Low or zero voc paint for every style


If you’re sitting in an indoor room right now, chances are good, there is paint on the walls. There is also probably paint on the ceiling, doors, and moldings too. Paint has the reputation of being the #BasicB of the interior finishes world. It’s ubiquitous, usually covering one of the greatest surface areas of your space, and it can be a major contributor of VOCs.

What is a VOC anyways? The EPA defines it this way: “Volatile organic compounds (VOCs) are emitted as gases from certain solids or liquids. VOCs include a variety of chemicals, some of which may have short- and long-term adverse health effects.” (EPA) There are many different kinds, some like formaldehyde are known carcinogens others have various known and unknown health impacts. Basically, not good for you.

While there are many sources of VOCs inside your home to tackle, if you’re moving into a new space or renovating the one you currently live in, paint is not a bad place to start the conversation. Rethinking your walls and ceilings and choosing a no or low VOC paint, defined as less than 150 gpl, is a key shift for the health of your family as well as the environment - and a great place to express your style.

Starting with the basics almost every large paint company now offers a zero VOC option: Benjamin Moore offers Aura and Natura lines, Sherwin Williams offers  Ecoselect and Harmony, lines Pratt and Lambert offers Fresh-Spec and Behr has Premium Plus. All of these are good go-to products for basic flat, eggshell or semi-gloss finishes - they are easy to find and available almost everywhere.

My favorite Neutral Cool Grey - I used this color in my own living room - Benjamin Moore HC-170 Stonington Grey
The green I used in my own dining room - it's gives a warm enveloping color without being overly saturated or making the room dark - Benjamin Moore #699 Garden Oasis
My favorite dramatic blue - benjamin moore HC-154 Hale Navy
My favorite warm neutral - Benjamin moore seapearl #961

My latest Benjamin Moore Color Picks - Left to Right: HC-170 Stonington Grey; Classic Colors 699 Garden Oasis ; HC-154 Hale Navy; Classic Colors 961 Seapearl

Once you’ve established that you’re ready for a non-toxic wall refresh it’s time to start thinking about your style. Even working with the mainstream Zero VOC products, there’s so much  more to be done than covering your walls with good old fashioned b.moore decorator white. If you aren't ready to commit to tons of color, a trick I like to rely on is leaving some whitespace. This  can do a lot to create some graphic visual interest for your space. When considering accent areas, paint should work with the architecture to shape the space, using a darker or lighter paint strategically can create a sense of expansion/contraction making it feel cozier or more spacious.

white space.jpg

Left to right: minimalist bedroom - source unknown; Corridor Joseph Dirand Cadogan Square Apartment; Victorian house in upstate New York design via Lonny - photography by Alec Hemer;  Terzo Piano Marble Showroom Design.

If it’s drama and glamor you’re looking for, gloss paint can create a sophisticated effect. Used either in sparingly as an elevating accent or through an entire room to create a luminous sense of polish, gloss paint has a special place in many designs. There are functional advantages to using these finishes as well as they create durable, easy to clean surfaces in high-traffic areas like kitchens, bathrooms or on millwork and cabinetry that is touched frequently.

Achieving a finish with this polish, luster and durability usually means high VOC products, Achieving the hard and shiny finish created by this paint requires the use of resins that cause the paint dry exceptionally hard. but a few companies are starting to fill the market need for lower VOC high gloss alternatives. These don't fall under the zero voc cutoff but they are squarely in the EPA’s low VOC recommendations. To my knowledge there are currently no companies offering a completely VOC free high gloss finish, but Portola Paints provides a Alkyd Enamel paint similar to lacquer that can be a good alternative. Pure and original also offers a lacquer paint that has a low VOC content.


Left to right: Gloss black doors by Anne Decker Architect – Gordon Beall Photography; Greek villa by Isabel López-Quesada Richard Powers photography; green-lacquer bar in Naomi watts residence by Ashe and Leandro; kristen mcginnis 2013 Kips Bay Designer Showhouse;  

Want to go all natural? This can be a stylistic as well as a moral or health choice. There are a good number of all natural Zero VOC products that provide unique finishes that have a style all their own. For an earthy look limewash paint is a good option. Remodelista did a pretty good breakdown of limewash here. To summarize lime paint is a limestone based putty that is turned into a paintable finish with water and pigments. The result is a matte and soft textured finish. It’s ph level gives it antimicrobial properties and can help purify the air in a room.

There are great options for purchasing these traditional products in the US and abroad. products becoming more accessible for purchase. For a US based company, Portola is a great source for a variety of lime paint wash colors. Based in Canada but available in the US, Pure and Original offers a lime paint line which also has a great range of colors. Kalklitir based in belgium also offers a range of lime paint options that are available to ship worldwide.



Left to right: Dirand Paris Apartment with Grey Lime paint walls; Niels Strøyer Christophersen apartment copenhagen via Milk Decoration; Lime paint bathroom by Jacek Kolasiński photography by Karolina Bak, Tulum Tulum Treehouse, design by Co-lab, photos by Brechenmacher & Baumann Photography

Whatever your style, whether it’s classic, graphic, glamorous or earthy, there is a product available to avoid bringing unnecessary chemicals into your home. Book a consultation today to discuss how I can help you to make your space the beautiful and beautiful and healthy environment that you dream of.

Non-Toxic HomeLaura Kern