9 June 2021

Choosing the right paint for your home

There is nothing quite as bewildering as choosing paint. What with the overwhelming choice of finishes and colours, it can be really difficult to know where to start. In this article we are going to try and break it down for you a little, in the hope of making the process a whole lot less daunting, should you be thinking of redecorating your home.

Firstly, let’s bring it right back to basics. There are two types of paint; water-based paint and oil/solvent-based paint.

Water-based Paints

These are the most commonly used and environmentally responsible option. The majority of wall paint sold today is water-based and that is primarily because of it’s ease of use.


  • Have less odour and do not react with pollutants in the air, making them the most environmentally friendly option.
  • Are easy to apply
  • Are much quicker to dry than their oil and solvent-based counterparts drying in approximately 4-6 hours.
  • Are more colour stable and do not fade in sunlight and/or over time
  • Can be used on almost all surfaces
  • Easy to clean with water only
  • Minimal VOC content
  • Non-flammable


  • Colours do not tend to be as vivid or rich
  • Do not tend to be as durable as oil/solvent-based paints
  • Can delaminate from wall if dampened

Oil/Solvent-based paints

Oil-based paints can be used on almost all surfaces. They have an extremely high durability factor and a lustrous finish, but the trade-off for this is that they emit strong fumes that can be overwhelming and are harmful to the environment. You will need to break out potentially even more environmentally damaging chemicals such as turpentine, for the clean up process on utensils, brushes etc. Making these paints a much messier alternative.


  • Attractive gloss finish
  • Good for high moisture areas such as bathrooms
  • Good levelling-it is possible to achieve a smooth high gloss, while showing a minimum number of brush strokes
  • Hard, extremely durable finish


  • High levels of VOC’s
  • Messy
  • Extremely difficult to wash off

Once decided on the type of paint, you will have to factor in what type of finish is best for the space.

When choosing a paint finish, it is really important to carefully consider where the paint will be used and the job it is intended to do. For example, you will need higher levels of durability for areas with a higher traffic flow, you will need to consider how easy the paint is to clean for rooms that are likely to get messy such as kitchens and young children’s bedrooms.

In basic terms, the higher the sheen, the higher the shine and the more durable the paint will be.

Although with newer technologies, durability is now improving across all sheen levels and this is lending itself to people becoming more creative and experimental with their use of paint finish. Full gloss accent or feature walls are becoming increasingly popular, a really bold move!

For a more nuanced, subtle effect, Farrow & Ball director Sarah Cole suggests, “Try painting a stripe of full gloss on a matte wall in the same colour to create a striking textured look.”

Listed are the different types of paint finishes and what they are best for;


Is a non-reflective finish that absorbs light and is great for disguising surface wall imperfections. It is generally considered to be the standard sheen for walls, having the most pigment, which means it will provide the most coverage. It is however, the most difficult to clean without taking the paint off with the grime. A matte finish is best for low traffic rooms with lots of light. Adult bedrooms, for example.


Between satin and matte the sheen and durability spectrum, eggshell is a mostly flat finish with just a hint of lustre, so named because it resembles the surface of a chicken’s egg. Slightly velvety in appearance with a soft glow and easier to clean than matte. A great all-rounder for every day spaces like living rooms and bedrooms.


These are mid-sheen finishes that will reflect some light, meaning that application floors may be difficult to hide. A very durable finish great for higher traffic areas such as kitchens and bathrooms where easy clean up is required.

Semi/High Gloss

These finishes are gloriously light-reflective and are the most durable options. They will highlight any surface imperfections though, so you may need to put in some prep time and be careful with your brushwork. Traditionally used on accents, doors, architraves and skirting. Or any areas that you really want to stand out.


There really is a maddening array of colours out there to choose from. A very basic rule of thumb is that light, cool and pale colours will recede to make a room look larger. Dark, deep and warm colours will expand to make a room look smaller.

Take inspiration from colours that bring you joy, and reflect a certain type of mood, we have lots more information on this in our Colour in Design article or remind you of an experience or place. Draw on fond memories or look to nature or your favourite piece of artwork perhaps.

It is helpful to show a certain amount of restraint when bringing home sample pots as too much choice often does more harm than good. Equally unhelpful is testing a myriad of shades on your wall as there is little that is more attacking or confusing on the senses. They will also react to one another as well as the existing wall colour itself. Whites will look green, greys will look lavender etc.

The best thing to do is to paint a thick square of card or piece of wood, that way you can look at them without other colours getting in the way. You can also take them to other parts of the room to see the effect of them combined with the colours of things like skirting boards and window frames. They are also helpful to take with you to look at things such as furniture, fabrics and carpets.

Once you see the colour going up hold your nerve and be brave! Rarely will the colour of the walls be up for scrutiny as much as they are at this point. Your furniture is likely to be missing or pulled into the centre of the room and covered, no pictures on the wall, curtains/blinds up etc. Once everything is back in it’s place and begins to work in harmony it is unlikely the colour of the walls will be given that much thought again.

Until it’s time to redecorate that is…