Reconsidering A Painted Piano

Remember that Craigslist piano that I got for free (other than the $200 I had to pay to have it moved)?

Thos Goggan & Bros upright piano - 1

Remember how I specifically wanted a painted piano (or rather, a piano that I could paint), and then I found out that this particular piano kind of has some historical value, so I decided that I felt guilty painting it?

I’m really having second thoughts about that. 

I’m not one of those “wood should never be painted” types of people.  Far from it.  I know people say, “But you destroy the monetary value of furniture when you paint it!”  But this piano isn’t monetarily valuable.  And frankly, I rarely even give a thought about the monetary value of pieces that will be living in my home.   In my mind, if I want a particular piece of furniture in my house, but it doesn’t work in its current condition (with its current finish) then it has no value to me.  And sometimes a coat or two of paint is all that’s needed to change that so that the piece has value to me in my own home.

And yet I find myself feeling guilty about painting this piano.  I don’t know why.  It desperately needs to be refinished (the current finish is so old it feels like sandpaper), and stripping a finish is stripping a finish.  In other words, I could strip it now and refinish it, or I could add a couple of layers of paint, enjoy it painted for a few years (or until I get tired of it being painted and want something different), and then strip it later and refinish it.  Stripping and refinishing a piece as large as a piano is difficult, time-consuming work.  But really, a couple of extra layers of latex paint won’t really make that process any more difficult.  A good chemical stripper will eat through all of the layers of finish very quickly, regardless of how many extra layers I add between now and when I’m ready to refinish it.

So I think I’ve talked myself into painting it.  I still feel a twinge of guilt, but somehow that guilt subsides a bit when I get online and start looking at all of the bright, colorful, beautiful pianos that other people have painted.  Just take a look at the amazing difference it made in Kristyn’s piano at Lil’ Luna.  Here’s what she started with…

painted piano from lil luna blog - before

And here’s what it looks like now…

painted piano from lil luna blog - after

You can click here to see how she painted her piano.

I LOVE that yellow!  It’s so bright and cheery.  In fact, I’m considering yellow for my piano.  Yellow is the brightest of all colors, and since my piano is going in a room that has no windows and only gets natural light via the neighboring rooms, I think it needs a bit of brightness.  A big, dark piece (i.e., a dark wood piano) in that room would just be too much.  That room needs as much lighnesst and brightness as I can bring.

And I don’t think I’ve told you yet, but the music room is where I’ve decided to use my hand-drawn, butterfly-free DIY version of Schumacher’s Birds & Butterflies wallpaper. (More birds and no butterflies for me, please! 🙂 )

schumacher birds and butterflies wallpapervia Schumacher

Can you just picture it?  A soft-but-bright yellow piano sitting in front of my own version of that wallpaper?  Ahhhh…it makes my heart happy.  Seriously, that will be one of those rooms that it’s just impossible to be in and be in a bad mood, or upset, or grumpy.  It will be the happiest of rooms.  And isn’t that perfect for a music room?

And now I think I’ve almost certainly talked myself into it.  🙂



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  1. Paint it!! Just like what you said, you can always strip it later if you change your mind. I think it would look awesome painted–it would be such a statement piece, and would really bring you happiness to look at it. I think by not painting it, you’ll regret it. Just my two cents!

    1. Agree with Susan h! Go for it, we have an art group in the neighboring Kansas City that paints pianos in whatever strikes the artists mood and then places the pianos throughout the Plaza area, people then stop and play them and admire the artists work. It is a lot of fun and whimsical. I have an o;d piano in my dining room that I have decided to paint soon. 🙂

  2. Go for it, Kristi. I too have historical value (senior citizen) but I love color on me and in my home…It lightens my soul, and I LOVE The choice of color and paper…I love the butterflies also, new beginning, every day, but I understand your love of birds…As I type this entry, I am watching them play outside my window, so cheerful, graceful, and colorful. So don’t be daunted…it is your space, and just walking past it needs to make you smile.

    And on another note…A Friend from Brenham called this week…”ROAD TRIP to Waco”…so next week we hit your town to shop for “treasures”…Can’t wait…Suggestions?

  3. Live big it’s yours and color is what you’re all about. Paint it and love it now if you change your mind down the road… So what?

  4. I can’t wait to see it! Yellow is my favorite color and I love the butterflyless paper/art you are planning.

  5. Colorcolorcolor! ~:0)

    P.S. What about a few Dragonflies instead of the Butterflies? Did you know that there are different colored ones?

