What paint finish should your kitchen walls be? Expert decorators give their tips for the perfect finish

A comprehensive guide to the best paint finishes for a bright and spacious kitchen aesthetic

Olive green kitchen with wall panelling
(Image credit: Laura Stephens/Boz Gavowski)

Alongside understanding which colours work best in a cooking space, you'll likely be wondering what paint finish should your kitchen walls be too.

Trawling through the many different paint swatches is a time-consuming and confusing task, but one that is made harder by also needing to select the right finish. You want the perfect kitchen colour scheme and finish but it also needs to be practical for a cooking space where splashes and spills are commonplace.

Out of all the finishes available, a satin finish is the most common and recommended. But if this slightly sheeny finish doesn't float your boat then we spoke to expert kitchen decorators for other finishes they would, or wouldn't, recommend.

What paint finish should your kitchen walls be?

So many factors come into choosing a paint finish for your kitchen. Levels of natural light, the size and shape of a room and of course, your own taste. From matte to gloss and everything in between, understanding the paint finish varieties before you start shopping will allow you to choose the exact look that works for your home. After all, you don't want to be repainting if you're not happy with the results.

When you've settled on a certain finish, start exploring paint ideas and the best colours to paint a small kitchen so your scheme is as stylish and well-selected as possible.

1. Satin

Olive green kitchen with wall panelling

(Image credit: Laura Stephens/Boz Gavowski)

If you aren't keen on a super matte look but also don't want to veer into gloss territory, a satin finish will be the perfect middle ground. It has a slight reflective nature but will help to make a small kitchen look bigger but it won't look shiny.

'Both satin and eggshell finishes are suitable for kitchens due to their durability and ease of cleaning. However, satin finish tends to be slightly more durable and resistant to stains and moisture compared to eggshell,' advises Sophia Aryton-Grime, founder of Studio Raff.

'Satin finishes have a subtle sheen that adds depth to the surface while still maintaining a smooth appearance. This makes satin finish an excellent choice for kitchen walls, where frequent cleaning and occasional splashes are common.'

This finish is also incredibly versatile so you can use it on walls, cabinets, and trims. This will make painting much simpler and save you money on different finishes. Eggshell is very similar, and interior designer Laura Stephens says 'I go for eggshell as the sheen is lower. These days eggshell is pretty durable and resilient whether it’s in a water based or oil based finish.'

2. Gloss and semi-gloss

Blue two-tone shaker kitchen

(Image credit: Future PLC/Jeremy Phillips)

'For a glamourous look, gloss is really fun,' says Laura. If modern kitchen ideas are your thing, then a gloss or semi-gloss finish might be the paint finish that fits into your desired aesthetic.

Gloss is best placed on surfaces that require high durability and are prone to moisture so consider using this on your doors and trims. Gloss is also much easier to clean, so using it in high-traffic areas that frequently require wiping down will make life simpler. Kitchens are notoriously messy spaces, so if you have a busy family home that needs a low-maintenance option then make gloss a consideration.

Semi-gloss 'provides a balance between durability and sheen, making it suitable for areas that need some moisture resistance,' says Sophia.

3. Matte

Laura Stephens blue shaker kitchen

(Image credit: Laura Stephens/Boz Gavowski)

We can see why a matte finish might be a popular option as it creates a sleek, modern effect that is really easy on the eye. However, it's not advised to use in kitchens as it's not the most practical. If you want to scratch the itch for matte surfaces, we recommend sticking to matte cabinets or work surfaces instead.

'While it's technically possible to use matte paint in a kitchen, it's not typically recommended due to its lower durability and susceptibility to moisture and stains,' Sophia recommends.

'Kitchens are high-traffic areas prone to splashes, spills, and grease, which can easily stain and damage matte paint finishes. Matte finishes also tend to be more challenging to clean compared to gloss or satin finishes, making them less suitable for environments where cleanliness and maintenance are crucial.'

Chalk paint is an excellent alternative to matte paint. It allows you to achieve the same look and is much easier to apply, often not even requiring a primer. It's a great option for a country kitchen idea where you want a slightly imperfect look.


Should the paint finish be the same on kitchen walls and cabinets?

Wondering whether your kitchen walls should match your cabinets? In terms of both colour and finish, the answer is no. Phew - there's so much flexibility in choosing paint finishes and colour schemes and making sure they definitely match adds another layer to the decision-making.

'It's not necessary for the paint finish to be the same on kitchen walls and cabinets, but it can create a cohesive look if they are consistent. However, because walls and cabinets serve different functions and are subjected to different levels of wear and tear, it's essential to choose finishes that are appropriate for each surface,' says Sophia.

'For example, using a gloss or semi-gloss finish for cabinets can provide durability and ease of cleaning, while opting for a satin or eggshell finish for walls can offer a balanced sheen that complements the overall aesthetic of the kitchen. Ultimately, the choice of paint finish should prioritise functionality, durability, and aesthetic preferences for each specific surface in the kitchen.'

When deciding on a paint finish for your kitchen, we always recommend getting hold of some tester pots, swatching on a piece of paper and sticking it to the wall. You can then move the paper around to see the colour and finish in different lights, helping you choose the right option and saving you time and money.

Holly Cockburn
Content Editor

After starting out her journey at Future as a Features Editor on Top Ten Reviews, Holly is now a Content Editor at Ideal Home, writing about the best interior ideas and news. At Top Ten Reviews, she focussed on TikTok viral cleaning hacks as well as how to take care of investment purchases such as lawn mowers, washing machines and vacuum cleaners. Prior to this, Holly was apart of the editorial team at Howdens which sparked her interest in interior design, and more specifically, kitchens (Shaker is her favourite!).