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A guide to paint sheens, from glossy to matte

Yas sheen yas (but also, in some cases, no)

Sam Frost

So you’ve done the hard part—after much debate you’ve finally settled on a paint color. Now, the merchant wants to know what sheen you want and there are so many choices. We asked artist Mary McMurray to help us sift through the options.

For the past thirty years, Murray has run her own color consulting business, called Art First Colors for Architecture, in Portland, Oregon. Her unique perspective—she’s an artist and also became a licensed painting contractor in order to mix her own colors—makes her an authority on the medium. Here’s a cheat sheet for choosing the right paint sheens.

1. In general, there is a sheen scale

The first thing to know is that sheens typically exist on a scale, usually from flat (no shine) to glossy (ultra-shiny), with steps in between. According to McMurray, a loose sheen scale that accelerates in shine quality looks like this: flat > matte > eggshell > satin > semi-gloss > gloss or high-gloss.

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The sheen designations can be a little confusing at times because each paint manufacturer coins their own. For instance, at Benjamin Moore, satin is also referred to as Pearl. At Farrow & Ball, sheens are referred to as emulsions. In general, however, a scale will exist.

2. Shine tends to equal durability

The general rule for matching a paint sheen to the room is this: The higher the shine level of the paint, the more durable it will be. This means different sheens are appropriate to different areas of the home, depending on their activity level.

There can be exceptions to this, thanks to modern developments in paint formulation. For instance, Sherwin-Williams now makes a line of flat paint called Emerald that they advertise as having the same “washability and durability as the matte or glossier sheens.”

3. Low sheen for low traffic rooms

The lower end of the spectrum, that being the flat and matte sheens, are typically used for low-traffic rooms since the finish is susceptible to marks and stains that don’t easily wipe off. This makes these finishes good for places like adult bedrooms or home offices—as opposed to kid’s rooms where there is more activity.

When picking a flat sheen for a wall, McMurray suggests using the highest quality paint possible, as it will be more durable in the long run. “If you do happen to get a handprint on a flat-finished wall that you used a cheap paint on, and you try to wipe it off, it’s probably going to destroy the finish,” she says.

4. Higher sheen for high traffic or moisture-prone rooms

Since higher shine equals higher durability, use an eggshell, satin, or semi-gloss in the bathroom, kitchen, hallways, and kid’s rooms. This ensures that constant exposure to moisture doesn’t affect the finish and impromptu stains or scuffs can be cleaned off the walls easily with a sponge and cleaner.

In the bathroom and kitchen, make sure to extend the same sheen to the ceiling that’s being used on the walls. “In the kitchen, it depends on what kind of cooking you do and how much ventilation you have,” says McMurray. Some people might be able to do a matte finish in a kitchen but a safer bet would be eggshell or higher, for ease of wiping down splatters.

5. Highest sheen on trim and doors

Baseboards, doors, and trim are probably the hardest hit surfaces in your house. For that reason, opting for satin or semi-gloss will protect them. “For trimwork, I like satin or semi-gloss depending on what the project is,” says McMurray. The higher sheen will highlight the architectural features and allow them to contrast with the body of the wall surface nicely, while also surviving nicks and scrapes better.

Just be aware that higher sheen paints are thinner in consistency, and can be harder to work with and control for a smooth finish (depending on your painting skills, of course). For this reason, self-leveling paints, like Benjamin Moore’s Advance line, are extremely helpful. McMurray does not often specify a gloss or high-gloss finish, except for the occasional client who wants a standout front door.

6. Consider the overall effect in the room

In addition to selecting a sheen for its function, McMurray cautions people to also be aware of how it will look in a room. Consider the wall surface quality as well as the sheen’s overall effect. Lower sheen paints will soak up more light rather than reflecting it, which is good if there is imperfections in your wall surface that need to be hidden. Shinier paints will reflect light and draw attention to bumps and divots in drywall or plaster.

The latter can be “very distracting,” says McMurray. “I like flat finishes on the ceiling, partly because that doesn’t offer any distraction with light bouncing off the surface and it creates a calmer effect,” she says.

Noise amplification is also something to consider. “If you painted a whole room in semi-gloss, the light would feel very noisy,” says McMurray. “You would get a lot of glare reflected and it wouldn’t be a very calm and peaceful environment.” She has read studies wherein it was discovered that audible noise increases with the degrees of sheen.

7. For the exterior, go more matte

Exterior paint has a similar range of sheens, yet here McMurray cautions against painting your whole house satin, even if the logic is that the shinier finish will stand up better to the weather and elements. “Then your house looks kind-of like a big plastic box,” she says. “So I would not recommend satin on the siding.” Instead, save satin for the exterior trim and paint the body of your house flat or “low-lustre.”

Looking for the perfect shade of white paint? We’ve got you. And check out all our advice for painting your home here.

Continue reading A guide to paint sheens, from glossy to matte

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6 Futuristic Projects Sprouting Green Roofs

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In steady progression, tiny ecosystems rich with flora and fauna are changing the face of our built environment. From reducing storm water runoff and city dust to energy-efficient cooling, the benefits of green roofing go beyond beautification. In less than a decade, the green roof movement has experienced a major boom—and as costs lower and technology makes installation easier, this environmentally conscious trend is increasingly defining the facades of both existing and new buildings.