    1. Yeah, that’s exactly what I wanted to suggest, too, as I love dragonflies. I like the idea of the painted piano – it’s yours, you can do whatever you like with it!!!

  6. I’m so thrilled you’ve decided to paint it! And that wallpaper…oh my! Are you planning on actually drawing it on your walls or are you going to create your own custom wallpaper? If so, I would definitely be interested in some for my master bathroom! 🙂

  7. I think you talked me into painting mine!! It is dark and has a HORRIBLE finish that I would love to see covered up. I love the bright yellow of the example and am so excited to see your version of the wallpaper. I think this might end up being my favorite room in your house!

  8. YES! Do it! I love yellow and I’ve been thinking of painting my piano too! Although I thought I’d do it blue with decoupage sheet music and “name” it Rhapsody in Blue! I might see how time intensive it is for you though and then make my final decision.

  9. Do it Kristi! You should NOT feel guilty at all about making a piece into something that excites and inspires you! And I’m so thrilled to hear you have decided to create that wallpaper look in your music room! I think it’s so artsy and inspirational…perfect for a creative room! The bright cheerful piano and that backdrop will be great!

  10. OK.. not sure how this would look but what if you painted it but left the signature panel in the middle that has the creators name? That would in a way pay homage to the historical part of the piano and retain the history and still have your bright fun piece of furniture. I’m not sure I love the yellow but then again it’s your house and you can use whatever color makes you happy.

  11. Do it, do it, do it!!!! I think it will look amazing painted and especially in front of that ‘wallpaper’ design! I simply cannot wait to see it finished!!!

  12. I’m generally one in the camp of not painting wood….more because I love the look and feel of natural wood. However, I’m with you when you say that if a piece doesn’t work in your house, it has no value for you regardless of the finish or style or “value”. I am in full favor of you painting your piano, completely guilt-free, and I think whatever color you choose, it will look fabulous in front of your hand-drawn wall-paper. Yellow is such a warm and welcoming color, and if it inspires you to sit down and play, then all the better! You make an excellent point in the stripping not being much more difficult with paint on top of the current finish. So, in this case, especially, I think that painting is a functional and time efficient decision as well as a gloriously beautiful one! As you said, you can always strip it later, if you like.

    1. This was my thought as well. Will it change the depth and vibrancy of the sound? Rustoleum makes colored stains which can be used to change the color without deadening the sound.So I researched a bit about painying a piano and found th following:
      As a professional pianist and organist–paint it! Organ pipes have been painted and stenciled for hundreds of years–with no problems! All this talk of paint ruining the tone–nonsense on an old upright, come on folks, we’re not talking about a Bösendorfer or Steinway–were talking about a Kimball Upright! Tip–don’t paint the sound board (the back of the piano behind the supporter stretchers that resemble wall studs–that will affect the sound. As a seasoned antiques dealer (currently without a shop–hopefully that will change soon) I hate to break it to those folks worried about ruining the “value of an antique”….1. This piano is not an antique 2. Nearly ALL pianos especially upright pianos lose value as soon as you buy it. They do not gain value (other than sentimental!) Just look in your local newspaper or Freecycle or curb on trash day for that matter–an old piano is just than an old piano–chances are if you don’t want it, no one else will, either! I did see a lovely blog post somewhere where several pieces of furniture were crafted from an old piano rich in family history. If you do paint it–take it apart–the top, key cover and all the keys–this way paint won’t mess up any of the mechanisms–this may sound scary–but it is a simple as removing a few screws! Message me back and we can chat live–I’ll walk you through it! Easy peasy–oh you might find some really cool stuff under the keys! I’ve found old money, a 1950’s pin the tail on the donkey tail, a bone guitar pick, and countless other odds and ends on pianos I’ve worked on. As for paint color–I’m currently in love with Martha Stewart’s Lamb, Opal, and Ballet Slipper–a mix of the lamb and opal–sort of ragged then brushed off–all feathery and flowy would be beautiful! I’d recommend a flat or eggshell finish, sand/distress as desired–then cover the whole thing in several coats of matte bowling wax to preserve the finish and give it more depth to the color–it adds a layer of ‘vintage’ instantly! As for ‘shabby chic’ being a trend–its been around for nearly 200 years in one form or another–I don’t see it going anywhere anytime soon!

      1. Great info! Particularly when considering what painting may do to the sound the piano. Very interesting. I say paint to your heart’s content. It’s going in your home – so it has to work in your home. Once again, thanks for the info Diane.

