painting a piano

I’ve wanted a piano for years. I grew up with a gorgeous baby grand but ever since leaving for college, I haven’t had one to play. A couple months ago I got the urge to play that just wouldn’t go away. So I did what anyone looking for a piano would do : I went to a local music store, played several used uprights, and fell in love with one. Except even at the good price of $450, I just couldn’t do it.

Craigslist is really bare here in a small town but I thought I’d at least give that a shot. If I couldn’t find anything there, then maybe I could find a way to set aside the money for the one I liked, knowing it was my best option. But believe it or not, a listing came up for a house full of furniture for sale – including an upright piano. I couldn’t tell how it looked from the dark picture so T and I went to take a look and took it home for just $25, including the bench. After a good tuning a getting a couple keys fixed, it’s totally playable and perfect for what I wanted.

Except I wasn’t in love with it’s appearance.

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It’s not BAD but it’s not my style. It’s way too dark for the room, had scratches and areas where the stain has worn off unevenly. The bench didn’t match. Parts of it are wood (with a dark cherry stain) but the majority of the surface is this weird cardboard wallpaper material with a basket weave texture on it. Staining the piano was out of the question, so I researched all over the web to find more information about painting a piano.

Some people take it all apart and even remove every key before painting it. I don’t know enough about pianos to know how to do this correctly, much less put it back together. I ended up only taking the music stand off and then taping up the insides (beneath the “lid” of the piano), taping off the keys, and taping off the pedals with plastic grocery bags and frog tape. I taped it all off before sanding to keep the piano free of sawdust.

A lot of people also take their piano out into a garage or workspace and spray paint it. You’ll get a smoother and more even finish that way, but I didn’t do that because it’s hard to move the piano, it’s cold outdoors and I didn’t want to mess with the tuning too much with sudden humidity and temperature changes, and that texture over most of the piano would be very difficult to cover with a spray. We just pulled the piano out from the wall and put a plastic tarp underneath.

Once it was all taped off, I began sanding all the wooden parts down enough to rough up the surface.

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Then I put 2-3 coats of primer on it. There were a few areas where the reddish stain would bleed through, so those are the areas with 3 coats of primer.

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When I got to the painting phase, I was still pretty indecisive about color. Yellow would be perfect with the colors in the room, and yellow is my favorite color, so I went for it. But after a coat of paint I realized just how bright it was. And how much attention it would grab. The piano is a shorter upright (technically a spinet) and somehow the combination of it’s shape and the basket weave texture made it feel too mid-century for the room with the yellow.

Instead of being patient and waiting for the next day so I could buy more paint, I realized there was still over half a gallon of turquoise blue paint from the accent wall on the other side of the living room. My 2nd choice of color for the piano would be a turquoise but I was worried about clashing with the accent wall. Since I had the exact same paint already, I went for it.

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The crazy thing about paint is how it can look SO different depending on what you’re painting and how much surface is covered. The piano looks noticeably lighter than the wall but it still looks good across the room from it.

I was pretty scared to take on such a big project but I’m really glad I went for it. I’m loving this turquoise piano even more than I did the day I brought it home.

Here’s the before & after, side by side.

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Anyone feel like painting their piano now? I’d LOVE to see pictures.

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