Satin? Glossy? Eggshell? How to choose a finish when painting a NYC apartment

Satin? Glossy? Eggshell? How to choose a finish when painting a NYC apartment

By Jennifer White Karp  |
June 19, 2018 - 10:00AM

A flat finish is typically used on a ceiling, since it hides imperfections well.

The Designers Group

Are you walking on eggshells when it comes to choosing paint finishes? Don’t know your glossy from your matte? 

Selecting paint for your apartment is one of those things that reduces even the most color-coordinated New Yorker to a puddle, but knowing what finish to use and where to use it is key to that decision. 

Brick Underground asked Blima Ehrentreu, CEO and founder of The Designers Group, an all-female-owned interior design firm, to break down a few of the different types of finishes that New Yorkers need to know. (For more tips, check out Brick Underground's best advice on painting your apartment for information on selecting a shade of white, DIY, stripping old paint, and more.)

What’s the deal with ‘eggshell’ and where do you use it?

“For New Yorkers, we often suggest an eggshell as a finish for walls. It’s a great medium between glossy and matte, so it will give off that nice sheen but not be too shiny, which works well for a smaller space and won’t be overbearing.” 

Where do you use a glossy finish, and where do you use a flat one?

“We always use an eggshell or satin finish on most walls around the home. Flat is often used on ceilings since it's the least durable paint finish, but it hides imperfections well. When painting a child’s room or high-traffic hallway, it’s a good opportunity to go with a finish that’s a bit glossier. The glossier the finish, the more resilient it will be.”

What finish would you use in a room that doesn't get a lot of light?

“In a darker space you should stick to a semi-gloss or satin finish. This will offer a little reflection with the possibility of bouncing light off the walls, making a smaller space feel a little larger.”

A glossy finish seems tricky, can you give us some more tips?

“When choosing a finish, it’s important to know what will be going on in the space, for example, in a relaxing and comfortable living room you wouldn’t want to have high-gloss paint on the walls. If you want to make a statement with a bold paint shade, you can use a glossy finish, but before doing so, it's important to make sure the wall is smooth and free of imperfections. If we want to change up our usual approach, we will use a high gloss on the ceiling. Using a bold color with a nice shine gives off great reflections to showcase the design of the room.”

What are your favorite paint brands—and your go-to shades and finishes?

“We often go with Benjamin Moore, and we love to offset wall-coverings with paint. We’ve got a couple neutral colors that are our go tos! To name a few: Coventry Gray, Gunmetal, and Calm, all in eggshell. If the budget is higher, we will go with Farrow & Ball since their paint is richly pigmented, long lasting, and responds well to light.” 

Do you use the same finishes when doing a feature wall?

”Depending on the design of the feature wall you can either use the same finish or switch it up. For example, if we were to do a feature wall that had a frame, we could do the frame a darker shade with a glossy finish and have the wall be a light shade with an eggshell finish. This offers contrast within the color as well as the finish.”


Jennifer White Karp

Managing Editor

Jennifer steers Brick Underground’s editorial coverage of New York City residential real estate and writes articles on market trends and strategies for buyers, sellers, and renters. Jennifer’s 15-year career in New York City real estate journalism includes stints as a writer and editor at The Real Deal and its spinoff publication, Luxury Listings NYC.

Brick Underground articles occasionally include the expertise of, or information about, advertising partners when relevant to the story. We will never promote an advertiser's product without making the relationship clear to our readers.