IN the making of household furniture in school shops, the art quality of the work has often been neglected. The choice for the instructor has seemed to be either that of making pieces of simple construction, using the rather commonplace current examples as models, or in making somewhat heavy pieces with the simple but severe and uninteresting lines of the revived mission style. This limitation has existed largely because of two reasons. The first of these is the fact that the students had not developed much skill in construction, and it was thought unwise and unsafe to permit them to attempt cabinet work involving the use of finer trades of material, and the more difficult forms of construction required in models of any marked degree of complexity or variety in finish. The second reason has been the absence of any source of models and instructions which would provide good examples in designs that are interesting; in variety, classic in style, and yet simple enough in construction to be within the capabilities of students who were not yet expert in workmanship.
Mr. Hjorth has succeeded in presenting a book which should do much to remove the limitation to finer grades of work by meeting both of the difficulties which have stood in the way. He has selected examples of furniture representative of the most significant and typical features of the several periods of greatest achievement in furniture making. At the same time, he has developed these in such simple form that the student with good mechanical ability, although still an amateur, may produce results that are highly satisfactory. In making pieces of furniture that are of excellent design and representative of the types of work of the greatest master designers and craftsmen, the student is not only securing the best kind of training in construction, but he is becoming acquainted in a firsthand way with the finest designs in furniture, and he is developing an appreciation of the qualities of design that will be of lifelong value to him. This will be true with reference to his judgment of what is good in selecting furniture as well as in its production. From this point of view, the work may be rated as having general or cultural value as well as vocational value.
Such a book will also be a valuable reference for any who are interested in a study of period furniture but who are unable to go into the matter intensively, or who perhaps may do no constructive work whatever. Most books dealing with period furniture treat of the subject so very comprehensively and with so much technical detail that the average man or woman can make little of it. This book should meet a general and popular need for a clear and simple treatment of period furniture. It should therefore be of use in classes studying household furnishings from the standpoint of home makers or purchasers of furniture in any capacity. The chapter on period furniture is not so detailed or elaborate as to be obscure or tiresome, and, at the same time, it is sufficiently full to give a reasonably clear conception of the significant features of each period and its points of chief differences from other periods.
Wherever there is an interest in good furniture of fine design, either from the point of view of making furniture or of selecting it, this book should be of use. In the simple, yet adequate treatment developed by Mr. Hjorth, he has made a contribution which should be of service to junior and senior high schools, vocational classes in cabinet making, furniture manufacture, furniture salesmanship, or home making, and to any other forms of extension classes having to do with problems in the selection and use of furniture. May the book find its way to all of those who are in need of its message!
FREDERICK G. BONSER