Knowing how to choose paint that flatters, enhances and protects your home is a life skill most of us would appreciate. But strangely the knowledge of paint textures and paint types and when to use a satinwood paint over eggshell paint doesn’t come with your set of new door keys. So we’re going back to basics to get all the paintbrushes in a row, from the best paint for walls to how to choose paint colours so you can create works of art you can enjoy every day.
Where To Begin When Deciding How To Paint A Room
Before you start designing exciting painting ideas, you’ll need to choose the right paint for the job.
Wall paint can vary hugely in cost, finish and effect. It’s really worth spending some time considering how to paint your walls in context with your wider interior scheme, because far from just a workhorse backdrop, the best paint for walls becomes a central pillar that can pull a whole scheme together.
Consider what you will be putting in the room as well as what you already have; people often consider a wall colour without looking at the qualities of the furniture they will be pairing with it. Wall paint colours will either enhance your belongings or flatten them; consider a bland magnolia box that makes wood furniture seem unexciting and old fashioned when the warmth of wood could be brought out with a rich teal or given a modern edge with a dark grey flat matt finish behind. Decorating with paint colours that are picked out in details in accessories also creates a sense of unity and depth (like a cushion with a navy fleck against a navy wall) as does painting different surfaces with different finishes, even if they are all of the same tone.
Surfaces and solutions
What’s your house like? Old uneven walls? New and polished? Perhaps a mix of the two? The right paint finishes can bring all these spaces together, so why start at the end; Paint colours will hugely affect your mood and experience of this space, so start by thinking what you’d like to feel like in a room. A bedroom for example, may be more restful if you’re looking for a calm space, may be better with a ceiling painted a slightly lighter tone of a warm wall paint colour than a stark white. A satin finish for painting window sills will also appear more restful than a high reflection gloss. Want a fuss-free kitchen that is the heart of the home? A tough paint that is wipe-clean and can take a bashing will mean you can stress less over trikes and crayons. And don’t forget some surprising details. Try a dragged paint finish on wooden Venetian blinds or a gloss on a bathroom wall to create a Chinese lacquer effect. Wherever you have a paintable surface, you have the opportunity to transform with a lick of cleverly applied paint.
Paint textures and paint types
It can feel like a maze, the paint aisle in your DIY store. Before we get on to types, a few terms to understand. Water based paint versus oil based paints are the first place to start. Oil based paint is sturdy and strong but also slow drying (so don’t attempt to paint the front door on a rainy day). Water based dries faster and is often cheaper so a good option for large expanses of interior walls. There are also lots of new technical innovations in paints such as light reflecting for low light level rooms, chemical free for nurseries to combat in-home pollution, or eco for a greener option.
Then it’s all about the finish.
For windows and doors, and other areas that need to be sturdy Gloss paint is the go-to for woodwork. As well as being strong and weather proof it reflects light so even a black paint can bounce rays back into a room.
Satin paint, or as it’s sometimes known, Silk, is not as shiny as Gloss but not as flat as a matt paint. It can be used on walls and woodwork. Anything with a reflective quality over a flat expanse like a wall will make the imperfections more visible but in a house that has historic quirks this can be a lovely feature.
The vintage feel of Eggshell paint is perfect for old properties and also to soften some of the harder edges on modern homes. It’s a delightful way to create a subtle contrast between the walls and the woodwork of a window, add some flat satin curtains or an undulating Pirouette blind in the same tone and you have a room worthy of a 1950s Madmen set.
Walls painted in Matt Emulsion benefit from its smoothing qualities, as it helps hide lumps and bumps.
Painting for effect
The British way of painting a house tends to be white gloss on wood work, white ceilings and flat colour on the wall. But thinking outside these inherited rules, there are lots of ways to answer the decorator’s dilemma of how to make a room look wider, or how to make a small room seem bigger.
It’s all about proportion and intensity of colour and tone to play with optical illusions. The wall furthest away from you, if painted a paler colour than the two adjoining walls, will bring the side walls in and make the room seem longer. Reverse for a wider room; darker colour at one end and lighter on the side walls. Need more height? Paint the room’s skirting and walls the same colour to increase the visual experience of the wall. To lower the ceiling chooser a paint darker than the walls: even only a few shades deeper will create this effect. Ceiling too low? Let a pale ceiling colour creep down the walls by 50cm, creating a false picture rail look. Painted blinds or a fabric blind in a colour similar to your wall will create the illusion of another solid wall when closed, creating a sense of extra warmth. Like to use white but want something more interesting to draw the eye? Statement mirrors reflecting back light in a room can work like jewellery, giving a sparkling effect and doubling the effect of any daylight or light fittings.
Once the basics such as what paint to use on wood or wall finishes are covered it’s time to identify any potential opportunities to add in some quirks and focal points to take your design to professional levels. A fluorescent paint on the edges of doors to add a contemporary amusing flash of colour in an all white bathroom or fun in a kids playroom. Homework need encouraging? Why not create a gloss pale blue sea using magnetic paint for boats and a landmass in green chalkboard paint for Geography and World History notes?
If you live in a period property, enhance its features with unexpected types of paint finishes or by picking out details as accents. Alcove ideas can be updated by lining with a contrasting tone to the main wall around it, such as an on trend flat harvest gold emulsion on the walls with a pale pink interior with plants and flowers of varying shapes and colours on the alcove shelves. It will make it a compelling soothing focus and improve the air quality, another idea to keep in mind for creating a healthy home office. If all this creative experimentation has left you with a glut of tester pots, take the chance to reinvent an old table or a pretty old wooden chair. If you’re going to paint tea mugs make sure you over varnish or add a layer of glass. Just make sure you put your finished article somewhere prominent; no point in all that hard work and talent missing out on the justified compliments.
If you want to know where fashionable home design is headed, take a look at our guide to the Maison L’Objet trends straight from Paris.