Pianos are a common feature in the homes of our Modsy clients. And many of them come to us wondering how to design a living room around their beloved instrument. It can be quite a challenge!
Whether you’re taking music lessons, have a pianist in the family, or inherited a baby grand piano, you’re dealing with a large musical instrument that has a serious impact on your room’s design. You can’t just stick them anywhere—these are sensitive instruments! But you also need to make them work with the overall layout of your space.
Most people place pianos in their living rooms, as this is already a place to gather. But you may find that a living room with a piano has competing needs. Should the seating area be the main focal point? Or the piano? Or is there actually a way for both purposes to live in harmony?
Beyond aesthetics and room functionality, it actually is important to think through the placement of your piano within a room; where a piano is placed can impact the sound, performance, and overall longevity of your instrument. We want to make sure your piano not only looks beautiful but maintains its structural and mechanical integrity for years to come! And that means adhering to a couple of guidelines when it comes to figuring out the layout of a living room with a piano.
So, we’re outlining some of the do’s and don’t s for piano placement, as well as sharing some living room design ideas for how to decorate around a piano in your living room! Read on for all the details.
Do: Decide on a Grand vs Upright Piano
If you inherited a piano, you might not have much choice over what style you have in your home. But if you’re looking to purchase a piano, consider if you want an upright or a grand piano. It’s all about the amount of space you have, as well as what the piano will be used for.
Grand and baby grand pianos offer a more dynamic range than an upright piano, with rich resonance and diverse tonality. But they also tend to be much louder and larger (ranging from 5 feet in length for a baby grand piano and up to 9 feet or more for a concert grand). Naturally, they’re also more expensive. This is often the piano type of choice for professional musicians.
Upright (or “vertical”) pianos are much more compact and also tend to be much less expensive. There are actually several different types of upright pianos, in a variety of sizes. A spinet piano is the smallest type of vertical piano, usually 36-39 inches tall. A console piano is the next size up, in the 40-44-inch-tall range. This style of piano tends to have more aesthetic considerations and is intended for home use. A studio piano is just a bit larger, at 45-47 inches tall; this is what you’ll often find in a church or school. A full upright piano is 48 inches tall or larger and offers more range, resonance, and diverse tonality than smaller units—giving you the closest sound to a grand piano in an upright style. An upright piano is the ideal choice for music students, casual musicians, and in-home piano teachers.
Do: Consider if Your Piano is for Regular Use or More Decorative
Does someone in your family play the piano regularly? Or do you have an antique piano that’s more of a showpiece than a regularly used instrument? How you use your piano will impact where you place it in your space and how it interacts with your overall living room layout.
If you have a pianist in the home who plays regularly, you’ll want to prioritize acoustics and quality of sound over aesthetics. You’ll also want to place the piano where the musician will feel most comfortable and listeners can gather around. With an upright piano, this could be in the center of the room, near the main seating area. It’s also nice if the pianist is able to face into the room and can look out on those who are listening versus having their back to the crowd.
If your piano is more of a decorative show piece, you can feel free to consider prioritizing the overall function of your room over the best sound quality, and simply place your piano in a spot that looks best and is most convenient for you.
Don’t: Put Your Piano in Direct Sunlight
When figuring out where to place your piano, make sure you don’t choose a spot in direct sunlight. Prolonged exposure to direct sunlight is bad for pianos; not only can sun exposure cause a piano’s finish to fade but it can also compromise their sound. Direct sunlight can cause the soundboard to dry out and crack and weaken the glue joins throughout the instrument.
Don’t: Place Your Piano Near a Window
You also shouldn’t place a piano too close to a window, or near heat vents or fireplaces. (Basically, anywhere the piano could get too hot or too cold.) A piano is susceptible to the elements, like changing temperature, heat, cold, even moisture and it’s better to keep them in a location where the temperature and humidity will stay fairly steady. Keeping your piano away from windows is especially important in older homes, where windows tend to be a bit more drafty.
Changes in temperature and humidity can impact the piano’s tuning and cause parts to swell or shrink, which makes for an unstable environment for your instrument. Essentially, the less airflow and the more stability in temperature and humidity around your piano, the better.
Designer Tip: If placing your piano near a window is your only option due to your room’s architecture, consider hanging curtains to filter out light and mitigate any temperature changes, like we did in the living room design above.
Do: Place Your Piano Along an Inner Wall
Inner walls are safer for pianos due to the absence of windows. This offers the most regulated temperature and humidity for your instrument and helps promote the best sound quality—especially for upright pianos. On an upright piano, the soundboard is often openly exposed on the back of the instrument, and placing it against a wall allows for the best acoustics.
Grand Pianos should be placed with the long edge parallel to an inner wall.
In terms of specific placement, grand pianos sound best when the longest edge is placed parallel to a wall. This optimizes the sound quality and acoustics. Upright pianos are best placed against an inner wall, but it doesn’t matter if it’s in the middle of the wall or in a corner.
Do: Use Caution When Decorating Around Your Piano
It can be tempting to place framed photos and knick-knacks on the top of your piano—but resist the urge as much as possible! Pianos are hefty, but they’re truly delicate instruments that aren’t technically designed to hold additional objects. It’s best to hang art above an upright piano. Or, if you really want to place decor on top, consider putting a cloth on the top as a protective layer to protect the finish from scratches.
But that’s not to say your piano should sit all on it’s own. Use the wall around your piano to visually support and enhance your beautiful instrument. And don’t forget to add good lighting—which can be both decorative and functional! Of course, it’s your piano—so how you decorate on and around it is ultimately up to you!
Need help incorporating your piano into your living room’s design?