High Shine

We asked interior designer Leandra Fremont-Smith if it’s better to go with a high-gloss paint or lacquer. Here’s what we learned.

What is the difference between high gloss and lacquer, if there is one?

There are two major differences between high gloss and lacquer: sheen and process. While both are glossy, reflective sheens, lacquer portrays an almost glasslike finish (think of a grand piano). A lacquer finish must be applied to a flawless surface free of bumps, cracks, and even dust. A blend of resins and solvents is then sprayed on; it dries quickly, creating a hard surface. High-gloss paint is a little more forgiving. It is self-leveling, meaning it can hide some imperfections and can be applied with a brush or roller. However, it dries much more slowly and doesn’t harden like lacquer.

What are the pros and cons to consider when using these finishes?

Both are easy to clean! That’s important when considering a finish for a bar or vanity. Lacquer is a very durable and hard finish that may hold up better over time than a high-gloss paint. Lacquer can be cost prohibitive because of the amount of work that goes into prepping the surface. It is also a specialized service that not every painter can offer, and the cost of lacquer is higher.

What are the benefits of using high-gloss or lacquer paint in an interior? How do you think it is best used?

Both finishes are highly reflective, so when used on walls, they enhance natural light during the daytime and create a lot of drama at night. Using a high-sheen finish on cabinetry draws your attention and adds dimension to the space.

How do you personally like to use this finish? Do you use it in your own home or design studio?

I tend to lacquer smaller spaces to add drama and interest. My go-to lacquer spaces are wet bars, vanities, and crown moldings that when lacquered, helps to enhance a painted or wallpapered ceiling. For full-room use, I would suggest a library or dining room with detailed wood panels.

How are your clients using this finish? Are there any trending styles?

My clients are all across the board—we have lacquered entire rooms, wet bars, kitchens, trim, and furniture! It all depends on how comfortable the client is with the effect and result. Some clients who are unfamiliar may think the look is too bold. However, it is my job to educate them and coordinate this process with the selected scheme and overall aesthetic we are trying to achieve.

In the end, my main goal is to create an elegant and timeless interior for my clients that is a reflection of their personalities, which both finishes can help to achieve. Fun fact: even George Washington was a fan of high-gloss walls!


Share The Inspiration