It's been a long time since a Porsche made me do a double take, but this one did. I saw it on a Toronto street a few months ago and couldn't look away. Not because of the sound of its engine or flowing lines. It was the paint job. And it took me a second to clue in: Wait a second, is that matte? It was, and it looked incredible, a mix of warm and badass – refined yet battle tested.
Look around and you'll notice matte is suddenly everywhere.
Thanks to its time-worn look, matte gives pieces a rich, textured patina that manages to be both low-key and luxurious. That textured look practically begs you to touch it, one of matte's effects that draw designers to it. Another is the sense that, thanks to that time-worn look, matte pieces have a backstory. That's why flat finishes have become popular in everything from cars to makeup and just about every element of home decor.
A matte finish, popular for a few years now and seemingly expanding to new housewares every day, can be striking because it's so different from the glossy coats we are used to seeing on automobiles or nail polish, says Sharon Grech, a colour and design expert for Benjamin Moore & Co. When it comes to interior design, matte finishes feel unfussy and "approachable," she says.
"There's something very tactile about it. That is why I think it's become so important right now. People are into handmade products and looks," Grech says. Seizing on that sense of touch, the Almoco flatware from Design Within Reach comes in both matte gold and matte black.
The richness matte can give to pieces, means you're often more likely to notice the whole object rather than only its shiny details, Grech says. "Because it appears to be more tactile, you spend more time looking at it and you really see the shape and dimensions of things," she says.
Glen Peloso, a Toronto-based interior designer who regularly appears on The Marilyn Denis Show, says matte's popularity is an extension of the fact that we've become more environmentally conscious. "There's sort of been a trend toward things that are more natural: barnboard, wide board, old factory parts. And because all of that stuff naturally comes weathered, it naturally is matte," he says.
Combining the pairing of matte with all things natural, Restoration Hardware offers a vintage barn sconce in matte black. As well, furniture makers were showing off pieces with matte finishes at the Canadian Home Furnishings Market in Toronto earlier this month, from a media unit with a matte white lacquer finish to dining tables with matte tempered glass tops.
To bring out the best qualities of matte finishes, however, it's essential not to go overboard.
"It's important in a home environment to mix it up a bit," Grech says. "You might not even notice it so much if you don't contrast it with something else."
Mixing matte finished objects with glossy items of the same colour – a grey matte lamp with a glossy grey lamp, for example – helps to highlight the colour and the textures of both objects, she says.
Vancouver-based interior designer Gaile Guevara likes to "go as matte as possible" with flooring. "When it's a matte-finished interior, the lighting is a lot more softer. You have a lot less glare."
"It's much more sophisticated because it is less flashy."