Make room for music

Live music lends vitality to any room, but finding the right spot for a baby grand can pose a design dilemma that even the masters find challenging.

At the Cedar Rock house in Quasqueton, Iowa, architect Frank Lloyd Wright went so far as to ask the Steinway Company to customize one of its pianos so it wouldn’t overpower the room. You may not need to take such bold measures if you follow these tips for maintaining a sense of harmony between the instrument and your home.

Stay in tune

When assessing a likely spot, take a look at environmental factors that will affect the instrument’s performance. Remember, pianos are made mostly of wood and have as many as 4,500 moving parts, so before placing the piano, pay close attention to fireplaces, doors to the outside, and even heating and air-conditioning vents. Changing temperatures may cause a piano to slip out of tune, but the real enemy is a fluctuating level of humidity. Ideally, the room’s relative humidity should be between 40 and 50 percent. If the humidity of your local climate varies widely, ask a piano dealer about high-tech humidity controls that can be installed inside the piano.

Direct sunlight can also cause problems. In addition to slight expansion and contraction of the wood caused by the sun’s heat, too much exposure to ultraviolet rays can cause a piano’s finish to fade.

Sound advice

How a piano sounds depends both on how it is tuned and on the acoustics of the room in which it is played. Too many hard surfaces can make a piano sound "bright," as the higher frequencies bounce from surface to surface. Dampening some of the sound with carpeting will make the instrument seem quieter and take the edge off the upper octaves. If you have hardwood floors, simply put an area rug under the piano. Draperies and wallpaper also offer modest sound-dampening qualities.

A lesson in scale

Because they are large, pianos tend to be the focus of the room. But a big dark piano doesn’t have to steal the show. To add balance, consider another hefty piece of furniture on an opposite wall. Bookshelves, an armoire, or even large paintings can round out the ensemble and add balance to the room by filling vertical space. Since pianos are typically dark in color, you’ll want to keep the room’s colors fairly light to prevent it from feeling cramped.

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