home Piano design and décor
We’re not sure if in the early 1800s Heinrich Englehard Steinweg was thinking about home design and décor when he built his first grand piano by hand in the kitchen of his house in Germany’s Harz Mountains. More than likely, he had already moved the kitchen table out of the way and cleared the counters off so he could put his tools on top. And, more than likely, his wife was probably complaining about the wood shavings and sawdust in her kitchen.
Nevertheless, in 1850 when Heinrich immigrated to New York City with his wife and nine children, anglicized his name to Henry E. Steinway, and in 1853, opened his first piano factory, his magnificent handmade pianos had already become renowned in Germany as a work of art, a thing of beauty, a piece that could easily fit into any home décor.
Now in America, Henry set about refining his designs, training skilled technicians who then sculpted and bent pieces of exotic wood by hand. Piece by piece, step by step these artisans painstakingly set over 12,000 parts into place, strung 233 strings so that they vibrated throughout the spruce soundboard and handmade bridge, and finally finished what has become Steinway’s exclusive, time-tested, design perfect piano.
With a multitude of musical colors and many-hued tones, housed in a cabinet that is unmatched in quality and design, the Steinway & Sons pianos truly lives up to its slogan: “A Steinway makes a statement before it makes a sound.”
One look at a Steinway grand piano, and your heart melts. Who hasn’t admired the high ebony gloss of the six layers of their trademark Diamondgloss™ finish, applied by using the top Italian furniture polishing equipment. It takes three weeks of sanding, buffing, and polishing to create their one-millimeter-thick layer of unique, scratch resistant, gloss finish.
So how do you incorporate this magnificent piece of musical art into your home or apartment?
When creating advertising in a newspaper or online, ad agencies push the idea of having quality “white space.” That means that there’s space where everything is blank. A headline, for example, followed by “white space” focuses the eye on the headline.
When incorporating a grand piano (or even an upright one), you need to remember the theory of using “white space.” Make the piano more than a fine musical instrument, make it the focus of the room you’re decorating. Decorate around the piano. Make it the central theme of your room.
Ideally, a grand piano should be placed on an inside wall to protect it from sudden changes in temperature that may seep through an outside wall, and by all means, keep it away from direct sunlight.
The lid should be opened out and facing away from the wall so that the sound has room to resonate. Placing it in the corner of a room is ideal because the wall angles amplify the sound outwards as well. The piano should not be near open windows or doorways and away from heat and AC vents and fireplaces.
With an upright piano, the sound comes mostly from the back of the instrument. These uprights should also be placed against an inner wall, away from direct sunlight, heat or AC vents, doors, and windows. Most of the sound from an upright piano comes from the back of the instrument.
By being thoughtful about where you locate your piano, by making sure it’s not exposed to too much light, heat or cold, you will preserve the overall condition of your investment, keep it well-tuned, and increase its longevity. Steinway pianos have been known to last up to 100 years or more!
While Steinway piano cabinets can come in varying woods and colors, the glossy, highly lacquered ebony grand piano makes a real statement in a home or apartment. Not only does it say, “I’m a serious musician or a serious pianist,” it also says that you have exquisite taste, some wealth, and that you understand the importance of the Steinway tradition, craftsmanship, and reputation.
Placing the piano on a bare hardware or tile floor makes the most sense because it’s the most natural way to listen to music. A room with wood or tile floors provides an ideal environment for a piano because it can reverberate off a hard surface, much like a concert stage or recording studio. The tones produced stay clean, clear, and crisp.
If the piano is placed within a room with quite a few windows and high ceilings, that’s even better. The combination of the hard flooring, windows, and vaulted ceilings helps the soundwaves travel out into the room, resonating throughout with deep bass notes and crisp, tinkling high notes.
When sound travels downward into a carpet or area rug, the dense material that rugs are made of deadens the sound coming from underneath the soundboard, which is situated at the bottom of the piano. Caster cups are available to protect your hardwood floors without hurting the sounds emanating from your piano keyboard. And if you need more light, install a ceiling light overhead, or perhaps a chandelier to really give your piano the “spotlight”.
If you live in a carpeted apartment and there are people in an apartment below, you can easily install a piece of plexiglass underneath the piano. This will still have the effect of hardwood or tiles and still reflect the sound coming from underneath the piano, allowing the music to sound just as if it was directly on the hardwood or tile floor.
Think of the piano as just one of many decorative components inside the room where the instrument is going to be located. Whether it’s an upright or grand piano of any size, Steinway has crafted a decorative work of art. Smooth lines, cool to the touch, elegant, graceful, and sophisticated. So, use the piano as the focal point, but be sure to add personal touches around the instrument and within the room.
Add things that reflect your personality. Minimalistic décor is fine but being too minimal projects a stark and totally blank atmosphere. You want charm, attractiveness, and charisma to shine through with your Steinway as the center of attention.
Other objects in a room that affect the sound of your piano are things like curtains, draperies, and couches. Soft and cushy furniture will absorb sound and will affect the quality of tones and nuanced music coming from the piano.
So, look for soft rounded furniture that’s not too “overstuffed” to highlight and pair with the roundness of the piano cabinet. Add light colors and subtle tones as counterpoint to the bright, shiny ebony piano. Bright colors or wild prints will take the focus away. You want eyes directed toward the piano.
You can place complementary artwork on the walls that pull the color scheme together. Hang wallpaper, and valences on windows. Heavy draperies will absorb sound just as much as overstuffed furniture or carpeting. Add live plants placed around the room to create a living, breathing atmosphere. Just remember the “white space.” Or as the saying goes: “Less is more.”
But keep the surface of the piano free from everything! No plants, no flower vases, framed photos, drinks, no liquids of any kind! Not only could spillage damage the finish, but it can also have a direct effect on the sound of the piano. If you must put a metronome or light on the surface, make sure they have protective felt on the base, so they won’t scratch the surface. Or better still, put them within easy reach on a table next to your piano. Or how about that chandelier?!
And keep your Steinway looking beautiful! Keep it free from fingerprints and dust. The exterior of your piano should be wiped with a soft, dry piece of fine knit cloth. It can be slightly dampened with plain water to remove fingerprints and dust. You can also use a dry microfiber polishing cloth afterwards.
Design inspiration and décor ideas can be a bit overwhelming unless you have some training, experience or naturally come by some decorating talent. But with a little research, a plan to put into place, and maybe with a little help, you can bring your “piano room” to life, give it character, and shine the spotlight on the magnificent Steinway & Sons piano. Ask your friends, consult a decorator, speak with our experienced dealers at Steinway Music Gallery. Any way you choose to get the help you need will certainly enlighten and inspire for years to come.