Confused About Your Paint Sheen? Here’s Why

A woman named Sheena has finally figured out her paint colors but then she goes to the paint store and the dude behind the counter says, “Which formulation and which paint sheen, Ma’am?”

Paint Sheen?

Another decision?

She feels an instant migraine coming on.

Then Sheena whips out her phone and gets on pinterest and finds a chart that says that the walls should never be anything with less sheen than SATIN and that for high traffic areas, you should always use SEMI-GLOSS.

High traffic, meaning, the entry, the halls, bathrooms, kitchen, mudroom, laundry room, kid’s rooms.

And “Oh hell,” thinks Sheena looking at the time and realizing that she has exactly 30 minutes to get back home before the bus pulls up with her 5-yr-old triplets.


I guess I might as well get everything in semi-gloss and that way it will last longer. I’ll probably save some money not having to purchase a different paint sheen for this and that.


I can hear you designers out there snickering…

And that is… because we’ve all come into a home for the first time and seen walls that are painted in a satin or semi-gloss finish; it’s not a pretty sight.

Fast forward two weeks later. Sheena and her husband, the triplets and her 18 month old son come back from their 10-day vacation in Turks and Caicos. Sheena is so excited to see the freshly painted house—

Instead she gasps in horror.

Not only does it all look like a plastic gloppy mess, but every little imperfection stands out like an arrogant purple pimple on the tip of one’s nose on prom night.

Sheena calls the painter in a blind panic.

Well, m’am, my job is to paint not tell you you’re making a mistake.

Geeezzz, the first time in the history of house painters did he not open his yap when he should have!

Sorry, that was highly inappropriate and rude. But my experience has been that house painters are often fond of giving out advice to my clients without discussing it with me first. Not all. But too often.

Sheena then calls the paint store dude.

Sorry, ma’am, it’s not my place to question your sheen and you didn’t ask.

That’s right, she didn’t. And she could have. The guys who sell the paint are often more knowledgeable than the ones who do the painting. It’s not an absolute, but more the norm. Benjamin Moore does provide sale’s information to their vendors.


So, what Paint Sheen Should Sheena have Chosen?


If this was 15 years ago, 90% of my clients wanted to do egg-shell for the walls. Some did do the flat finish. I did flat. And it’s really fine. But, in the living room, I also had wainscoting and up the stairs because yes— without that the walls were a big bloody mess from little boys who use the wall as a handrail.

The wainscoting was painted with Pratt and Lambert Ancestral in semi-gloss and I loved it more than I can possibly say!

P&L doesn’t seem to have stayed up-to-date with the new technology of paint and it is difficult to get in some parts of where I live. So, I decided about 13 years ago to stick with Benjamin Moore.

The science of latex paint for some companies such as Benjamin Moore has come a long way since then.

Several years ago, Benjamin Moore came out with their Aura line and that is when the matte finish was introduced. Matte is also available in Regal Select.


And it is washable.

Problem solved.


Another issue with using a shiny paint sheen for the walls is something called flashing.

No, silly not that kind of flashing.

Serena-Lily-Inkwell-Living-Room- flashing paint sheen

Above (with the help of picmonkey), is an example of paint flashing. It most commonly occurs when new paint is painted over old paint and you can see it as lighter or darker than the original color.

It is usually more obvious with shinier paint.

The matte paint does not usually flash and to prove this, I did a little experiment.

I pulled the drape aside to put the paint in a place that is normally covered up in case it did flash.

touch up paint sheen with my paint saint and benjamin moore regal select matte

  1. My wall before.
  2. Paint inside my handy Paint Saint
  3. Loading on the paint and taking off the excess is so easy with My Paint Saint
  4. Applying the paint with My Paint Saint goes on like silk
  5. Right after showing the wet paint
  6. Three hours later. Paint is dry and with no flashing. (the lighting is different, but I couldn’t help that.) :]


Gloss and semi-gloss enamels withstand cleaning better than flat or latex paints with the exception of Benjamin Moore Regal® Matte Finish N221 with Advanced Particle Technology®


For bathrooms with tubs and especially showers, you must use a paint formulated for bathrooms. Benjamin Moore Aura Bath and Spa Waterborn Alkyd interior paint is excellent for this.