  13. Go for it! Paint it! A sunny yellow will look great. It’s your piano in your house and you should do what you like and want in your own home. You should never care what other people think. Getting other people to give their opinion on colors and things is one thing, but never let them convince you to do or not do something in your home. Your home should make you relax and smile when you walk in the door. So, do what makes you smile.

    1. Somehow this is making me feel better after years of family guilt. My mother painted our upright gray many years ago and then, to add insult to injury, my uncle, who thought that was a terrible idea, closed himself in the living room and stripped all the paint off and refinished it back to a natural wood color. After I started taking piano lessons I learned to be horrified by what the two of them might have done to an actual musical instrument – which is a far cry from just a piece of furniture. When my husband bought me the baby grand of my dreams, the dealer he purchased it from took the upright away. When I asked the dealer later what had happened to it, he remembered it as , “that painted piano.” I guess it was always valuable to me because it was the piano I learned and played on for many years. But just to be clear – painting the baby grand would be a travesty.

  14. Choose a color that pulls you in to make music, makes you want to love it and makes you happy to be sitting there. Yellow is great. I have a lovely spinet I no longer play, but would paint it in a minute if I thought it would help me want to play again.

  15. As a violinist, the thought of painting a wooden instrument makes me cringe a little. But, considering the thickness of the piano wood, painting your beautiful upright probably would do little, if anything, to affect the tone. Just be sure that you do NOT paint the sound board!

  16. I had a piano that was painted given to me….solidly Birdseye maple and over 100 years old….my husband thought it was junk until he started researching it! Probably because I was a musician I don’t like the idea of painting an instrument….but it depends on your bent….if it is more decor than music! I am sure you will make it lovely painted or not!

  17. My parents have a belief that was instilled on them by their parents that when an item is given to you for free you can never sell that item, you can only give it away. So if you think about it in that way, this piano really has no monetary value to you so you should do whatever you like with it. That yellow piano will look like it was MADE to be in your music room decorated with birds!!!

  18. I almost did not want to read all of thecomments before replying…because, if one person saId not to paint it I was going to LOSE IT!!!!
    This will be PERFECT.. Love the wall. Love the yellow:-)

    1. That’s exactly what I was going to say. Definitely paint it, just frame the Makers mark, that’s the historical bit.

  19. YELLOW ALL THE WAY!!! Your love of color is what got me to start following you in the first place. I too love color but didn’t know it until I started checking out your blog. I can actually close my eyes and imagine opening your front door and seeing the bright yellow piano in front of the beautiful birds wallpaper. Like you said NO ONE could be sad or have a bad day in that room. Also just like the painting your mom did of the flowers for your nieces bedroom, you both should turn your paintings into wallpapers so everyone could enjoy their beauty in their homes too. Love what you do Kristi you make my heart happy.

  20. Lets face it,,,you’ll love it even more if you do what you want to with it – – yes you could leave it as it is because of the ‘history and name brand’ of the piano. BUT all too often in life, we let guilt sway our decisions and never do anything about it. I say paint it yellow with polka dots if that makes YOU happy!!! You are the one that sees it every day and needs to be happy with it – I for one LOVE the idea of a beautiful painted musical piano centerpiece!

  21. No brainer . . . paint that thing. (There’s no comparison, but you really can’t imagine the pleasure I’ve received from my spray painted OLD white refrigerator – now it’s aqua blue, and brightens my day!)

  22. I think a yellow piano with that beautiful Schumacher-inspired wall would be awesome!! Every time I have made a decision based on what I “should” do and not on what I would love to do, I always end up being unhappy with the results…and why live with unhappiness when you could have a piano that makes your heart sing every time you look at it? Go for it!

  23. Yes, Kristi, PLEASE paint that piano. As already mentioned, there’s no down side. I would love to see it painted yellow, because I know you’d love it, and because I have plans to do the same thing (probably same color) to my piano and this would lend credibility to my plans! 🙂

  24. When I looked at the yellow piano I thought it was pretty..but decided to go back and look at the old one that someone gave was more prettier to me than the yellow one …
    ..but why not try it with the back wall like you are planning and then see what it looks like and then if you don’t like it then paint it..much easier than trying to restrip it again..but I loved the old one from day 1..just my opinion but I know I will still love whatever you choose to do……

  25. Paint it! There is an old upright in a local senior citizen home that was painted bright pink, I though that was so cool to do. Go for it. Great focal point for a room.

