How to achieve beautiful paint finishes according to interior designer, Nicola Harding

Beautiful paint finishes transform a room and are easier than you think

paint finishes
Nicola Harding & Co
(Image credit: Nicola Harding & Co)

There are so many paint finishes and colours available, that choosing the right shades for a new room scheme can seem overwhelming. 

Even once you've considered all the modern decorating ideas, and narrowed down your colour choices for your walls. There's still the ceilings, the woodwork and maybe even the floors to consider, not to mention whether to go for matt, gloss, limewash, chalk or any of the other myriad paint finishes.

To simplify the task, we've consulted interior designer, Nicola Harding of Nicola Harding & Co. Known for her beautiful schemes and exquisite creativity with colour, Nicola shares her knowledge on space-enhancing strategies and perfect paint finishes.    

CHOOSE SOOTHING SHADES

I'm really fond of Pure & Original, a paint company that, as its name suggests, only uses natural ingredients. Its colours are also soothing to be around. I’m currently working on a project where we’ve painted the family room in a Pure & Original shade called Skin Powder. It’s a calming, nurturing colour – perfect for spaces where people will spend a lot of time.

paint finishes

Skin Powder fresco lime, £110 for 2.5 L, Pure & Original

(Image credit: Pure & Original)

VARY THE TONES

I also love Paint & Paper Library’s Architectural range. Each colour is formulated using different strengths of the same pigment and then numbered I, II, III, IV or V according to its tonal weight. This allows you to achieve subtle colour shifts within a space. 

In the kitchen at my current client’s home, we’ve painted the woodwork one of the darker shades of Wattle, the walls a paler shade of Wattle, then the ceiling and cornice paler again.

paint finishes

(Image credit: Paint & Paper Library)

MIX FINISHES

It’s always interesting to play with finishes. In the hallway of my current project, we’ve painted the walls RougeII from Paint & Paper Library and the woodwork in Courtly Rose from Pure & Original. The full gloss finish of the woodwork really pops out against the velvety finish of the walls.

paint finishes

Courtly Rose Marrakech walls, £121 for 2.5 L, Pure & Original

(Image credit: Pure & Original )

GO FOR TEXTURE

Another of my go-to finishes is called Fresco by Pure & Original, which is like a limewash and gives an uneven texture. I’ve used this in my kitchen at home as it’s north-facing and doesn’t get a huge amount of natural light. If I’d used a flat paint, I think it would have felt a bit shady and sad, but having this uneven colour finish gives the walls texture.

paint finishes

Oxford Blue fresco lime, £110 for 2.5 L, Pure & Original

(Image credit: Pure & Original)

THINK ABOUT WINDOW FRAMES

When painting the woodwork around a window, think about the effect you want to create. For example, in the family room at my current client’s house, we’ve used Wattle II by Paint & Paper Library, which is a greeny shade of white that blends with the green outside and encourages the eye to travel outwards. In the orangery, we’ve painted the window woodwork in a dark chocolate colour that frames the garden beautifully.

CONSIDER CONTRASTING COLOURS

If your skirtings and architraves aren’t in great condition or you live in a modern home and they’re less of a statement, you don’t want to create much contrast between the woodwork and the wall colour. But if it’s a period property with gorgeous skirtings and windows, pulling them out in a contrasting colour highlights them.

THE 'FIFTH' WALL

Rather than automatically painting a ceiling white, I often wrap it in colour. For example, if you want a space to feel cosy, choose a darker colour for the ceiling. If you want it to appear lighter, go for a pale colour. If you would like a space to feel bigger, and when the ceiling is quite low, either continue the wall colour across the ceiling or choose a shade that doesn’t contrast much with the wall colour. This makes the space feel larger because you’re creating fewer junctions to stop the eye.

FLATTER THE FLOOR

I love pale-coloured painted floors that bounce light into a space. Finding a really tough floor paint is tricky, but one of the best ones I’ve found is from Little Greene.

paint finishes

(Image credit: Little Greene)

See more of Nicola's work at Nicola Harding & Co.

See how to paint a room - everything you need to know

Livingetc

Shining a spotlight on the now and the next in home design and decor, Livingetc is the UK's best selling high end and contemporary home design magazine. As a brand, showcases the world's very best homes, and has access to leading international designers for insight and ideas. it was first published in 1998, and is currently edited by Pip McCormac.