What’s the right paint sheen for your walls (and other surfaces?)

Let’s address a really common question we get from our clients during a color consultation – what paint sheen should you choose for all the surfaces in your home?

Here are our usual guidelines:

Walls: Eggshell

Bathroom/Laundry room Walls: Satin

Ceilings: Flat

Bathroom/Laundry Room Ceilings: Satin

Trim/Doors/Cabinets: Semi-Gloss

exceptions to our usual guidelines:

Do you have surfaces that are extra dinged-up? If you live in an older home, your walls, doors, or trim may be showing a lot of dents, dings, and scratches. If you don’t plan to repair or replace them, consider a satin finish instead of a semi-gloss finish. Shinier surfaces will show more “character” than duller surfaces, so using a less-shiny finish can mask unwanted texture. (This can work for walls with a poorly done or extra chunky textured surface, too.)

Have extra active kids or big dogs running in with muddy coats all the time? You might want more washable walls. In that case, you might want to go with a Satin finish on all your walls, not just your bathrooms. In general, the shinier the finish, the more washable and durable the surface.

Have you chosen a really dark color for your master bedroom, dining room, or media room? You might think about a matte finish since darker paints can look kind of plasticky in a shiny finish, whereas a matte finish will tend to have a velvety look, especially in Benjamin Moore’s Aura paint, or Sherwin William’s Emerald paint.

Do you have your heart set on a dark color for your bathroom, but you don’t want it to be shiny? There are matte finish paints made specifically for the humidity of a bathroom (for example, Benjamin Moore’s Aura Bath and Spa Matte Finish.) This will only matter in a room with a tub or shower. If it’s just a powder room you can do a regular matte or eggshell finish, especially if you have tile on the splash-zone around your sink.

That’s it! Hope this helps you choose just the right sheen for your painting project. Now you just have to find the right color. 😉

May your home always be happy! 


Hi! I’m Rebecca West.

I’m not your classic interior designer because, frankly, I don’t care if you buy a new sofa. I do care if your home supports your goals and feels like “you.” Remember, happy starts at home!