The matte formulation is available in Aura or in Regal Select. Both are zero VOC. Mine is Regal Select. It covers beautifully. No more than two coats. And priming is not necessary. Well, that’s what they say. My walls were painted over three years ago and so far so good.

You can use egg-shell, but if you really want a velvety flat finish for your walls, then matte is the way to go.

You can use matte for the ceiling if it’s the same color but generally, I always use flat.

Yes, thank you in the back row. I’ll be taking questions later.




This used to be a no-brainer. I ALWAYS specified the Satin Impervo Alkyd which is a fancy word for oil-based paint.

Then, the EPA got all nuts like we’re bathing in it and decided to take our oil paint away in New York. I think you can still get it, but maybe not in large quantities.

About six years ago, Benjamin Moore came out with their ADVANCE FORMULATION as an answer to this issue. And that is because there IS a difference between oil and latex. Oil is oil and latex is plastic.

The Advance formulation is a “waterborne” “alkyd.” (sounds like an oxymoron to me, but I’ll take it at face value.) It is cleanable with soap and water, unlike oil which requires a solvent to clean up. But Advance levels like oil and it has the longer drying time like oil. And it won’t yellow. I did not have any issues with that, but many insist that oil yellows over time.

Advance is available in high gloss, satin and primer, with semi-gloss soon to be added. It’s offered in quarts, gallons; MSRP: $44.99 per gallon. (from the Benjamin Moore Website)

I had the Pratt and Lambert oil all over my old home for 18 years and it stayed true to color.

Shearer Painting using Benjamin Advance in semi-gloss paint sheenvia Shearer Painting

I guess BM has come out with the semi-gloss in Advance. It actually looks wet there in the photo.

photo Joshua McHugh via Architectural Digest alternating matte and gloss stripesphoto: Joshua McHugh via Architectural Digest

This effect is achieved by alternating a flat paint sheen with gloss and it’s the same color. How cool is that!


This is a front door  painted in the Aura formulation in gloss.  Aura is not the same as Advance.

It’s more like traditional latex. I don’t mind this slightly rough appearance on an exterior door; it gives a feeling of age if it’s not too excessive. There are a few things that can help if it’s getting out of hand and too gloppy. And that goes for interior moulding as well.

The prep work needs to be super thorough. You need a smooth unblemished surface to begin with.
With thicker viscosity paint like Aura or Regal Select you can use a little Floetrol to help with the leveling and minimize brush marks.

This might require some experimentation.




You can purchase Floetrol here.



What if the trim is already painted in either oil or latex?


It really depends on a few things. If there’s a ton of paint on it, it might be better to start afresh. If it’s only one or two paintings, you should be fine to use the Advance whether it is currently oil or latex. I always do recommend a good sanding before applying paint to trim to keep it crisp.


What if I don’t want a shiny finish on my trim such as shiplap?


Then, it is fine to do satin or eggshell. If you desire a very chalky finish, you could also try the matte formulation. OR, you could try something like Annie Sloan chalk paint.


I want a shiny finish. Can I do semi or high gloss on the walls?


Yes, absolutely. I would reserve this for dark rich colors. but just know that the shinier the paint, the more the imperfections will show.


And one other thing to be mindful of and that is the opposite occurring with dark colors if using a matte paint finish.


It might chalk which sounds just like what it is. If you brush up against the wall, it’ll leave a light chalky mark. Yuck. So, with very, very deep browns, charcoals, navies and blacks, it might be safest to do egg-shell. However, I’m not 100% sure about that. Has anyone done the matte finish with a deep, deep color? If so, how does it hold up?

My walls are mid-darkish color and they do not chalk in the matte finish.


Can I do a high gloss paint as a kind of poor man’s glass-like lacquer?


Well, yes, but no, but yes. Yes, because you can certainly use it for a shiny wall which definitely looks great with deep colors in a more formal room. But no, because it is not lacquer. That is a completely different process.


Nash Dwell explains the process of how to get a lacquer wall beautifully in this post.


This is an excellent post from Jack Pauhl about how a professional painter has gotten superb results with Benjamin Moore Advance. However, it’s not a DIY job.

Benjamin Moore Advance paint on a chest by Karen Hockman Interiors


Karen Hockman  got lovely results when she refinished this dresser with Benjamin Moore Advance.

