Wall Paint – Do You Need Sheen, No Sheen Or Both?

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Color, shade, hue, and environmental effects are just some of the things to consider when buying paint. After you have chosen the color you need to determine the sheen. Do you need paint with sheen? If so, how much? Unfortunately, sheen is not a standardized term and variants from paint manufacturer to paint manufacturer.

The Hy-Tech Web site makes it easy to understand sheen. “There are four basic sheens: flat, satin, semi gloss, and gloss,” the site explains.

Heidi Baker and Eden Jarrin discuss sheen in “When Picking Paint, Separate the Eggshell from the Satin,” published in “The Seattle Times.” Paint sheen “refers to the degree of gloss or sheen in a paint once it is dry,” they say. Eggshell paint has little sheen. Semi-gloss paint has more sheen and reflects 35-50 percent of the light that reaches it. High-gloss reflectors 75-80 percent of the light.

Your local home store will be glad to give you sheen chips. But the only way to understand sheen is to buy a small can of paint, test it on the wall, and let it dry. I tested my color choice and stuck with it. I also read Internet articles and watched decorating shows. None of the shows used the combination I was considering – half sheen, half flat.

Our dining room has a chair rail. To save money, I asked the painter to put eggshell paint (a bit of sheen) above the rail and leave the area below the rail flat white. He was surprised by my request and that worried me. Was I making an expensive mistake? Well, the dining room turned out just as I hoped. Why did it work?

1. Reflected light. The wall above the chair rail reflects natural light from two windows and lamp light in the evening. Window frames, baseboard, and doors reflect natural and lamp light because they are painted with high gloss enamel.

2. Optical illusion. Many of the decorating shows I watched put light paint above the chair rail and dark paint below. I did the opposite. Darker paint above the chair rail makes the trim and picture arrangement “pop.” Flat white paint below the chair rail draws the eyes around the perimeter of the room and makes it look larger.

3. Coordinating colors. Because I tested the paint on the wall I knew off-white and pail taupe worked well together. A pale taupe area rug, in a color called canvas, unites the walls and floor. Blue accent colors add life to the room.

Getting used to a new color scheme takes a while, but the more I looked at our dining room, the more I loved it. Did my husband love the room as much as I did? I asked him this question and his reply made me feel like a decorating star. “Everything came together,” he said, “because you planned it so well.”

Copyright 2008 by Harriet Hodgson

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