decorative coating

Decorative architectural coatings – paint the world beautiful

From the woad-covered Celts to the arsenic-laden green of Victorian wallpaper and the groovy colours of the swinging sixties, we love to decorate. On a grey gloomy morning there is nothing quite like a splash of colour to lift the spirits. As a result, 65% of the UK paint market value is due to decorative coating, totalling some £1.5 billion in sales. DIY-ers, homeowners looking to spruce up a living room, new housing initiatives, and housing developers have all contributed to the improving architectural coatings market – 50% of all paints in the decorative coating sector are emulsion paints applied to walls and ceilings.

In this article we will discuss the many different varieties of architectural coatings, and all the ways decorative paint can be used to liven up and protect a wall, door, window, space, building, and more. We will look at the best decorative coating brands in the UK, and where to find products and suppliers across the country.

Architectural coating is more than decorative

Decorative coating, or decorative paint, comes under the broader category of architectural coatings. Architectural coatings are those which are intended for application to stationary structures such as buildings, homes, decks, sheds, and pavements in interior and exterior settings. They provide decoration, protection, and durability to a substrate. An architectural coating is intended for on-site application to residential, commercial, institutional, or industrial buildings, and differs from industrial coatings because it is defined by its aesthetic, rather than its protective properties. Though an industrial coating may be decorative, it is its protective ability that defines it. However, there are architectural coatings that are also protective:

Decorative coating can also provide protection

There are architectural coatings to match all the different substrates and purposes.

Interior vs exterior decorative coating: What’s the difference?

It may seem like paint is paint, and surely it doesn’t matter whether you use it outside or inside. While this might have been true a couple of decades ago, advances in coating technology mean that today the differences between exterior and interior coatings are far more pronounced. The solvents used for both are either water- or oil-based, and the differences lie in the pigments, resins, and additives that provide these paints with the qualities needed to work their best.

Exterior architectural coatings

Interior decorative coatings need lower VOCs than exterior.

Interior decorative paints are better able to deal with knocks and bumps than exterior paints.

An exterior architectural paint is exposed to all the damaging elements the world can throw at it. Rain, temperature variation, and most importantly UV radiation are all conditions the paint will need to withstand. Because of this, exterior paints are formulated to deal with harsh conditions without peeling, fading, chalking, or blistering. They avoid pigments known to fade or contain higher quantities of pigment, have more elastic resins to flex with expanding and shrinking substrates, and many contain anti-mildew additives.

Interior decorative coatings

For an interior paint, the ability to withstand harsh environmental conditions is less important. What they do need, however, is low VOCs and abrasion resistance. The resins are more rigid than those in exterior paints so the paint is less prone to damage – helpful when it comes to scrubbing and cleaning. There is also less risk of fading from exposure to UV radiation, so more organic pigments can be used. Because of the desire for low VOCs and low odour formulations, the majority of interior paints are water-based.

How to use the different decorative coating finishes

Flat, satin, eggshell… what exactly a paint will look like and how best to use it are sometimes not clear. Though there are several steps to paint application, decorative coating is all about the finish. Exterior and interior paints both have a range of finishes available, each with different sheens and uses:

  • Flat and Matte – These paints have the lowest levels of glossiness of all the finishes available, at roughly 0-10% sheen. This means they are non-reflective and will hide surface blemishes and inconsistencies, effectively smoothing the surfaces on which they are painted. These are mostly used for walls, and have a smooth and velvety appearance.
  • Eggshell and satin – These are the “mid-sheen” finishes. They have some reflectivity (satin is slightly glossier than eggshell, which looks like its namesake), and are more durable than the flat and matte finishes. Because of this, they are often used in more demanding spaces like kitchens and bathrooms, and satin is often used for doors and trim.
  • Semi- and high gloss – The most reflective of the decorative paints, these are traditionally used for skirting boards, doors, mouldings, window, and other trim. It is also the toughest finish. Due to their high levels of sheen, gloss finishes show up imperfections, so it is important to prepare the substrate beforehand.

Architectural coatings look good and ‘feel’ good

Everyone has seen decorative coating used poorly. A glum hallway, a foreboding building, too much yellow, all of these can be fixed by a proper understanding of decorative paints and how to use them. The right coating can promote an atmosphere perfectly suited to the space, from calm to industrious. Industries from education to retail are subtly influencing us with their use of decorative coating. The psychological response to colour is well documented, and used in different ways:

  1. Healthcare – In the healthcare sector, decorative paint contributes to the mood and possibly even wellbeing of patients. The goal is to make them feel comfortable and at ease. Blue is often used in healthcare settings because it is a colour which promotes calmness and serenity, a symbol of rest.
  2. Offices and reception areas – A reception area needs to invite, welcome, and interest a visitor. Avoid natural tones and choose warm, soft colours. An office needs to be a space in which a worker can be productive and happy. A doctor’s office requires soothing colours to calm patients, where cubicle workers need stimulating colours to boost alertness – though not too stimulating, bright reds for example can also increase stress levels.

The UK architectural coatings market

The UK coatings industry employs over 300,000 people, generates some £2.5 billion in sales, and industries from automotive to construction rely on our products. £1.5 billion of those sales are decorative coatings – totalling 65% of paint sales. The home improvement and construction markets are the biggest revenue streams for the decorative paint market. New housing initiatives, government commitment to increasing housing supply and property transactions have been the key drivers of market improvement over the past few years. Whilst all of the product sectors have enjoyed a rise in demand, rates of growth between sectors have been variable.

The architectural coatings market is essentially made up of four categories: DIY paints, trade paints, woodcare (all paints to decorate and protect wood, including fences and decks), and special effect paints (such as special aesthetic finishes like metal). Recent years have seen a boom in the DIY market, as people take to decorate and retouching their own homes, but there are still some 200,000 professional painters and decorators operating in the UK.

Architectural coatings manufacturers and suppliers in the UK

With such a healthy industry, it can be no surprise that the UK is full of hardware stores and decorative coating companies. For those looking to decorate or redecorate their homes, we have compiled a list of the 25 best interior paints and how to use them. Companies like AkzoNobel (Dulux), Crown Paints, Farrow & Ball, PPG, and HMG Paints all provide their range of decorative architectural coatings for the UK market. Below is a very limited collection of paints available, to give an idea of the price range on the market.

If you have a project and require decorative paint, our experts are here to help. Take advantage of our 100% quote service by clicking on the “Request a Quote” below the article, and let us connect you with a coating solution for your project. We, in collaboration with our coating partners, can help you find the coating you need.

Crown Trade Covermatt WhiteAn emulsion wall paint£45.00 / 10 LFor new plaster as the first coating: breathable and allows moisture to leave the new plaster.
Dulux Trade Diamond Matt WhiteA waterborne matt finish for walls and ceilings£65.00 / 5 LFor walls and ceilings. A durable coating which reflects twice as much light as traditional emulsion paints.
Little Greene Exterior Intelligent EggshellA high performance exterior coating which resists mould and algal formation£60.00 / 2.5 LSelf priming on new and bare wood. Also suitable for properly primed metal structures and all exterior wood work.
Annie Sloan Antoinette A chalk wall paint £20.00 / LSuitable for interiors and exteriors on wood or metal floors, walls, ceilings or furniture.