Tag Archives: NR Hiller Design

David Berman of Trustworth Studios, Part Two

Wallpaper: both literally and figuratively in the background…the setting against which the real action takes place. Yawn.


I’ve been a fan of wallpaper ever since the early 1980s, when my friend Bronwen and I drooled over each new edition of the Laura Ashley catalogue. (I know, you’re thinking “Laura Ashley? How twee. And aren’t their paint colors now sold through Lowe’s?” But those 1980s catalogues were gorgeous productions, not to mention surprisingly forward-looking in their use of dramatic settings to showcase everyday products.) From Laura I graduated to Bradbury & Bradbury, whose swatches I could count on to lift my spirits on even the gloomiest day. Starting in the mid-1990s I became aware of more period wallpaper makers, among them John Burrows, Carol Mead, and the masterly Adelphi Paper Hangings. But for years I’ve had a special fondness for Trustworth Studios.

Among Trustworth’s offerings you’ll find E.W. Godwin’s fabulous Aesthetic creation Bamboo, as well as the luscious Hydrangea, based on an 1896 pattern by Lindsay P. Butterfield. But the main reason why Trustworth has become my go-to source for late-19th century style is Voysey–or more precisely, David Berman’s interpretation of the architect C.F.A. Voysey’s designs. They’re not just gorgeous to behold, but often also funny: Always clever, sometimes dark, they were created by an artist of small stature and large intelligence whose grandfather, an architect, knew Ruskin, and whose father, a reverend, was expelled from the Church of England for denying the doctrine of eternal damnation; he later founded the Theistic Church with help from prominent individuals such as Charles Darwin. More (much more) on that in my book on English Arts & Crafts furniture, which will be published in 2018 by Popular Woodworking.

For now, take a little romp through a fraction of the work by means of which Trustworth Studios patterns come to life. This is no case of crude cutting and pasting.


The process begins with David tracing an original design, using a stylus. Here the pattern is Trustworth’s “Falcon and Lily.”


Next begins David’s work with color. Look closely at the outlines of the lily petals and you’ll see that they are made up of two lines, one a medium terracotta, the other darker. The same will eventually apply to the stem; here, David is building up its texture.


The pattern becomes richer. David is working on the colors and introducing texture to emulate that of the original design, in the following image.



Here the pattern contains far more detail, but there is still more to go.

Lebus sideboard with Trustworth paper at Popular Woodworking shoot

Here’s “Falcon and Lily” as the background for the book cover shoot at the studio of Popular Woodworking in Cincinnati. That’s Megan in the mirror. As this picture shows, the effect of the paper is quite different when the pattern’s spread across a large area. Instead of reading as a distinct pattern, it imparts to the room a certain feel.

Futuristic vision

View to north

Most recently completed job: a 22-foot-long wall paneled in custom-veneered oak for our customer, architect Larry Phelps. The credit for this thrilling vision goes entirely to Larry, who had waited quite a few years to see this idea brought to life in his home before he called me last fall. 

A 3/8-inch ground veneered in straight-grain red oak is scribed to the ceiling, wraps around the wall’s ends, and returns at the rear. The panels were veneered by Heitink Veneers with sequence-matched plainsawn red oak, then cut to precise dimensions and edgebanded in my shop. (I like that use of the passive voice, as though the work was done automatically.)

A key component of Larry’s vision is an ingenious treatment for a flat-screen TV. He fabricated a compartment behind the paneling, painted the interior black to make it invisible, and concealed it all behind a tinted screen. It’s deeply rewarding to see a customer so pleased by the realization of his own dream. As Larry writes, 

I find myself accepting that it is a magic piece of glass.  So I guess the illusion is complete, because I know what’s going on and it doesn’t matter.   I have enjoyed it for a few days now and it still amazes me.  It is like looking at something from the future.

Now you see it...

Now you see it…

now you don't

and now you don’t.