Estate emulsion vs Modern emulsion – which Farrow & Ball paint finish is best?

Estate emulsion vs Modern emulsion: both yield beautiful results, so how do you decide? Use our guide to work out which Farrow & Ball paint finish is best for you

Farrow & Ball paints
(Image credit: Alamy)

Farrow & Ball’s distinctively deep shades add character to homes old and new, but choosing the right paint finish is essential if you want to showcase them at their best. When it comes to deciding between Estate emulsion vs Modern emulsion, you’ll need to carefully consider what you want – and need – from your paint finishes, taking durability into account as well as appearance.

‘Both are great paints but differ depending on what sort of finish you are looking for. Estate emulsion will give a chalkier and more authentic finish. Modern emulsion will give you a higher sheen than Estate, but will be harder wearing, and will ultimately last longer’, explains Michael Rolland, interiors expert and managing director at The Paint Shed (opens in new tab)

Ultimately, when deciding between Estate emulsion vs Modern emulsion, it’s not which Farrow & Ball (opens in new tab) paint finish is best overall, but which is best for you and your decorating requirements. Below, we explain the differences between the two finishes, to ensure you feel confident in your choice.  

What’s the difference between Farrow & Ball Estate and Modern emulsions?  

The primary difference between Farrow & Ball’s Estate and Modern emulsion is the sheen level. Estate emulsion has a lower gloss percentage, just 2 per cent, creating a flat finish, with Modern emulsion at 7 per cent, the sheen level of a matte paint

This difference in sheen affects the durability, as well as the appearance.

‘Estate emulsion is a much flatter finish than modern, which makes it less durable, and therefore more suitable to areas of the house without much contact or moisture. Modern emulsion has a higher sheen, which means it can stand up to more vigorous cleaning, as well as tolerate a higher moisture content in a bathroom or kitchen’, says Andre Kazimierski, CEO at Improovy Painters Hinsdale (opens in new tab).

Which is more durable: Estate or Modern emulsion?

Modern emulsion has a slightly higher sheen level of 7 per cent which makes it the more durable of the two – generally the higher the sheen level, the more durable the paint finish. 

‘If it’s durability you’re after, we recommend Modern Emulsion for walls and as a paint finish for ceilings, it’s super tough’, says Charlotte Cosby, Head of Creative at Farrow & Ball. ‘It’s washable, scuff-proof, and protects against mold, making it suitable for use in any room including moisture-prone kitchens and as a paint finish for bathrooms.' 

Which is easier to clean? 

In line with its durability, Modern emulsion is easier to clean. Unlike Estate emulsion, which is wipeable but not washable, it’s proven to retain its condition. 

Where to apply Estate and Modern emulsion 

Both Estate and Modern emulsions have been designed for painting walls inside a home, however, the difference in durability and appearance will likely impact which areas of the home you choose to use them in. 

In terms of appearance, Modern emulsion has a little sheen while Estate emulsion is more like a matte. Estate’s chalky good looks make it a popular choice in homes both old and new, but it is more susceptible to scuffs and marks.

‘For this reason, Estate emulsion is often the preferred choice for ceilings, bedrooms and low-traffic areas around the home’, explains Michael Rolland. ‘Modern emulsion would be advisable for hallways, kitchens and other-high traffic areas, where durability is important.'

Is Farrow & Ball Modern Emulsion shiny? 

Modern emulsion has a sheen level of 7 per cent which, while technically classed as a matte finish, is towards the higher end of the category (10 per cent is usually the cut-off). This means there is a slight shine, so if it’s a completely matte finish you’re after, this isn’t the emulsion for you. Be conscious that the sheen level is more obvious with darker colors, too. 

‘For a matte finish, we’d recommend Estate emulsion,’ says Charlotte. ‘Its distinctive chalky look minimizes existing imperfections in the painting surface and scatters light around a room to fully express the depth of our colors.'

Estate emulsion vs Modern emulsion – which is best? 

Choosing between Estate emulsion vs Modern emulsion for your home ultimately depends on what and where you’re painting. As mentioned above, it’s not which is best overall – they’re both great in their own right – but which is best for you and your decorating needs. 

‘Our biggest tip when choosing a finish is to think about how you use the space. If your walls are in a high traffic area with wayward fingers or paws, you’ll thank yourself later for choosing a durable finish that can be wiped down quickly and easily, such as our Modern emulsion,’ advises Charlotte. 

As well as factoring in practicalities such as durability and washability, it’s also important to think about the overall look you’re trying to achieve in the room you’re painting. 

‘Not all rooms have the same requirements in terms of durability, so you can afford to take a more decorative approach,’ says Charlotte. Estate emulsion’s chalky appearance softens bright colors so you can afford to be a bit more daring, while its tactile finish creates a lovely cozy feel. Its low-shine finish also has the added benefit of disguising imperfections – great if you’re painting uneven surfaces.  

Contributing Editor

For 10 years, Tara King worked as a Content Editor in the magazine industry, before leaving to become freelance, covering interior design, wellbeing, craft and homemaking. As well as writing for Ideal Home, Style at Home, Country Homes & Interiors, Tara’s keen eye for styling combined with a passion for creating a happy – and functional – family home has led to a series of organization and cleaning features for H&G.