Let's Talk Paint

Let's Talk Paint

Here’s all you really need to know about paint.


Oil based paint used to be the “gold standard” of house painting, but it smelled terrible, was difficult to apply, and is bad for the environment.
Latex paint became more popular because it cleans up more easily, is less expensive, and is less smelly.  Next came low VOC or no VOC paint  - the most environmentally friendly style of  paint. VOC stands for volatile organic compounds - carbon containing compounds that become vapors or gases. Well, that sounds awful enough that you’d probably want to opt for that version of paint. Even if it’s a wee bit more expensive. As long as it does the job, right? And comes in the color you want, right?


I will be honest here. I always prefer to use Low VOC or No VOC, and that is what I usually request from my painter. Whether or not he complies, I’m not entirely certain. But if you are very sensitive to paint smells, you should definitely stick to that.


The next question I’m asked by the paint contractor is the “finish” of the paint.
High gloss, semi gloss, satin, pearl, eggshell or matte (also called flat)?

This is how I work it out:
I prefer the woodwork to have more shine than the walls. In an older, elegant home I opt for satin finish paint on the woodwork. I might up the shine to semigloss if we are mixing modern  details into the design scheme, and if our approach is mostly contemporary I might go with high gloss on the woodwork.
For a contemporary home I almost always choose high gloss.
But for walls, the eggshell finish paint is the most forgiving in most homes. Just like an eggshell, it has a tiny bit of sheen, but not too much. Just enough to allow you to easily wash off smudges. And if the walls are not perfectly smooth, the sheen is not so bright that it highlights imperfections However, if the walls are totally smooth, I love to use a pearl finish paint. It’s slightly reflective surface makes the walls subtly glow. It’s more expensive than the other finishes, but for the right room, worth it. Flat paint is chalky, doesn’t clean well, and is the least expensive. I never use it, except for ceilings.

Okay, now you want to know about color, and by that you mean white. Its the color I am most queried about. Look, there are plenty of fine paint companies and they all produce very nice whites, but the industry standard is Benjamin Moore paints. That does not mean that Sherwin Williams paints are not as good - it’s just a shorthand for people in the design industry to refer to their colors and they make a reliable, if slightly more costly product. So that’s what I primarily use. I think imported paints are overpriced and silly. And frankly, the concept of “designer” paint is just nonsense to me. Once it’s on your wall, it’s just paint.

But we were talking about the color white.
Here goes: for an older home, pre-1940, use Benjamin Moore Dove White on walls and woodwork. It’s commonly considered to be a warm white, and appropriate to that setting. If you like the contrast of lighter woodwork paint with Dove White, paint the woodwork Decorator White. For a fresh, bright interior, paint the walls and woodwork both Decorator White. It’s my favorite white. It’s a pure white, with no undertones of yellow. But if you are just not sure about either color, choose Linen White. It’s not too bright and not too yellow.

And there you go!