As a decorative painter, Tom Henman has brought layers of texture, character and life to Lancaster County and beyond.
He’s made his mark painting walls that mimic woven tweed in formal dining rooms and creating the faux travertine marble that surrounds the iconic 30th Street Station flipboard on display at Strasburg Rail Road.
He gave the Belvedere Inn its copper leaf wall and painted a sparkling plaster backdrop for a Philadelphia bridal shop, complete with 1,700 hand-glued Swarovski crystals.
A graduate of Pennsylvania College of Art & Design, Henman started out designing catalogs and direct mailers — and bemoaning the fact that it often took a long time to see the end result of his work in print.
Taking an introductory class on decorative painting in Mechanicsburg 15 years ago would change the trajectory of his career.
“Right away I knew this was my new profession,” says Henman, 48.
He immediately painted several walls in his home, just in time to host his annual holiday party and introduce his new business: Tom Henman Decorative Painting.
Since then, his faux and custom finishes have graced residential and commercial properties locally, nationally and internationally. He’s even refinished Bruce Springsteen’s floors.
Mostly, he’s come to love the transformative power of paint.
“I see a finished project right then and there,” he says. “I see how it changes people’s emotions. When you change the environment someone lives in … it can change their life.”
Favorite room: The living room
The irony is not lost on Henman that his current favorite room features none of the decorative painting for which he is known.
He likens it to the shoemaker’s children going barefoot.
“I know I can do so many things in my business,” he says. “It’s hard to choose what to do in my house.”
His handiwork is elsewhere in his West Lemon Street home, from the hand-silvered antique mirrors in the dining room to the dramatic black palms painted on his bedroom wall. For the living room, however, Henman chose to embrace color and texture by celebrating the artistry of others.
Before its recent transformation, the room had red carpet that he inherited when he bought the home 19 years ago, glazed walls and, as he says, no real character at all.
His goals were simple: He wanted it to feel welcoming, easy and comfortable. He wanted to layer colors and fabrics. He wanted to get rid of that red carpet.
The result is warm and masculine: a deep gray-brown ceiling, a dark, solid oak floor, a chrome-and-glass side table, a solid marble coffee table and a rich brown leather Chesterfield sofa. Henman added what he calls “the diamond engagement ring”: a large, art deco-style crystal floor lamp from Restoration Hardware.
“That was my bling to balance the darkness and masculinity of the furniture,” he says.
The lamp is one of a number of carefully chosen lighting elements in the room, designed to create a bit of drama, particularly in the evening.
Henman is not a fan of extraneous decor, whether it’s random knickknacks or meaningless books.
“If I want to collect dust, I want something that I know the artist, I know where it came from,” he says.
Morocco and art
And so his living room is a happy marriage of two loves, rich in color and texture, that he knows well: Morocco and art.
Henman first visited Morocco in 2011 with the owner of a stencil pattern company, using her patterns to stencil ceilings and floors in the northern African country. He’s returned 13 times in the last nine years.
“Morocco is everywhere in this house,” he says, sporting a pair of bright orange Moroccan loafers.
It’s in the colorful layered rugs beneath the coffee table.
It’s in the pouf made from a vintage leather Moroccan rug and the pillow made from a Moroccan wedding blanket.
And it’s in the colorful orange camel fashioned from cloth and wire — a trinket purchased from a woman selling her wares on a blanket in the middle of the Sahara Desert.
Henman’s taste in art leans much closer to home.
His living room walls are a gallery of mainly local art, including five pieces by Lancaster abstract artist Marlin Bert. His newest is a recently purchased piece from Bert’s “Life” collection at City Folk Gallery. The painting depicts the word “Life” repeated in rows, first upright, then jumbled and upside down.
“He did it because of the pandemic,” Henman says. “The very last ‘Life’ is right side up. It kind of ends on a happy note.”
His current living room display also includes a large 1991 abstract piece by Jerome Hershey, a JD Wissler landscape and what he calls his “little gem”: a small David Brumbach. He had the ceiling wired for recessed lighting to highlight each piece.
Henman views himself as a caretaker of the art he collects, and he takes that responsibility seriously. A large, somber piece by Philadelphia artist David DeLong once hung over the sofa, but it brought the room down he says, so he moved it to the opposite wall at the foot of the stairs where it now has room to breathe. “It feels at peace here to me,” he says.
Truth be told, his love for the art is the main reason he refrained from putting his own decorative touch on the living room walls.
“I wanted to focus on the art,” Henman says. “I love supporting the local Lancaster artists because I’m one of them, too. It makes me happy.”