The pandemic turned us into a nation of painters. Confined within our four walls, we could not resist the temptation to contemplate a color change. We wanted drama, but we also wanted a peaceful environment; we wanted a graphic punch of color while we yearned for a soothing backdrop; mostly, we just wanted a change. A new coat of paint was the easiest, fastest way to bring about change, and we wholeheartedly embraced dropcloths, painter’s tape, sandpaper and spackle. We learned about primer and the importance of proper preparation.
Two New York City-based designers suggest another effective design tool in the paint box: the application of high-gloss finishes.
“This is not a trend, so much as a tool that can be used to great effect,” says Anna Baraness. Together with her partner, Kristin Tarsi, she heads up Studio AK, a full-service interior design firm located in Manhattan’s Soho. Specializing in renovating and furnishing high-end residential projects, the two bring together over twenty-five years of international design experience. Current projects include apartments in Manhattan and homes in Washington D.C., Silo Ridge, New York, Charlottesville, Virginia and Palm Beach, Florida.
“A high-gloss finish reflects light in rich and interesting ways,” Kristin Tarsi says. “It can be used to contrast with a matte finish nearby, or it can be used to draw attention to a particular element of a room.”
“It is also very effective on ceilings,” her partner adds. “It brings and extra layer of reflectivity.”
The two say that this is not a good treatment for areas that get a lot of wear and tear, such as kitchen cabinets.
“Also, it doesn’t work well on old walls with a lot of imperfections,” Baraness says. “The gloss shows every bump and dent.”
She and Tarsi point out that this is one painting chore where the importance of preparation cannot be overstated.
“Although most of us can paint a wall and do a fairly good job,” Tarsi says, “This is really a job for a professional. The prep work has to be meticulous, or every flaw will show. The shiny finish is either sprayed on, or applied with a very, very fine brush. This is not the time to use a roller and this is not the time for a quick DIY project.”
Both Anna Baraness and Kristin Tarsi spent years working at large design firms before founding Studio AK. Anna, who is Canadian, holds a sociology and art history degree from Guelph University and a bachelor of interior design degree from Ryerson University in Toronto. Kristin holds a bachelor’s degree in business from Tulane University and an AAS degree in interior design from Parsons School of Design.
They recommend high-gloss finishes for ceilings, where its additional reflectivity can bring needed light into a room.
“On a ceiling, it’s not about color, but rather about bouncing around more light,” Baraness says. “We have used it to accentuate the woodwork of a fireplace surround and, in a den in Scarsdale, New York, we treated walls composed of ho-hum knotty pine paneling to a glossy coat of paint in a rich green color. It transformed that room.”
“Think about different layers and levels,” Tarsi adds. “If the high-gloss finish is an accent, then the other spaces should also be rich finishes. High gloss is not the whole story; it’s part of the story.”
The designers agree that, in this special application, it pays to seek out high-quality paint.
“A very glossy finish is not what most paint companies concentrate on; they are mostly about easy-wearing, family-friendly paints,” says Baraness. She and her partner recommend Farrow & Ball paints or Fine Paints of Europe.
So, as we contemplate the walls surrounding us, we may well consider how the introduction of some shine might brighten our spaces.