Bottom line with the advance. There is a steep learning curve when using it. One can get superb results, but it takes practice and figuring out what works and doesn’t work. Information can be gotten from Benjamin Moore about all of that.


benjamin-moore-cool-breeze-csp-665-design-lindy-allen-photo-Jessie Alexis Photography-painted-ceilings-hall

Design: Lindy Allen

photo: Jessie Alexis Photography

This finish on the wainscoting, trim and doors is most likely either Advance or in traditional oil.


emily gilbert photography

Emily Gilbert Photography

Interior by Daun Curry

These walls look to be lacquered. There is a greater depth and richness I think.

Heather Clawson for Habitually Chic- design by Thom Filicia

Designed by Thom Filicia for the Kip’s Bay Decorator Showhouse 2012

Photo: Heather Clawson


To recap. For me, it’s usually flat on the ceiling, matte on the walls and semi-gloss on the trim. But satin is fine too. 






77 Responses

  1. Hi Laurel,
    I LOVE your blog and basically consider you the definitive source on anything design-related. So glad I found you while doing our remodel. I didn’t read through every comment, so please forgive me if this has already been addressed. We want to paint our cabinets in a satin finish…..does this dictate that the trim (same color) must also be satin? Another suggestion I read online from a painter is all trim/doors/cabinets/crown can be satin if you like that look better, but you could do baseboards in SG if you have kids and pets. What do you think about this, would it look odd? Would love to hear your comments! Thank you!

    1. Hi Ashley,

      I don’t think it makes that much of a difference in durability if it’s satin or semi-gloss. The trick is the paint job! But if it was my job, I would try to do all the trim in the same finish– cabinets too. It’s easier and there could be a slight difference in color between the finishes. And the other thing is… you probably won’t see much difference. Only in certain lights might you notice a slight difference. But you’ll be living your life (one day) and none of it will matter. Just experience talking.

      I remember years ago getting that last stock of a commercial grade carpet for my upstairs, a landing and two bedrooms.

      Well… I am pretty sure that the boys’ room just beyond the landing was a different dyelot. Quite different. It bugged the crap out of me for weeks, but then one blessed day… haha… I forgot all about it.

  2. Hi Laurel! Help! We are newbie homeowners and just made the mistake of painting our entry and living room ceiling in a semi gloss finish (oops!). We are using the same color for the ceilings, crown moulding and trim (Sherwin Williams extra white) throughout the house. We obviously want the moulding and trim to be in semi gloss but forgot to switch to a flat for the ceiling. Can we repaint over the semi gloss with the flat version of the extra white? Or do we need to prime all over again? I’ve even read that we might have to sand it down but I realllly want to try and avoid that if possible. We just painted this 2-3 days ago, so it’s still pretty fresh. Any help is appreciated, thank you!

  3. Hi Laurel

    I decided to paint my dining room with BM’s Pomegranate which is a deep red. I noticed you often recommend Matte. Do you actually prefer that finish or is it more of a maintenance concern?

    I’m single and don’t have children or pets. I’m on the fence on whether a deep red may not look as nice with a slight sheen. So I was wondering whether you believe the matte finish is more pleasing to the eye when it comes to deep reds.

  4. Hi Laurel,

    I just finished reading your book which is beautifully presented and so inspiring.I wished I lived in New York so that you could decorate my home. I asked my husband to buy me your rolodex for my birthday and find it so helpful as an empty nester attempting to freshen up my home. Your paint blogs have been invaluable and I have used your suggestion of BM shoreline in my family room (after trying 7 colors) which made it appear much more inviting.

    I am hoping you can blog about exterior paint colors for shutters, trim, and front doors,garages that work well with orange brick homes. We have a orange brick New Orleans colonial with a balcony that has a black wrought iron railing.We have painted our shutters black in the past (almost everyone in our neighborhood uses black as a classic look) and presently have dark green which makes the house look a bit country.I have been online hunting for paint inspiration to update the front of our home but have not found much on it except for pinterest images. I would value your opinion.

    Thank you for all your blog postings, Lisa

  5. Hi – I just discovered your blog via a link someone sent to your Restoration Hardware post and have been reading it for the past 2 hours – yikes! Anyhow, I was wondering if you would mind sharing the name of the paint color in your “flashing test experiment” — I am looking at a few of the BM grayish-purple-lavender type colors right now and can’t decide between them. Would love to know what color that is because it is beautiful!

