Matte vs. Satin Finish for Furniture

Applying finishes is usually the last step in woodworking projects unless you want your furniture in its raw wood form. With many types of finishes to choose from, it can be daunting and intimidating. To make deciding easier for you, we will compare two of the most popular furniture finishes – matte and satin.

Why Applying a Finish is Important?

There are two main reasons to apply a finish to your furniture, for appearance and protection purposes. Here is why you should consider the application of furniture finishes.

To Improve Appearance

All types of wood have grains, some variants more vibrant than the others. Certain finishes give more life to these grains through highlights and color additions. However, some kinds of finishes require you to apply clear coats afterward to protect your furniture. 

To Add Protection

Wood is a naturally porous material. It can soak almost anything that touches it, including dirt, oils, and chemicals. Applying a finish counteracts this problem by sealing the wood to keep them out of the wood grains. 

Matte Finish for Furniture

A matte or flat finish is ideal for individuals who like the look of natural wood like these display cabinets here. While shiny finishes tend to be distracting, a matte finish will leave a smooth surface while still capturing the rich colors of wood. The soft appearance produced by this finish accentuates antique furniture and natural wood trim very well. 

Common Uses for Matte Finishes

Matte finishes are typically considered for spaces with luxurious appearances and low traffic, including formal dining rooms, home libraries, and studies. This type of finish is also known to contrast with satin walls effectively. Additionally, matte finishes are extremely easy to touch up, making them ideal for suites and rental properties as well. 


These are some advantages of a matte finish over a satin variant:

  • Provides a warm, luxurious look 
  • Ideal for rooms that get direct sunlight
  • Helps hide imperfections as you coat the surface
  • Easy touch-ups, blends repairs effortlessly


Here are the limitations of getting matte finishes:

  • The soft texture holds and catches more dirt compared to other finishes
  • A little difficult to clean, removing stains and spills may damage the finish
  • Not exceptionally durable, wearing may occur, leaving shiny spots

Satin Finish for Furniture

This type of furniture finish and décor gives more shine than matte, but still not considered high shine. Once satin finishes set, the surface becomes very reflective, drawing the eye to reflected lighting. The results they provide after drying are remarkably like a pearl’s appearance and often more vibrant compared to matte finishes.

Common Uses for Satin Finishes

Satin finishes work very well with high-traffic areas where a soft but durable finish is desired. Some of these areas include bedrooms and living rooms. If you desire a finish that’s soft without being too reflective, a satin finish will be ideal for you. 


Here are the benefits you get by opting for satin finishes:

  • Exceptionally durable, they can hold up to high amounts of traffic
  • They are generally washable with household cleaners
  • Sheer shine provides a more vibrant color


These are some limitations of choosing satin over matte finishes:

  • Touch-ups are not easily blended into the finish
  • Imperfections such as dings or nail pops are very noticeable
  • Longer preparation time needed, applying it not something to be rushed

Finish Application Methods

You have several options when applying finishing to furniture, some are straightforward while the others are more complicated. Let us take a quick look at these three application methods.

Brush Method

This method is a little more complex compared to the other methods, requiring you to clean beforehand. Cleaning can be hard on its own and using brushes may also lead to unwanted marks in your final output. 

Wipe Method

Some finishes allow you to apply them using just a rag, including varnish, oil, and shellac. You can wipe off excess using another rag as well. After you finish your application, you can just throw the rags away.

Spray Method

While certain finishes are available in spray-can forms, they cannot provide the same precision you get from other application types. It makes up for this limitation by reducing application time and reducing costs. 

Matte vs. Satin Finish for Furniture

When it comes to deciding from these two finish variants, it all comes down to your preferences and needs. For example, if you want something easy to touch up, you may find matte finishes more helpful. On the other hand, if you desire a finish that is durable enough to not require frequent maintenance, you’ll like a satin finish more.