Making Your House Work: How to Pick the Right Paint


Last time, I shared creative ways to add color to your house. Now that you have inspiration, you need some paint. But all paints are not created equal.

The Basics of Picking Your Paint

Oil or Latex

I pick latex every time…or almost every time. You only need water for cleanup and there are generally fewer fumes. I have used oil primer for a particularly tough application. The paint store can help you determine if you have to use oil…but you can probably get away with latex.

Picking the sheen

Different paint companies have different sheens, but generally the range from dull to shiny is: flat, eggshell, satin, semi-gloss, gloss.


The best pick for walls that aren’t in great shape. It has no shine and won’t show imperfections in the wall or your painting as much. It can be touched up later without showing, but it can’t be wiped or cleaned very well. A great pick for ceilings which can be tricky to paint.

The dining room walls were in poor condition after the prior homeowners used sand paint. Flat paint was the best choice to hide the imperfections in a sea of deep blue.


Eggshell is a compromise between flat and satin. It has a little shine but is wipeable. It is a great choice for bedrooms and living rooms.


Suitable for walls that need to be wiped down like bathrooms, kitchens, and hallways. It has more shine than eggshell but generally won’t read as “shiny.”

The contrast of the satin walls to the semi-gloss trim is evident in this sunny alcove.


The best pick for trim and cabinetry. It has great wipeability for all those fingerprints and reflects light. It is less harsh than gloss and less finicky to work with.


It’s shiny. Really shiny. Like bad 70s décor shiny. Easily shows brushstrokes and imperfections. It can be a nice pop of shiny for an exterior door.

Picking the substrate

I’ve painted every room in the house multiple times in the last 10 years. Along the way, I’ve made some good color choices and some bad color choices. I’ve also made some good paint choices and some bad paint choices (like when the paint bubbled off the wall in my son’s room). The type of paint matters.

Don’t settle for cheap paint. It ends up costing you much more in the long run. Don’t buy your paint at a big box store. Go to a paint specialist like Sherwin-Williams or Benjamin Moore (they often run 30%-40% off coupons that make the paint comparable in cost to that at Lowe’s or Home Depot). At paint stores, they can recommend the exact type of paint you should use, not to mention they will custom mix colors to add a little more blue or a touch less red.

These are my favorite paints. I’m a Sherwin-Williams girl. I’m not compensated by them in any way to write this, I’m just passing on my experience.

Wall Paint

My favorite wall paint is Sherwin-Williams Super Paint. It’s less expensive than some of their other paints but gives smooth coverage and low VOC. They even have a new “velvet” finish that is matte but wipeable.


Sherwin-Williams Duration has stain blocking technology that also helps to repel water. Great for bathrooms…particularly boys’ bathrooms, need I say more?

Trim and Cabinets

This may be my favorite paint of all time. Sherwin-Williams ProClassic Enamel. Y’all. This is a game changer. It is self-leveling to smooth out any brush strokes. It also has nice, thick coverage and requires fewer coats than other paints. It cures into a tough finish that is supremely wipeable.

When we first painted our kitchen cabinets, I used Valspar Semigloss from Lowes along with primer. It took 6 coats of primer and paint (sanding between each one) to go from dark wood to sparkling white. Within a year or two the most used cabinets were gray with fingerprints that didn’t scrub off. But a few years ago, we sanded and repainted cabinets with one coat of ProClassic Enamel and they are still beautiful. Spilled (and dried) tomato sauce wiped off without any stain or discoloration.

Thanks to the hard, wipeable finish of ProClassic Enamel, the white cabinets are still white despite rigorous daily use.


Remember, you probably can’t just jump in and start painting. You need to prep the surface which may require cleaning, filling holes, sanding, and/or priming. It’s not the glory work but quality prep work will result in a quality end product.

You get what you pay for in paint. If you have questions, go somewhere that specializes in paint. They really know their stuff and, generally, enjoy helping you determine what is best for your project. My favorite location is the Sherwin-Williams at Cox and Three Chopt – they are always helpful with my ridiculous requests.

Pop Quiz

Here are the paints waiting for my next painting project. What room do you think I’m painting?

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