    1. Hi Liska,

      Thank you. It is Tropical Dusk 2117-40. It looks very much on my monitor like it does in real life. My room is broken up with a lot of windows and has two doors. But art work looks great as does anything with gold tones against it.

  6. Hi Laurel! Love your blog. We live in Colorado, and recently had our newly purchased home painted before moving in (I consulted your posts a lot :). We worked with a fantastic contractor and went with Benjamin Moore paint. We got a color consult, which was a lifesaver. Through the process we learned that out West walls and ceilings are quite different than out East. Walls almost always have texture on them, as do the ceilings. Not popcorn (we got that scraped), but knockdown. And the walls and ceilings are supposed to match in the look of the knockdown. The contractor and consultant recommended more of a semigloss/eggshell on this finish. Flat on the ceilings. It looks very good. I miss my smooth walls and ceilings, but the paint job has given our new home a mega facelift!

  7. Usually I see the wisdom in all of your advice but just wanted to pipe in my personal experience with BM Regal Select Matte in light colors (white dove, moonlight white); my walls did not hold up well with this paint. There are scuff marks everywhere that I couldn’t get rid of. We recently repainted in BM Regal Select Eggshell and have been much happier. We do have three dogs and a baby for what it’s worth. The eggshell seems to be performing much more satisfactorily. Oh and I LOVE my trim in BM Advance Satin! Love your blog Laurel!

    1. Hi Emma,

      Thanks for sharing that info. I wonder what was causing the scuff marks. I had two wild boys, but I also had a lot of wainscoting in semi-gloss oil paint. Oh, I loved that so much and it held up beautifully!

      1. I think the scuffs are due to moving large objects, both from us moving furniture and also from contractors. We have a 1926 tudor that is a complete renovation. Nothing crazy, the old girl just hasn’t been renovated aesthetically in 45 years. It’s a slow process because we’re very picky (though our divergent tastes seem to merge at your blog!). Maybe we can go back to Matte in a few years when we’re done with the renovations. Agreed on the wainscotting though! Somehow our old house actually lacked mouldings so we’ve been adding them, painted in BM advance, all over including a few rooms with wainscotting. That and my Perennials indoor/outdoor fabric help a lot!

  8. Thank you so much for devoting your time and talent to THE BEST DESIGN BLOG PERIOD. You are informative and a true genius. Thanks for helping so many avoid costly mistakes in a range of topics. You are the Mother Theresa of design. Jill

  9. I’ve done two different rooms in deep colors – matt or flat, not sure. Both BM. In both cases, they showed hand prints which couldn’t be removed.

  10. Laurel, big thank you for a funny yet very informative post. think I had ho idea that Matte existed. Or did I? All these companies call their paint sheen a tad different sometimes. Satin and eggshell-are they more or less the same, or am I totally confused?
    (I might be because when I see word “alkyd” or something like that I start getting these glassy eyes, like I’m in a chemistry class again.))

    We have(and will have) orange peel..not a fan, but then it’s much easier to have it in Southern California than in Western Europe..I guess.

    My dream is Venetian Plaster, but we were quoted for $2000 to plaster just the(very modest) fireplace. guess is we’ll have to wait with that.
    I’m sure though some very skilled painters can get great results just with high quality paint. Must be very expensive too-it’s a craft bordering on art sometimes.
    I collect different surfaces and finishes on my Pinterest, not only paint of course. So inspirational.

    When little I could look at the walls for a long time. There were nothing special about them. But they spark your imagination even when plain. It’s like to leave you with this empty new album..

    The comment about “Shining” was highly enjoyable too))))

  11. I’m glad you are recommending a bit of a sheen. When I walk into a room with flat paint, I feel like all the moisture is being sucked from my body! It’s awful. I don’t know who started that, but I’ll be glad when it’s gone. But then I like shine. I even have semi-gloss white on my ceilings. I know, I just heard you gasp. 🙂 But it’s so much brighter (in my dark home) – the light just dances off of it.

    1. Hi Gretchen,

      Well… it’s like a lot of things. That’s why there’s chocolate and vanilla. I do prefer matte myself, but the eggshell is fine and the sheen can only been seen in certain lights and angles.