  26. I say paint it! You are correct in that it needs redinished. So removing the paint is no much more work than removing the old varnish. (The crevices will be a pain) But it is for joy in playing and in decorating your home. I love the yellow and the the wallpaper! You are so creative.

  27. I have, so far, painted 9 pianos. It is VERY easy to do and in the end your piano will have a professional looking paint finish.

    Don’t paint the piano as it sits.
    You simply remove the Top Board, (lid that opens to reveal the interior of the piano) Remove the Fall Board (part that slides over the keys) and the Lower Front board (large wooden piece above the pedals) Remove the Key Blocks (wooden pieces on either side of the keys) and anything other wood pieces not bolted down. Take a photo of how it goes back together if you like.

    When you have removed everything you can then remove the keys. (This is not at all mysterious and it does not affect the tuning) All pianos are not created equal. The keys will either just snap into place or something very similar. The keys are also numbered, and if you set them aside in the order they were removed, there will be no confusion when you get ready to put them back into place. Beware! the spot where the keys lie will be absolutely FILTHY! This is an old piano and it has decades of dust and dirt, crumbs, little gold stars, paperclips and who knows what else. Just use your vacuum to clean it up. The pins that align the keys have felt buffers ;just hold them down a bit so they don’t get swooped up by the vacuum.

    Paint all your pieces and reassemble after the paint has dried. No, painting the wood won’t affect the sound, not at this level anyway. If you were a master piano player,and had an exquisite (and expensive) piano, you MIGHT be able to discern a wee sound difference.

    That’s all there is to it. Enjoy!

  28. Kristyn’s yellow piano looks so much happier and almost smiling and so will yours. I don’t recall a post where there were so many people in agreement with your decision…very unlike your post about the color of the buffett that brought a multitude of opinions out of the woodwork:) Maybe you can incorporate the musical notes from the tune of “You are My Sunshine” discretely somewhere within your version of the wallpaper inspiration. How fun could that be in a music room that has the happy yellow painted piano. Better yet, how about to the tune of “The Yellow Rose of Texas”? Go for it, girl.

  29. Definitely paint it. We have a very old baby grand and making our living room a music room with stereo etc. Hubs want to refinish but paint could be cool too. I am so excited for your ‘wallpapered’ room to be revealed. Is your Mom going to contribute to the look?
    What was the final concensus on the buffet. Is it going to be green? I still vote for magenta!

  30. Kristi, you DON’T have to strip it to revitalize the finish! (Stripping reduces any antique value it might have anyway and ruins patina, as I am sure you know.) Not that I disagree with your idea to paint the piano, but you might try using Howard Product’s “Restor-a-finish” first. It would be A LOT easier than painting– you just wipe it on. antique dealers use it all the time- that is how I first learned about it. Home Depot carries it now. It is truly a miracle working product! You could try that first and see how you like it first. It might also be a good temporary quick fix if you want to postpone the painting while you work on more “pressing” projects. The only thing you would have to lose is about $7 for a can and about 15 minutes of time! You can also top it off with their semi-liquid orange blossom wax for added shine–it smells divine! (I suggested this on your original post about the piano but a few days after it posted so I am not sure if you ever read it. BTW-Do you ever read new comments added to old posts? Just wondering.)
    Hope this helps-you or anyone else reading this!

  31. While I’m not a fan of yellow, I really think the yellow piano will look great. Your point about it not being any more preparation work if/when you decide to strip it is spot on. This will also make it possible to have the room complete sooner. I’m getting the impression that you are really looking forward to having more rooms done in your home.

    Best wishes! If anyone can pick out the perfect shade of yellow, it’s you. I think yellows are so hard to get right.


    In case that wasn’t clear enough, I think you should paint it. 🙂

  33. I haven’t used it yet, but the next furniture I paint will be with chalk paint and the Cling On brushes which leave no streaks. I hear wonderful things about both.

  34. I don’t think I would paint it, at least not the entire thing. I think i would put a bright colored fabric on the seat (the one you will make) to make that dark color pop. Perhaps the area within the detail painted to match or complement, if you feel the need. While I really like the yellow piano, it just doesn’t scream elegant to me, homey and lovely, but not what I see going with the doors, etc.
    What is the feel of the room going to be? What will make you happy? You’ve done beautiful things, I am sure whatever you do will be great.

  35. Do you have a bench for your soon-to-be yellow piano? Will it have a wood seat or an upholstered one? This may be another opportunity for another fabric choice.

