finish if you’re dealing with an area that comes into frequent contact with dirt and grime. Other wooden elements, such as cabinets or doors, also look great with a gloss finish, as you won’t have to worry about the natural oils of your hands or smudges from food showing up on them.

Taking a Closer Look

Walls certainly take a beating over time. And depending on how old your unit is, your walls have most likely withstood a great deal of wear and tear from previous tenants. For that reason, you’ll really want to make an honest assessment of the existing state of your walls — are there any dents, bumps, or other damage they’ve sustained that you can readily see with the naked eye? Take note of any and all surface flaws you’re able to observe.

Understand that a gloss finish will only serve to highlight these imperfections, as light reflects off glossy surfaces and makes them all too obvious. A flat finish will have the opposite effect, as less shiny paint tends to be much less reflective — and that works great for concealing the ravages of time.

Consider the Color

If you’re leaning towards a particularly vivid shade of paint like a bold coral or aqua, you’ll really like the look of a high-gloss finish, which only adds to the vibrancy of already-bright colors. Most interior designers agree that more muted colors, like earth tones and pastels, call for the more subdued effect of a matte finish. Plus, the combination of a paint’s color and finish ties the overall look of a room together and gives it its own unique feel.

Finding a Happy Medium

If you find yourself on the fence regarding which finish to choose, don’t freak out! In the world of paint, you aren’t consigned to just gloss or matte. You can actually opt for a finish in between these two extremes, such as a semi-gloss, which doesn’t have quite the same mirror-like sheen as a true gloss finish, or satin, which is still somewhat glossy but not exceedingly so. Eggshell is more towards the matte side, and makes a good compromise for those who want the sophisticated look of a matte finish but also want a surface that’s easily washable.

Note that depending on the manufacturer, the terms “satin” and “eggshell” can be interchangeable. If you’re in doubt, make sure to ask a sales associate for assistance.

The bottom line is that we have seemingly limitless choices when it comes to paint. Gone are the days when we all had to resign ourselves to just one shade or the other. By following these guidelines, you’ll have everything you need to visit the paint aisle with confidence and select the shade that’s just right for your walls.

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