  12. Thanks for a great post, I’ve been curious about BM Advance for trim and now feel more educated. On my walls I’ve used flat when there are lots of imperfections and eggshell when the walls look pretty smooth. I also used Matte Aura in a bathroom in a previous home and loved it.

    Now I’m looking to have my living room/dining room painted and the walls are currently done in a plaster called American Clay (previous owners). None of the painters I’ve spoken to have dealt with it before. Apparently it has to be sealed with acrylic masonry sealer before one can paint. I’d like to try matte paint because I think it has a bit more depth than flat but not sure what the best formulation would be. Any experience or thoughts on this?

  13. So, I’m still a little confused about the differences in appearance. I’m about to paint a whole house (4500 SF). And I am going High Gloss in the Dining Room with BM Caponata, BOOM!! Drama! Can’t wait, But I was convinced by my painter to go Flat in the rest of the house, and I don’t really understand the difference between Eggshell, Matte etc. We are using all BM.
    And by the way, I have been using your blog for the past year for the renovation of our house and have gotten all kinds of advice from this site. I wanted to give you a big old thank you and hug for all the gems you have here. I didn’t buy your color collection because I already picked out my colors and didn’t want to second guess myself. I wish it had come out just a month prior!!! I literally cried angry tears over choosing a white kitchen cabinet color. Fingers crossed Simply White works out!

    1. Flat is dead flat. Matte is virtually dead flat but washable. Eggshells has a very slight sheen. I would use matte on the walls instead of flat. The rest sounds gorgeous!

  14. Hi Laurel. I just discovered your blog a few days ago (linked off Pinterest), and have really been enjoying it (and I’m not really much of a blog person…). I have a question regarding your advice to always put a flat sheen on ceilings. I have seen the same advice elsewhere as well, and in general I agree (I’ve always been a flat wall girl, regardless of trends), but I’m wondering if your advice is the same for wood ceilings. In my mind, all the wood should be the same sheen, so wood ceilings should be the same sheen as the trim, which I plan to do satin in the home we’re building. It will be our dream home/retirement home, and my last chance to get everything right! We bought a 110-year-old house that being sold to be moved or torn down, had it deconstructed and the pieces moved to our country property, where we are now having the exterior replicated out of new materials, and we (my husband and I) plan to finish out the inside ourselves (for the rest of our lives if we live that long) with the antique materials. Quite a project to say the least, and I’m trying to get all the advice I can! I’ve already gleaned quite a bit from your blog 🙂 Thanks!

    1. Hi Anita,

      The reason for flat on the ceiling is that the ceiling in particular will show every tiny flaw in shinier paint.

      As for a wood ceiling. Is that ship lap? I’m envisioning something a little bit rustic if it’s painted wood. Can’t see what you’re talking about. If you have any doubts, I would hire a professional.

  15. Very informative article, Laurel. I’ve been doing my own painting for the last fourty-five years and agree that paint formulas/finishes have come a long way. My favourite though is still oil/alkyd base paint for trim and baseboard durability however it is just about impossible to find now. That said; as I am upgrading my entire home I just recently used BM Aura (Matte) in four bathrooms and though pleased with results, plan to go back to my favourite brand being CIL (that I believe you can only get in Canada) which IMO is comparable in so many ways but is slightly cheaper. (For your Canadian readers Home Depot carries it and if you have the eye you can match it very closely to the BM colour palette.) In summary; as I will probably be in this home for only a few more years, I am priming (prepping) all areas first where Oil based paint was used to accommodate the new paints regardless many brands claim you do not have to. (No matter what the project is, my go-to Primer is Bulls-Eye 1-2-3 as IMO you cannot beat it!)
    P.S.: Re the two-tone stripe effect; the old method of doing it was with only one colour using a matte or eggshell finish. Then for the contrast you would mask and top it off with a high-gloss, clear/non-yellowing acrylic finish. (Also, please people do not confuse a high gloss sheen with a lacquer finish as the latter requires expertise to apply and is a very involved process.) As for colour-blocking a wall; well that is a another technique in itself. Apologizing for being so loooooong-winded.

    1. Hi Mrsben,

      Very interesting about the stripes. I have seen it done with high gloss and flat too, but your way also works.

