As an interior designer my first approach to a design question is functionality. If the product or space doesn’t function or perform properly it doesn’t matter how beautiful it is. This of course also applies to paint.
There are many things to consider when choosing a paint for your kitchen such as the type of paint, the type of finish, the volatile organic compounds (VOC) ratings, and the quality of the paint.
When asking what type of paint is best for your kitchen walls, I typically recommend one with a latex/water base. As one of the busiest rooms in your home, it tends to get dirty much faster than in other areas. Latex/water-based paint is much easier to clean and the color is less likely to fade as quickly or crack.
As for the finish, your best option will be to go with either a satin or a semi-gloss finish. Both are durable, scrubbable, and offer some water resistance, making them a great choice for kitchens and high-traffic areas.
However, these are not the only finishes that are good options. Other types may be better for your kitchen depending on your lifestyle and aesthetic preferences.
As I already mentioned, latex/ water-based paint is my first choice for kitchen paint for various reasons:
Latex/water based paint:
- Easier to paint with than oil paints
- Takes less time to clean- super important as grease and other ingredients can quickly find themselves on your kitchen walls.
- Dries quickly
- More resistant to UV rays than oil paints so the color is less likely to fade as quickly or crack (significant, because you don’t want to repeat this process and disabling your kitchento often)
- These have fewer VOC’s than oil-based paints because they are made with water-based solvents
Of course personal taste is key here and oil based paint has its own merits.
Oil based paint
- More durable than latex/water paint so they are highly used on trim and doors
- Has a lustre and richness that can pretty much only be achieved with oil paints
- Takes more time to clean than a latex/water paint
- Dries slowly
- These have higher VOC’s than latex-based paints
- better choice if you have a painted backsplash – the oil based paint will repeal messy grease and oil and prevent it from sticking to your walls better than a latex/water based paint.
The next step to choosing a paint is deciding on the type of finish that is right for you and the job.
Here are a basic few:
- Hides imperfections because it does not reflect light, so if your walls are uneven, have bumps, or nail-pops, this finish may be right for you
- This can be a beautiful choice as it has a fresh, soft, and modern feel
- It can be a bit high maintenance (refer to tip)
- It is suitable for ceilings
- Easier to touch up than gloss or semi-gloss. If there’s a stubborn stain you can paint over it and the new layer is more likely to blend in, provided you are using the same batch of paint from the original paint job.
Tip: If you do choose a flat finish, make sure you opt for a washable flat. It will save you cleaning and maintenance time since a flat finish typically scuffs easily.
- A very popular choice for a paint finish because it’s an “in between” finish. It is neither too flat nor too shiny.
- It is easier to clean than a matte/flat finish
- It doesn’t mark up too easily
- It is scrubbable and durable
- It will reflect some light
- Suitable for walls and can be used on trim and doors, although it is not common
- A bit more shiny than the eggshell finish
- It is easier to clean typical kitchen stains like grease, than a matte/flat and eggshell finish
- It can be used on walls, trim, and kitchen backsplash
- Popular for use on trim because it can be scrubbed easily since it is highly durable
- It will reflect some light than a matte/flat or eggshell finish
- Because of its shine, it will enhance any imperfections on the walls
- Higher on the sheen scale
- Painted surfaces can be scrubbed
- Good for high-traffic areas, like your prep and cooking zones, because it is scrubbable
- It can highlight imperfections on the walls so be mindful if you are painting with a dark colour
- Popular for use on trim and doors
- Just as the name suggests it is shiny and glossy
- It is highly reflective so it will also highlight any surface imperfections
- Very durable and scrubbable
- Highly resistant to mildew, making it good for near your sink
- Typically used for trim and doors
- Can be used on a backsplash
What are VOC’s?
- VOC stands for volatile organic compounds. These are chemicals that are released into the air when the paint dries, giving off that “new paint” smell that we are all familiar with. This is known as “off-gassing” and has the potential to last up to several years after the new paint smell has passed. Examples of these chemicals are acetone, ethanol, d-Limonene, formaldehyde, and toluene.
