Move over matte: Gloss is back, and it's better than before

Sitting in a restaurant a couple of weeks ago with two similarly (middle) aged friends, we all had to smile when we saw a group of 20-something women at a nearby table dressed in identical clothes to those we’d worn two decades earlier. Floral slip dresses over skinny rib tops and Docs made for a too real flashback; the only thing jarring this scene was that the make-up is oh, so much better these days. Lucky them.

Fashion trends cycle every 20 years or so. As a teenager in the late 1980s and early 90s, I had more than a brief flirtation with everything from the 1970s, and interior design is no different. If you’ve recently ripped out a high gloss kitchen, a finish so beloved in Ireland in the Noughties – along with high gloss consoles, sideboards and, well, anything it was possible to bang a high gloss finish onto – I’ve a bit of news for you. It’s back.

Gloss is, well, rather greater this time around, thankfully. Grown-up and sophisticated, it’s taking a nod from the lacquer work pieces of mid-century, but most of its cues are coming from the opulent glamour of Hollywood Regency, a deluxe, turbo-charged design movement which swept America during film’s golden age, and which, thanks to a recent resurgence in interest in all things Art Deco, is moving the design dial again.

Ireland wasn’t quite ready for it in the 1930s – but 2019 is a different prospect.

Thanks to our exposure to hotel and bar schemes such as Cork’s River Lee Hotel and Press Up Group’s portfolio of properties which include The Grayson and Lucky Duck with their sheen-y blue walls, as well as our new-found love of taking decorating inspo from social media, we’re starting to embrace the idea that walls and ceilings can look great in gloss.

That’s despite the fact that matte has ruled the day in paint finishes for the last number of years – though we’ve always liked a sheen in emulsion, far more so than our UK neighbours. If you’re not sure about making the move from matte, interior designer Suzie McAdam has some advice.

“Variation in an interior is important, so to have the majority of a home in a matte finish can create a nice opportunity to go for something a little special in a particular space,” she says of gloss, adding, “for both walls and woodwork it can work.”

It has to be noted that while it’s a far tougher paint surface – the shinier the finish, the harder the wear – gloss has particular requirements to get it to look good, especially over large surfaces.

“Your painter will need to sand and prep the space very well to give a clean even look,” McAdam advises. Unsure about where to start? A front door is always a good bet – Farrow & Ball’s Full Gloss has a 95pc sheen level, perfect for making an entrance. And where else should you go for a gleam? “I think it can work very well in rooms that will be used more in the evening time,” McAdam says. “A drawing room, library or bedroom, wall sconces and candle light will reflect beautifully.”

  • Kirstie McDermott is editorial director of ‘House and Home’ magazine

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