Most recently, lawmakers in France passed a law requiring all rooftops on new buildings built in commercial zones to be partially covered in plants or solar panels. The legislation joins similar already instated in cities including Toronto and countries including Switzerland.

Here, Interior Design spotlights six recent projects with spectacular green roofs, from an art storage and research center that nearly disappears into the landscape, to an addition to a high school sunk below a football field, to a youth center with dramatic triangular green roof geometry that melds with an adjacent medieval castle, and more. 

Zeimuls, Centre of Creative Services of Eastern Latvia by SAALS. Photography by Ingus Bajars.

 

1. Firm: SAALS

Project: Zeimuls, Centre of Creative Services of Eastern Latvia

Location: Rezekne, Latvia

Standout: A triangulated green roof is the dramatic defining aspect of a competition-winning youth center, built around this Latvian town’s main tourist attraction, a medieval castle. Despite the geometry of the facade, rooms in the plastered concrete 65,000-square-foot-structure are spacious rectangles soaked in natural light, drawn in from a ground-level interior courtyard and windows of assorted shapes and sizes. 

Storage and Conservation Facility for the Musée du Louvre by Rogers Stirk Harbour + Partners. Image courtesy of Rogers Stirk Harbour + Partners.

2. Firm: Rogers Stirk Harbour + Partners

Project: Storage and Conservation Facility for the Muse?e du Louvre

Location: Liévin, France

Standout: The entire sloping roof of this 215,000-square-foot storage and conservation facility, housing 250,000 pieces of art, will be covered in vegetation. Set to break ground in 2017, the $65.4 million project 120 miles north of Paris will also feature a glazed facade, light-filled work spaces, and the latest technology in climate control and flood protection. 

Gammel Hellerup High School by Bjarke Ingels Group. Photography by Jens Lindhe.

3. Firm: Bjarke Ingels Group

Project: Gammel Hellerup High School

Location: Hellerup, Denmark

Standout: Sections of a new two-story arts building, part of a 27,000-square-foot addition to this high school, are sunk below the football field. Conceived to provide a direct route to the front entrance, BIG’s design plan allows students to walk from the adjacent multipurpose hall and sports complex, sunk 17 feet below ground, to classrooms, cafeteria, and to the street. Informal seating on the roof of the arts building provides a view of games underway. 

Espace Bienvenüe by Jean-Philippe Pargade Architecte. Photography by Luc Boegly.

4. Firm: Jean-Philippe Pargade Architecte

Project: Espace Bienvenüe, the Pôle Scientifique et Technique Paris-Est (PST)

Location: Marne-la-Vallée, France

Standout: A 660-foot-long undulating wave of verdant green grass forms a rooftop park at Université Paris-Est’s technology and science center, the Espace Bienvenüe designed by Jean-Philippe Pargade. Completed in 2014 within a $100 million budget, the center is situated on a sprawling 17-acre site a 20-minute drive from Paris. Its 430,000 square feet of floor area includes 270 square feet of office space, 110,000 square feet of laboratory space, a 250-seat amphitheater and meeting space, and a 1,700-seat restaurant. 

Primary School for Sciences and Biodiversity by Chartier Dalix Architectes. Photography by David Foessel.

5. Firm: Chartier Dalix Architectes

Project: Primary School for Sciences and Biodiversity

Location: Boulogne Billancourt, France

Standout: Three levels of vegetation bloom at this 70,000-square-foot primary school with 18 classrooms and gymnasium—the latter in a separate structure—located just outside Paris. With the goal to encourage the return of biodiversity to this urban center, Chartier Dalix Architectes created a three-tiered hanging garden planted in 20 inches of soil above the gymnasium and a living wall of prefabricated blocks of concrete. The concrete has two finishes—the visible layer is polished, while the other sides are ribbed and rough like natural stone, inviting nesting for birds and insects. 

The Jacob K. Javits Convention Center renovation by FXFOWLE in collaboration with Epstein. Photography by David Sundberg/Esto.

6. Firm: FXFOWLE in collaboration with Epstein

Project: Jacob K. Javits Convention Center Renovation

Location: New York, NY

Standout: As part of a two-phase renovation and expansion undertaking, square-footage at the Jacob K. Javits Convention Center will balloon from 1.9 million to nearly 6 million square feet, with additional exhibition space, meeting rooms, service areas, support space, and food service areas, as well as an associated hotel. Phase 1, already completed, included re-cladding the entire building enclosure and planting grass over almost the entire surface area of the roof.

View the slideshow for more images from each project

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Quality Products Needed To Meet Green Building Standards Today

Sustainable healthcare facilities will need energy-efficient building enclosures from the outset.

Continue reading Quality Products Needed To Meet Green Building Standards Today

8 Things You Never Knew You Could Get at IKEA

There’s more than just furniture at the Swedish store; here are the most unexpected offerings.

Continue reading 8 Things You Never Knew You Could Get at IKEA

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