      And thanks for reinforcing the point that high gloss walls and lacquer are very different. Did you see the link for the process. The woman starts out with the gloss wall, but then there are about 15 more steps after that to get the lacquer look. I don’t think anyone uses the old lacquer which I believe is that noxious varnish. I’m too tired to double-check that one at the moment.

  16. I need to try using Matte. I’ve always hated flat on any wall because of the lack of cleanability, plus I like the little bit of sheen from eggshell. Thanks for going through the options.

  17. HI Laurel,

    You are THEE best! Whenever I am pondering a decorating question in my head, very soon after , you seem to post the answer! It’s uncanny! Thank you , thank you! And I was wondering if you know what that wonderful glossy blue color is on the door with the brass knocker…it is a gorgeous color!

  18. Fantastic post, as always.

    Funny, when I bought Benjamin-Moore Advance paint to paint my wood trim white, I wanted a full shine, to contrast with (eventually) matte walls in the same color. I asked for semi-gloss. The Benjamin-Moore expert told me to choose satin because their satin looks like semi-gloss and semi-gloss looks like full gloss. (Compared to what? Other brands? I don’t know.) Anyway, I heeded his advice and bought satin. The woodwork is shiny enough, but I still wish I had used the semi-gloss. Creamy white woodwork looks so nice when it is very smooth and very shiny.

    Next time I will tell the Benjamin Moore guy that I trust Laurel Bern more, and I will choose Advance semi-gloss for the woodwork.

    Thank you Laurel!

  19. Hi Laurel!

    As always, your post was just so informative, and funny! I love that you mix a biting sense of humor with fantastic advice for a good read, every time. Re: dark colors and paint finish, our family room is painted the lovely BM Van Deusen Blue in an eggshell finish. We love it, and it shows very few flaws, though I have to admit, I painted it before finding your blog and discovering matte. We have no kiddos running around, marking up the walls, so I can’t speak to wear and tear, but it looks lovely and not shiny at all. Had I the time/money/desire to do it over again, I would go with matte, though, for more richness. We’ve since switched to matte for the remaining rooms of our formerly neon green/brown/yellow/sponge painted abode.

    I would love to get your opinion on finish for the ceiling of a powder room, say, perhaps if someone happened to select an ah-maaaazeee-ing Thibaut wallpaper (Cheetah in metallic silver, maybe?) and wanted to paint the ceiling dark. Still flat? Or does one go for a lacquered look? Is metallic wallpaper + shiny paint a no-no?

    1. Hi Heather,

      Actually, for a darker color, I think the eggshell is the better way to go. The matte paint on a dark blue can look very dark at night– almost black.

      I can’t see what you’re talking about but yes, you can mix a lacquer ceiling with a metallic wallcovering.

  20. I have had incredible results with “Fine Paints of Europe” in Brilliant finish to achieve high gloss walls which everyone assumes is lacquer. However as you state, the prep work must be 100% perfect, including the skim coating layers. And I totally agree that most high gloss walls are absolutely stunning and worth the cost and effort in dark or jewel like colors.

  21. Thanks for the great post Laurel. I was wondering, what do you think of SW Cashmere paint in Low Lustre? I have it in my living room and love the subtle yet rich glow but would it be too shiny for the entire house?
    Also I color matched the living room color from Pittsburgh paints toasted almond. The SW store said they had the formula on file and mixed it for me. Would it be next to impossible to get the identical shade again?

  22. Love your site, Laurel!

    25 years ago, all the trim in my house was painted with BM Alkyd(oil)High Gloss Linen White. Still flawless, rock-hard finish. After remodeling the kitchen, I decided to go “green” and use BM Advance High Gloss Simply White on the trim. Meh.
    While it’s a vast improvement over traditional latex trim paint, here’s the “dirty” little secret: old-fashioned oil-based is better. Alas………..

    1. Hi Gracie,

      I think so too. Although I’ve seen some on new wood that come very close. It also depends on the skill of the painter when using Advance.

      Thanks for sharing your experience. It helps all of us!

  23. This is so helpful Laurel as I agree, getting the proper sheen is just as important as getting the color right. Not that long ago I was at Lowes and I overheard a woman asking for semi gloss for her kitchen walls because her painter told her a kitchen needs to be in semigloss. I couldn’t help but step in and save her from such a big mistake.

