3 Common Interior Finishes You Should Know

If choosing a color palette was difficult, picking out material finishes for cabinets, floors, walls, and ceilings is a completely different story. Planning and designing a home is never easy, and with a wide array of materials to choose from, assigning a material finish for each and every part of the house can be difficult and confusing. Getting familiarized with the different materials as well as the different pros and cons can help identify which finish is the best for any part of the house.

1. Glass
The addition of glass to any space can make it look classy and elegant. It's a timeless and versatile material that can be used for both interiors and exteriors. Furthermore, it visually opens up a small space giving it the illusion that a room is more spacious than it actually is. Its use is further utilized in cabinetries and furniture and is always a welcome addition to any room that needs to get a bit of sparkle.

1.1 Clear Glass – is sleek, classy and modern and a safe bet that goes with any style. It clearly allows light to pass through and is almost always chosen for its fluidness. It's widely available and choosing tempered glass over non-tempered can guard it against breakage. However, there's no hiding anything here. So choosing this means maintaining a clean and orderly space to prevent eyesores.

1.2 Back-painted Glass – is a clear type of glass where the rear is painted to produce colored glass. The colors are varied making it a preferred choice for backsplashes, kitchen countertops, shelves, accent walls and table tops. Back-painted glass is expensive especially tempered ones that are used as backsplashes, designed to withstand heat.

1.3 Frosted Glass – is preferred for doors for privacy while still enabling light to pass through. Custom designs can be etched into the glass. While light can still pass through, it's not going to be as bright as light passing through clear glass. Also, consider that shadows can still be seen through it. When used as a glass insert for a cabinet door, disarrayed items can still be visible to the naked eye.

1.4 Textured Glass – offers some eye candy while gently obscuring the view. It can be ribbed, seeded, grooved or patterned. The style may look outdated over time but simpler patterns like the ribbed texture can go a long way.

2. Natural Stone
There is always something uniquely appealing when it comes to natural materials. Just like fresh and organic fruits and vegetable are more appetizing and healthy, something that is real and not man-made is always a better choice. Natural stones are quarried from different parts of the world and come in a vast array of textures and colors. It's a rich and earthy material that can be used both inside and outside of the home. It's durable and time-tested as many of the historical architecture that still stands today is proof of the longevity of natural stone.

2.1 Marble – is composed of calcium carbonate and is in the same group as limestone. The biggest advantage of marble is its elegance and beauty which were highly sought after centuries ago and even up to this day, marble is here to stay for more centuries to come. It can be honed (matte) or polished (glossy) and is also a preferred material in luxurious commercial interiors. Authentic marble can be expensive so using it as the overall finish for a toilet may not be a wise move. Aside from that, marble is highly porous making it extremely prone to stains and scratches.

2.2 Granite – when it comes to durability and longevity, granite is a sure winner. Used in some ancient structures like Egypt's pyramids, granite, like marble, has stood the test of time, surviving wear and tear. Its resilience is even favored by rock climbers. Granite has a color palette which spans the rainbow. It can go from mild to wild depending on where it's quarried. When properly sealed, it's sure to resist stains and liquid splashes. Exotic granite can be costly. The scarcer the color, the higher the price and because it's a tough stone, installation costs can come at a price too.

2.3 Limestone – is a popular alternative to marble. Its neutral colors ranging from warm white to a sandy beige makes it applicable to both traditional and modern styles. Like marble, limestone is highly porous and is prone to stains and scratches.

3. Metal
Metal as an interior finish can go way beyond hardware and kitchen appliances. The idea of using metal in interiors may be daunting to some but to others, it's a refreshingly new idea outside of the more mainstream materials commonly used as finishes. Metal gives off a heavy look but in small doses and in combination with other materials such as wood, the idea is tolerable.

3.1 Stainless Steel – has always been known for its corrosion resistance making it a favorite for professional chefs for their kitchens. It's easy to clean, non-porous and heat-resistant, perfect as countertops, cabinets or kitchen backsplash. Stainless Steel is prone to fingerprints, scratches, dents and watermarks.

3.2 Copper – Because of its rich, warm undertones, copper has been a favorite for many designers when it comes to accessorizing, even going so far as to being used as a countertop. Copper is a soft, malleable metal that can be hammered into a variety of shapes, commonly used as wall cladding. Copper tends to oxidize and the shine will gradually disappear. Diligent re-sealing can prevent this and for some, the aging of copper is part of its appeal.

3.3 Aluminum – combines some properties of copper and stainless steel. It's resistant to corrosion, lightweight and is a soft, malleable material that can be used for backsplashes, ceiling panels, and wall claddings. There are now decorative aluminum tiles with carved and hammered patterns. Aluminum is prone to irreparable dents because of its soft and lightweight properties.

3.4 Tin – Usage of tin as an interior finish dates back to the Victorian period where it was introduced as an affordable alternative to plasterwork ceilings. Tin is soft and malleable, therefore designs were pressed onto it to create different patterns. Today, it is fashionably used as wall cladding, backsplashes, cabinet faces and much more to lend visual interest to space. While tin can resist water corrosion, it is prone to stains from acids decorative tin tiles which have raised surfaces.

With creativity and the help of technology, many developers and designers are finding more new materials to use as finishes for both exteriors and interiors. While these aren't the only materials that are used as finishes, these could give homeowners an idea of some of the most commonly used interior finishes and further develop these ideas from these finishes.

- Godsey, Lisa. Interior design materials and specifications. A&C Black, 2012.

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Last review and update: August 27, 2018

About the Author

Patty Benjabutr is an interior design enthusiast. She loves to write about actionable home decor knowledge because she believes interior design content is something much more than a collection of beautiful photos. You can contact Patty via e-mail.