From The Home Workshop Manual, edited by Arthur Wakeling, New York: Popular Mechanics Press, 1930, pages 32-49

Basically the text below constitutes the "introduction" to an extensive chapter of projects in the "modern" mode, a new style that created a definite impact in the 1920s and 1930s, a style that continues popular among a loyal group of followers today. Read more about "modern" here and here.

In choosing Hjorth to write this chapter, editor Wakeling obviously knew what he was doing. Today, unfortunately, biographical details about Hjorth are sketchy. What I have found is in the contents of this page. What I have found substantive about his life and his achievements is limited.

I have in my library many of Hjorth's woodworker's manuals and related books, and have looked at many of his articles, published in Popular Science, probably with the editorial direction of Arthur Wakeling, a longtime editor at PS.

From my examination of this evidence, Hjorth does not give any hint of an aesthetic interest in modern design; instead, from the easily located output of his professional career one gets the definite conviction that Hjorth's aesthetics interests were entirely Colonial Revival and/or classic design, i.e., Queen Anne, Chippendale, but not neo-Gothic nor Arts and Crafts, evidence that makes us suspicious about this chapter's extensive treatment of modern design. Almost 20 pages long, the chapter includes 20 illustrations for projects on folding screens, bookcases, lamps, and a "setback cabinet".


"SKYSCRAPER" furniture they call it sometimes. Modern or modernistic furniture is a better name, but by any name it represents the new mode in furniture-the furniture that we see in more and more homes.


Revolutionary? Mechanistic? Yes, but useful, beautiful in the structural harmony of its proportions, and strikingly original and decorative. The new designs promise to do for furniture what the setback skyscrapers have done for architecture.

Above all, modernistic furniture is simple in construction. Every home worker, if he has good designs to follow, can build decorative modern pieces quickly, easily, and inexpensively.


Modernistic furniture is so stimulating as to take one's breath away. It is at once severe and angular, crystalline and scintillating. You may not like it at first, but it grows upon you.

Folding screens decorated in the modernistic manner offer the amateur craftsman an especially easy and natural way in which to introduce the new mode into his own home. They can be placed in rooms containing period or commercial furniture without upsetting the harmony of the decorative scheme. At the same time, if the colors are happily chosen to suit the surroundings, they will add a brilliant touch of modernity.


"But I cannot see any rhyme or reason in these new styles," you may object. Perhaps not, but that may be because you have not paid much attention to the exhibitions. window displays, and advertisements of furniture and accessories in the modernistic style. The truth seems to be that those who are the most skeptical when they first see the new designs become later on the most enthusiastic about them. That is because the style is characteristic of the time in which we live-the machine age.

It is the added leisure which machines and mass production have given us that makes it possible for many of us who are mechanically or artistically inclined to buy a few tools and arrange a workshop in which to gratify our inherited instinct for manual activity.