Anyone used semi-gloss paint on walls?

zeebeeNovember 5, 2008

We're renovating an old townhouse and trying to inject some modern sensibilities into it. After looking at our low-ceiling'd, low light dining room with dark wood trim, our decorator suggested a semi-gloss white paint on the walls and ceiling to get some light and energy into the room. Has anyone tried this? I know it goes against the maxim of flat/matte/eggshell on walls and would be curious if it worked in your house. My painter argued with me this morning when I gave him the sample quart, he was so sure it was 'wrong' and I'd hate it.

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I've used satin in bathrooms before and it did seem to brighten up the space a bit compared to the previous flat paint. However, all the little wall imperfections were pretty noticeable. If it's an older house, you might check your walls first to see how bumpy they are; dry wall seams, nail pops, etc might suddenly jump out at you.


    Bookmark   November 5, 2008 at 2:21PM
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My MIL does this in her kitchen and bathrooms. Personally I don't care for that look at all and it's far from modern and energizing. I'd think long and hard about it and would want the decorator to show me spaces where she's done this successfully. Then I'd decide if I agreed it was successful!

Define what you mean by low ceilings - lower than standard 8'? Is this renovation for you to live there or resale or rental?

    Bookmark   November 5, 2008 at 2:25PM
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It used to be common in kitchens and baths because the higher-sheen paints were the only truly washable paints. Now that I have discovered BM's Aura paints, which are truly scrubbable and touch-up-able in a matte flat. As others have said, matte paints hide surface imperfections better -- my old walls have lots of those. The Aura also has this really fabulous powdery look and feel that just makes you want to touch it.

(No, I don't work for BM -- just very happy with their paints.)

    Bookmark   November 5, 2008 at 2:34PM
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Equest17/Sarah, that's a good point about the walls, though they are getting a fresh skim from the painter so there shouldn't be big obvious problems.

DLM2000, the ceilings are exactly 8' but feel lower - there's ceiling molding and trim starting about 3" below the ceiling; the window casements, double doors and wainscoting are all dark wood; and the windows are very close to the ground (house is slightly below ground at the front). This is our house for the next 7-10 years, so we're willing to make some bolder choices (and probably stupid mistakes, heehee).

SarschlosR, I like the Aura line but can't find the colors I want. I do like the low VOC.

    Bookmark   November 5, 2008 at 2:57PM
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I've only seen semi-gloss on walls in rentals and it looks terrible. It shows every bump and uneveness. There is always glare from lighting. Sure it "reflects light" but that doesn't mean it brightens the space up, it means you will be squinting from the glare.

The only reason to use simi-gloss on walls would be in an area that will get constant scrubbing like in a kitchen around the eating area if you have kids. Food can stain flat paint and it can't be cleaned like semi-gloss can.

    Bookmark   November 5, 2008 at 3:01PM
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zeebee, Aura can be color matched to any color you like. Aura is not limited to their Affinity colors.

    Bookmark   November 5, 2008 at 3:04PM
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The previous owners of our home used semi-gloss in the living, hall, and kitchen. I thought it looked awful. Yes it does have shine, but that didn't do a thing for the low-light living areas. I agree with your painter, keep that paint reserved for trimwork.

Personally, I would choose yellows for brightening up the space. I went from white to a bold yellow in my former living room and it made ALL the difference. It felt much sunnier. Also, think about painting the ceiling either the same or slightly lighter shade of the wall (if you go with color). That will give the ceiling more lift, since it blends with the other walls instead of standing out as a stark difference.

Invest in good lighting. Can you add can-lights to the room? Place your lamps strategically to take full advantage of the light they give off.

    Bookmark   November 5, 2008 at 3:51PM
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Well I'll be the odd ball out....I agree with your decorator and in fact, I use semi-gloss more often than I use eggshell.

I don't do white...I find it boring, but I do like semi-gloss paint in colors. It adds a lovely texture to a room, hopefully one of many since a well designed room should include textures in all forms.

My family room is done in a deep green on two walls, and the balance are parchment, all are done is semi-gloss. My library is done in a dep gold/butter (matched to a lion's mane) in semi again. The ceilings are both in different light tones, semi as well.

Semi and Gloss have one negative, and that is that they show mistakes or wall imperfections more than a flatter tone would. But they're great walls for art, and do provide that reflective quality your designer mentioned.

I do trim in gloss always, but it's evn more important in a room done in semi.

Look at several design mags...semi is used quite often, and even the next step up, gloss is used in many homes, not just in the kitchen :)

    Bookmark   November 5, 2008 at 3:53PM
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Satin was my standard paint for a long time as that tiny bit of extra sheen helped bounce light around. Flat sucked the life out of our contemporary homes. I've done two rooms in BM's pearl finish (in their Regal line), which was great. Not as obviously shiny and thick as semi-gloss, but a nice luminescence and silky smooth tactile quality.

    Bookmark   November 5, 2008 at 3:53PM
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Not sure why your ceilings feeling lower than the 8'. I don't think it would just be a matter of the dark trim - I've seen lots of rooms with dark trim that didn't feel squatty. Any chance you can post pics - particularly of the windows? I'm assuming they are low to the floor but don't hang low - that they are normal window height which is roughly door height. Is the crown trim dark like the door and window casing? If so, maybe paint that white or matched to whatever wall color you end up with if you don't care for the contrast. Again, pictures are a big help in getting a feel for your space. Can't tell from your post if you LIKE the dark trim - is it an attractive feature in your mind? Is it a wood species that's worth highlighting? If not, then maybe that's a place to put your semi-gloss.

    Bookmark   November 5, 2008 at 3:57PM
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Personally, I think that dark trim will make a room feel squatty. I equate it to a person wearing all white but with a dark brown belt. It cuts you off and makes you look short and wide. If you have dark trim at the floor and ceiling, it is doubling this effect. I agree with dlm and I would paint it.

As for the walls... I would not go higher than satin in wall sheen. Semi-gloss and gloss are for trimwork.

    Bookmark   November 5, 2008 at 7:26PM
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My trim is all done in Tint de'nigre....which is basically brown/black. I would never describe the rooms as "Squatty".

    Bookmark   November 5, 2008 at 11:43PM
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I'm appreciating everyone's input. I took some pictures last night and will try to upload them later.

Painting the trim is not an option we want to explore. This is an 1890s townhouse and the prior owners stripped many layers of white and red paint to get it down to the original wood. Some of it is in better condition than the rest but it looks kind of cool, battered, patina-y to me, and I'm inclined to keep the look of the old wood in place. Given that, we were hoping that shinier paint on the walls would provide a neat contrast between matte/old and shiny/modern/new.

    Bookmark   November 6, 2008 at 9:29AM
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