  24. I think shiplap has become a buzz word due to the show Fixer Upper on HGTV? Joanna and Chip Gaines incorporate it into their house remodels as it was in common usage for home insulation in Texas in the last century?
    Also just a side note, but sliding barn doors seem to be all the trend now, not my taste, but I first saw a barn door on a Candice Olson Design Show about five years ago. I never saw her do another door, but now they are also on trend in the US.
    Thank you thank you thank you for this post…..I had a friend who went to the store to get flat for the ceiling and the store clerk jerk sent her back with satin because ‘it will last longer and be easier to keep clean.’ Since when do ceilings gather anything but a bit of dust!!!! My friend was very sad when she saw it on the ceiling after the painter came…..people should keeps their mouths shut if they do not understand the situation…..especially paint store clerks….love this blog and congrats on your new venture! These blogs keep me safe! haha

  25. NOW you tell me! Just moved in last week to my brand new house and painted all my walls and ceilings eggshell. Took 3 coats and still have “stripes” where sun hits walls, particularly in dark colors. I’d always heard “flat can’t be cleaned” so opted for the eggshell (which worked great in our old 22 year old home) but was before we all went eco crazy with voc stuff.

    Builders painter said eggshell impossible to patch and have it look good.

    So I am crabby. Probably my fault as painter and builder wanted flat ( i figured due to less work, lazy, etc).

    Other issue is builders detest bm paint and always want to use sherwin williams, and no decorator ever talks about sw paint so we stmble blindly along trying to compare apples to oranges….boy, i AM crabby!

    1. Oh sorry Abby. The painter probably has a contract with the SW dealer and not the BM dealer. That’s my guess and why they say they prefer one over the other. BM makes a fine product.

      SW also has a washable flat finish.

  26. Laurel,

    We just painted our living room in Benjamin Moore Soot using an eggshell finish. I have two little boys (3yrs and 4yrs) and there are no finger prints on the walls! We talked to the guy at the paint store and explained where it was going and who lives in the house, this is what he recommended. I was so thrilled with the result, I put it up on Pinterest before we finished!

    1. Hi Karen,

      Yay for the paint store dude who got it right! Soot is a beautiful black and one of the 144 colors in the laurel home essential paint color collection!

  27. Thanks for the post. I had a house painted by hand for a client last winter using BM aura and had to re-do (at my cost!) as it had dry marks (flashing) all over the place from drying too quick. The store manager told me that aura was supposed to be applied by a spray gun because of that. Has anyone else had a similar experience with aura?

    1. Hi Karen,

      The painter didn’t take any responsibility for his poor result? That well and truly sucks!

      I’ve never heard of applying aura only by spraying. That’s rubbish! But I have heard of flashing occurring if they cut in on the edges first and then allow it to dry and then paint the rest of the wall. #thisbusinessisnotforthefaintofheart !

  28. Laurel:
    I have P&L Ancestral as trim in my home and LOVE it. When I recently renovated, I had my painter have the color mixed by B&M dealer in the oil satin. A really good paint store can match the color.

    If it’s helpful for your readers, I used Advance on kitchen cabinets in a rental unit I own. It’s a great alternative to replacing kitchen cabinets, which even inexpensive ones are costly. However, one needs an exceptional painter for cabinets. Those cabinets look like new.


    1. Hi Ani,

      If mixing by eye, I would say yes. If mixing by computer, then it’s a crap shoot for sure.

      And yes, the Advance formula is like no other paint. It is quite thin and must be put on in several coats. But that is how kitchen cabinets should be painted, no matter what!

  29. Great article. So many changes in paint regulations, but the paint companies have been working hard to adjust. At first after the VOC restrictions came into effect, any paint with any saturated hue would always remain sort of sticky and gooey. Gah!

    What really is the secret behind all those yummy pictures? In my mind it’s the wall finish. Either a top notch gypsum board finish or a veneer plaster finish is needed to make a wall look good, especially if there is any shine in the finish. Do not let your contractor talk you into an orange peel or skip trowel finish.

    1. Hi Ruth,

      That is another great point and one I’m pretty sure I’ve made here on another post. Probably the one about prepping your walls for paint, written several months ago.

      The dum, dum, dum… dreaded orange peel wall. Or what happens after the nappy roller hits the wall a few dozen times.

