Musical talent is preferred, though certainly not required for owning a piano. Space is another story. Pianos are meant to flourish in glorious, expansive settings. Before Casio, our elegant 19th century ancestors had entire parlors for live performances, though it’s an increasingly rare thing to see a music room today. Even so, some homes haven’t quite let the idea dissipate. Throughout my time as a design editor, I’ve seen the baby grand nearly take down immensely talented creative directors who have tried in vain to feature these very distinct, slightly cumbersome instruments in modern magazine layouts.
Lately, a few inventive makers have moved away from the prim and proper, sweeping largess of the piano, turning out designs that fit more comfortably in the current era. Here are three styles that do the trick.
Most design roads lead to Scandinavia, but not in this category. Yes, midcentury modern-inspired lines help define the Kiyola F10 , a collaboration between Japanese piano brand Roland and furniture company Karimoku. The handcrafted walnut piece is analog on the outside and digital on the inside, with Bluetooth technology (to connect with any speaker or app) The whole look is more low profile—perfect for blending in with your Panton chairs.
Still, the Kiyola caught the eye of Emmanuel Plat, director of retail merchandising at MoMA. “The Kiyola incorporates sensing technology as well as Bluetooth connectivity that enables the user to experience the piano in a different way and will appeal to various audiences,” says Plat. “It also occupies a very limited footprint compared to other pianos and certainly will not spoil any interior.”
This sherbet number could be straight out of Wes Anderson’s quixotic universe. And there’s a Hollywood connection: LA-based design studio Wall for Apricots, helmed by Katy Burgess and Brady Cunningham, created the Marzipan Pianette with actor Jason Schwartzman for the Sight Unseen OFFSITE design exhibition in New York. They nestled a 1970’s Hohner Clavinet Pianet keyboard into a glossy handmade maple and birch body, stripping the entire thing of pretense like a dulcet act of rebellion. “We ended up with a piece that really speaks to [Jason’s] love of one-of-a-kind instruments, as well as our love for functionality and form,” the pair relay. “That said, if anyone is interested in a custom bejeweled sound generator, we know a guy.”
Sauter Piano Maufaktur is just shy of its 200th anniversary, so this company knows something about this category. Founded in 1819, the company “has produced handmade pianos since then without interruption and is still family-owned,” says sixth-generation owner Ulrich Sauter. The brand did a major pivot with the ultra-modern Pure Basic. Designer Peter Maly, who has created furniture for Ligne Roset, among others, concocted an undiluted modernist form so devoid of embellishment it reads like an essay on the sins of excess. The model features a lid that when opened, directs sound around the room (and appears to take flight). Inlaid chrome-plated details, chrome feet, and the elongated grip for the fallboard further the minimalist update.