  36. Do you play the piano, too? (Wouldn’t surprise me!) I wonder if painting the case goods will have an effect on the sound. (I have no idea, just asking). I love the soft yellow and the wallpaper – but I would, I admit, be SO SO SO tempted to take marking pens and gradually color in those flowers in pastels…

  37. I LOVE LOVE LOVE that wallpaper & you MUST paint that piano! Yellow would be the absolute best, but tangerine orange could also work….

    Did I mention that I LOVE this idea????

    (I really love it)

  38. Like nearly every other post I LOVE the idea of the yellow piano and that gorgeous wallpaper.

    Did you know that yellow means ‘HAPPINESS’!!

    Cannot wait to see the results… 🙂

  39. It looks like I will be one of the very few who feel differently about painting your piano. I’m sure it will look fabulous, but for me, it would “cheapen” the beauty, form & function of the instrument. I would opt for keeping some natural wood finishes throughout your lovely home. You have a good start with your wood countertop and bathroom ceiling, so I know you like that look. Just my 2 cents! Love following your progress!

  40. I say GO FOR IT!
    You inspired me so much that I’m painting my Grand Piano Cranberry!!
    I can’t wait to see what you do with the room

  41. Krsti –

    Read Katie Bower’s Bower Power blog today. The title is ‘Painters’ and she free hands a little side table using an expesive fabric as a pattern. All I could think abou was your music rooom wall. The finished side table is adorable and your music room wall is going to be georgeous.

  42. Love the yellow and the wallpaper idea with the birds. You can pull some of the colors of your new dining room into the wallpaper to tie the rooms together. I have dreams one day of recycling an old upright piano into a desk. I’ve seen some awesome ones on pinterest. I love the look of the insides of pianos and I don’t play so a desk conversion is perfect for me. Can’t wait to see your dining room and music room come together and they are sooooo going to compliment your gorgeous kitchen.

  43. Just like Phyliss Elsner said, if you strip and refinish, you lose some of the antique value anyway. And you have stated that the piano has no real monetary value. So maybe you should think of the piano having human feelings? Would you want to be hidden and unloved? Or would you want to be renewed, recharged and displayed front and center with a new coat of paint? Silly concept I know, but one way to chase the guilt away.

  44. Just read your other post. If there is burled walnut under that yuck, STRIP IT and oil with linseed. It will brighten your room, look amazing with your wall treatment idea. Burled walnut has fire, light and dark, highs and lows and looks like art work when refinished. If you dont like it there is always paint but burled walnut would make this an even more impressive show stopper in your music room than a painted piece. Paint a piano seat or something for a pop of color.

    In my opionion a painted piano(esp one with burled walnut underneath) is starting down the slippery slope of matchy match kitchy instead a quirky yet elegantly dressed room that you’ve got going on so far

    Deep breath…repeat after me…BURLED WALNUT lol thats the true prize of your groggan. That being said whatever you do will be beautiful though.

  45. I agree. Your house, your piano…do what makes u and your husband happy..I painted my mothers little mahogany table black. It’s absolutely gorgeous…shocked some in the family that I painted mahogany…but my home is not a mahogany kinda it’s perfect. I love the idea of painting your piano…

  46. Kristi, paint away! I think it would look wonderful with your DIY rendition of that fabulous wallpaper. I painted an old piano that was given to me in grad school, but I went with a high gloss black. It still looks amazing and I think it looks better than the original version. Can’t wait to see what you end up with. I’m sure it will be amazing. Toodles, Kathryn @TheDedicatedHouse

  47. It would look amazing painted. I, however, would need therapy to help with any guilt I would be feeling as I slowly painted it orange 😉 🙂

  48. Yes, just do it Kristi, paint it yellow. It will look gorgeous with that wallpaper too and like the yellow piano from Lil Luna, she took that piano from blah to wow!!!

  49. I inherited a Gramer upright when I bought my house. It is slightly more ornate than your Texas made piano, but the finish is not as good as yours and my piano’s veneer is loosening on the sides. BUT- it has a beautiful rich sound for a piano my mom paid a buck for and pulled it out from under a haystack in a barn in the next county so my lil’ sister could take lessons at home. See how “things” become dear and priceless? PAINT the way Diane and Donna describe in a lovely shade of Yellow, and play it happily!

  50. Why not get the best of both worlds with a tinted stain? Visible wood grain and a pop of vivid color. The tone would depend partially on that of the wood. Maybe sunny yellow, or bright turquoise.