      Clients don’t love hearing that they should have the painter do a skim coat, because all they can see are $$$ floating away…

  30. I held my breath reading this great post because I did not know from “formulation” and my breakfast room is in process of being painted. But it looks like my painter did. Thank you for including the lacquer article. From it I learned my colored kitchen cabinets are not “glazed,” but lacquered, buffed, and waxed. Really informative piece.

  31. Laurel, ‘Sheena’ didn’t know what paint ‘sheen’ to use? Hahaha, you are hilarious! Thank you for another great post, I laugh and learn all the way through.

  32. Just for reference for anybody wanting to try a full gloss finish on the walls. I painted the walls in my office in a full gloss finish using Farrow and Ball’s Breafast Room Green. It is very dark room! and I’m not one for light colours in rooms that are light challenged. The room looks great IMO! The gloss gives a nice energetic vibe to the room which is very useful in office…. Especially when the drudgery sets in:)

  33. Hi Laurel – what a fantastic and timely article. Plus….I can’t stop laughing. That same DUDE you referred to is at my local BM store. What a dumb shi-thead he is. Now, I no longer need him. I have you, as always. Plus, I read the great article you referenced on how to lacquer you walls or ceilings. Hmmm….wonder if my painter would do that for less than $8000. Or maybe my hubby. I definitely need to get my “sheens” straight for this new construction. Thanks again for wonderful advice and fantastic humor. I LOVE IT ALL!!

  34. Choosing colors is enough now we have sheen and don’t forget tint yadda, yadda, yadda. I have always used flat everywhere and like the no shine and it has staying power – even in the bathroom … flat walls and ceiling EXCEPT this time (sigh) the walls were a sickly shiny yellow and the wallpaper which must have been some kind of rose color underneath showed through. I opted with going (this time) with eggshell ai yi yi. Sure the BM folks said “use eggshell”, sure the painter said “you always want eggshell in the bathroom because of steam”. I absolutely hate it – HATE IT. phew can you see I hate it. Every imperfection from the wallpaper underneath shows yeah, yeah should have removed the paper but I didn’t know it was papered … I know you’re thinking “Duh” . I am one person how much “steam” can one person and two cats make?

    Lesson learned, should have stuck with what I know and like “flat”. Thank gawd it is only in my smallish bathroom, what if I did that in the kitchen or even worse, the living room??? I probably would have hung myself from the beautiful 100 yr old tree in my yard. Have a lovely evening.

  35. Gorgeous paint jobs! My next question to you is; Laurel, is it just my imagination, or do interior designers consistently ignore the “fifth wall”, or ceiling? Now that I read your post and see what can be done, I can’t imagine why ID’s don’t do more with ceilings.

  36. Hi Laurel, I think I know someone like Sheena, although she is nothing short of a fabulous mom of 3 boys and not at all harried 🙂 Great post, amazing pics too. But… what about Pearl finish? I was all set to repaint those plastic-looking semi-gloss shelves in Pearl. I thought that could be a happy medium between Eggshell and Semi-Gloss. The BM store guy told me no one buys Pearl anymore, that it’s from the 1980’s and he doesn’t know why Benjamin Moore keeps it. I painted an old dining room in Pearl and loved the sheen, but not the color grew old on me after the first week.
    And… where did “shiplap” come from anyway? At my young age of 43, I have never heard of shiplap until the last few months (and at least a dozen times now! ) I have always been into interior decorating and DIY and homes… but ‘shiplap’ was never on my radar. Odd word…
    Thanks for your wisdom and wit!!

    1. Hi Christine,

      That’s a good question about the pearl. First of all, not all of the formulations have it and for me, I’ve always been flat or shiny. Then, when they introduced eggshell, probably in the 80’s it began to replace the pearl, I believe.

      Funny about the shiplap and you are right. I’ve maybe only heard of it for the last few years at most. We always called it barn siding before.

  37. Great post again, thank you. I am so glad you mentioned dark colors and flat paint. Years ago I painted our family room flat burgundy, hey it was the 90’s. My daughters discovered they could “write” on the walls with their fingers because rubbing the paint at all left a white mark. One morning I woke to see the room covered in the word “Redrum” from the Shining written on the red walls. Such sweethearts.

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