Matte? Eg-shel? Flat? Pearl? When it comes to choosing a sheen for your walls it can feel a bit daunting or confusing. Each paint manufacturer seems to have an endless line of paint with an equal share of sheens. In choosing the right sheen of paint for your project, numerous aspects should be taken into account - the room/area, lighting, the wall imperfections, traffic, and personal preference.
Let's us first examine the room/area in which you are painting. If the room or area is highly used, chances are you may need to wash the walls more frequently and would probably need a higher sheen from the 'satin' or 'semi-gloss' category. If the room is more formal, then one may consider a 'matte' or 'flat' finish. Trim and doors typically have the same or a slightly higher sheen than the walls in order to accentuate those features or make them more washable.
The lighting of the area may also play a part. The higher the sheen the more it will help reflect light into an area. A lower sheen can be used if the room has an abundance of light. It is also worth noting that tall foyers with windows will throw lots of light but may also help to show imperfections in the wall.
The higher the sheen level on the walls the more likely all those imperfections will show up. Older homes with imperfect walls might be better served by using a lower sheen paint so as not to have your eyes drawn to those spots.
The higher traffic areas often demand at least a mid-sheen level finish. These areas often may need to be cleaned or washed more often than others. The areas that I am specifically talking about are hallways, mudrooms, laundry rooms, bathrooms, and kitchens. The more formal or less used rooms could have a lower sheen applied due to the lower traffic patterns.
The last and most important is personal preference. This reason alone can trump the previously listed aspects. Some people really like the look of 'matte' or 'flat' on all the walls and a 'semigloss' for the ceiling. It comes down to what you like and prefer.