Coatings are ubiquitous in our daily lives, from the walls in the house to food packaging and electronic gadgets. Coatings are formed by first applying a dispersion of resins or polymer particles, solvents, pigments and possible additives to a surface. As the volatile compounds evaporate, the particles come together and coalesce to form a coherent layer. Commonly, organic solvents are used for coatings, however, there is an obvious need to move towards more sustainable alternatives such as water-based coatings. Here, we attempted to rethink the way chemical building blocks could be used to develop water-based coatings that are more robust, reliable and sustainable. By redesigning the critical step of coalescing in the process of film formation, we have shown that the mechanical properties of latex based coatings can be improved. We make use of physical multivalent interactions between chemically modified polymer particles and nanoparticles to improve the ductility of our coatings. The strategy used here could potentially result in the development of water-based paints and coatings that can withstand deformations and cracks and hence are more robust and last longer.