- Some people find that paints high in VOC’s give them symptoms like headaches and dizziness, and skin irritations. So, there are many options out there for VOC-free paints.
- ECOS paint
- Sherwin-Williams Harmony
- Benjamin Moore Natura (certified asthma and allergy-friendly)
- Behr Pro i300
- The Real Milk Paint Co.
What makes one paint better quality than another?
A higher-quality paint has more pigments and resins and fewer solvents than a lower-quality paint. This means you will get a more concentrated and better color. It also means that you will need less paint for the same surface area because you will be getting better coverage, which will also save you time. Also, these paints are less likely to bleed because of the high pigment concentration. They also save you money in the long run because they hold up better, so you won’t need to repaint as often as with lower quality paint. In addition, higher-quality paints are more durable and easier to clean.
Throughout my interior design career, I have found a few brands that I highly trust. I have used their paints for years and have always been happy with the colours and the quality. These brands are:
- Benjamin Moore
- Farrow & Ball
Now that you’ve chosen the paint, here are some tips to get you on your way to a great paint job
First, you need to prep your kitchen for painting. Don’t be tempted to skip this step. Although it takes time, it’s well worth it. If you properly prep, you will achieve a better end result and have an easier time painting.
Here are some tips for paint preparation:
- Remove pictures or anything that is attached to the walls
- Fix nail holes, and sand and patch up bumps and nail pops
- Clean your walls from grease and dust so the new paint will stick better. You can do this with a sponge and warm water. For walls that have oil or grime, like kitchen walls, wash it using water and a grease detergent and then again with water to remove any residual product.
- Unscrew light switches and electrical cover plates
- Unscrew and detach light fixtures backplates (this will save you from getting paint on them and incase you decide to change them later, you will have a clean painted surface ready to go)
- Use a good painters tape to separate the cabinets from the fresh paint
- Cover up cabinets, especially if you are painting the ceiling
- Prime your walls (primer doesn’t have to be white, if you choose a dark paint colour, your primer can be dark or a tint of the color that you choose)
Cleaning Stains off Kitchen Walls
Your kitchen walls will likely take a beating. There are furniture scuffs from chairs, grease stains, and food splatter. If your backsplash is a painted wall that means even more splatter and grease will get on the paint and you will need to wash and clean the wall often. You want a paint that can withstand some elbow grease. In this case, oil base or a high quality latex in a semi-gloss or gloss will be good options for the job.
Before you go ahead and clean the wall, do a patch test to make sure that none of the paint comes off the wall. I sometimes try in a corner or even behind a painting and wait until it dries to see if any of the original paint has faded.
There are many ways to clean your kitchen walls. Here are some options:
- Solution made of dish soap and warm water with a damp sponge. Be careful not to use too much liquid because it can remove the paint.
- Solution of dishwasher soap and warm water
- Create a paste using baking soda and water
- Mix one cup of vinegar and one litre of water and use a damp sponge or cloth
Choosing the right paint for your kitchen walls takes some thought and consideration. It’s important to be completely honest with yourself about how you and others actually use the kitchen. Think about what your walls have to stand up to. Will grease and stains get cleaned up right away? Oil paint and semi-gloss and gloss finishes are more forgiving to stains that have been left on for longer. Do I have furniture close to the walls making scuffing more easy to occur? Are there kids running around with toys or markers ready to be unleashed onto those beautiful freshly painted walls? Is anyone in the house sensitive to VOC’s? Considering all these things will help you choose the paint type and finish.
I personally like a kitchen that is easy to take care of. Life is busy and even when it’s not there are many other things I would rather do than scrub my walls (like eat dark chocolate). I usually use latex paint in an eggshell finish on the walls and a semi-gloss or gloss paint on the baseboard, but I do sometimes use washable latex-based matte paint on walls if I know the walls will not be exposed to high traffic.