To paint, or not to paint:

That is the question:  Whether ‘tis nobler in the mind to suffer the chips and scratches of old furniture, or to take up a paintbrush against a sea of defects, and by opposing end them?  
My Dad's Piano This is my old piano.  It was my Dad’s piano when he was growing up.  Three generations of my family have learned to play on this old Kimball.  I love having it around and dream of the day that I’ll have the time and money to take some lessons as an adult.  Lately, I’ve been thinking about painting it. 
Major scratches
It has numerous dings, gouges, scratches and just plain wear from years and years of use.
Crazing The finish is crazing in lots of places.
Paint splotches?There are mysterious paint splotches all over the side.  The aqua paint I think is from my daughter’s bedroom, but I have no idea how it ended up here.

Every time I walk by, I wonder how it would turn out if I painted it.  I haven’t mentioned it to my husband because he never wants to paint anything, either walls or wood.  He usually likes the end result, but I know he’d put enough doubt in my mind that I wouldn’t be brave enough to go through with painting it.  I was thinking maybe I’d just start with the piano bench.

What do you think?  I need some unbiased feedback!

28 thoughts on “To paint, or not to paint:

  1. I love the way you wrote about painting at the beginning of this post! So creative!

    Ok, I'm with you about trying out the bench first. Good idea! That's what I'd do. Bet it'll look great!!!

  2. i bet it would look awesome in a white/off white with some antiqued distressing!! if you or your dad don't have an emotional connection to it, then i say go for it!

  3. Ohhh, after seeing that other blogger that painted her piano a beautiful blue, I say GO FOR IT!! It was gorgeous. Yours would look awesome, don't be scared. 🙂

  4. I think it would show it off to paint it, give it a more cherished place in your home, and it would pop against the wood floor, but I certainly understand your hesitancy on a family piece.

  5. Am I the only one getting sick of folks painting everything? I keep wondering how long the trend will last and how much furniture will need totally stripped when the fad is over. Formby's refinisher is great stuff. If you refinish and spiff up the wood it will probably be in the family a lot longer. If you paint it will go once that trend does. The white shabby chic look has to be near the end. (I hope anyway)

  6. If you are using the piece primarily as furniture, go ahead and paint!

    However keep in mind that refinishing musical instruments can affect tone. because it will affect how the wood "moves" in response to sound waves.

  7. If this was my piano I would refinish rather than paint. I would also talk with a piano tuner to be sure I wasn't damaging the piano.

  8. I'm a purist with musical instruments. I'm all for painting furniture, but this is not furniture – it's a musical instrument. It will change the tone and value of the piano in the future. As a Mom (and musician), I feel blessed to have found a decent, yet worn piano to teach my children on. The knicks and rough spots are character. Any instrument played will have knicks…it's meant to be used and loved. Embrace your imperfect instrument, and there are many products that will refinish or help you clean up the piano without changing the tone.

  9. What a delema! My personal opinion. . . paint it! I have seen some beautiful painted piano. Go for it girl. Karie @ Karie Chic Creations

  10. I may be a voice of pessimism here, but don't paint it! If you want to ever play on it again, don't paint it. I have played piano for the past 20 years, and I've seen the damage a well-meaning paintbrush can have on a beautiful antique. It will change the tone and the beauty of the piano's sound. Think of it this way – would you pick up a trumpet or a guitar and start sanding it and painting it? No, you know that would ruin it.

    Now sure, if you don't ever want to play it again – go for it! If it's just going to be a thing of beauty in your room, never to actually be played, then paint away.

    But the scratches and the dings are the love of generations of budding musicians. Get someone to come in and tune it for you, then call your local piano store and ask how they'd suggest you clean it up and shine it up. Then do that. But ppllleeease, don't paint it.

  11. i am one of those people who paint almost anything, sorry to the anonymous commenter, but on this piece i would say refinish it instead. i agree that it will change the sound it produces. you could easily strip it down and restain. it would look fabulous stained espresso or just very dark instead. it will be more work, but worth it to preserve the instrument!

  12. 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!

  13. Please do, and post a how-to! I have an equally (or maybe more) dinged piano that I would love to paint… but I'm a tad scared!

  14. I vote for refinishing it! It would especially show the beauty of the grain of the wood.

  15. I realize this is a really old post, but I just came upon it. Have you ever heard of Old English furniture polish? It works wonders. Our family has used it for years. It is certainly worth a try. I just used it on our grand piano which was old when we bought it over 45 years ago. It was refinished 15 years ago and is showing wear again. It looks great now!

  16. My wife wants to paint an 1800s Kranich and Bach piano. We got it at a yard sale for $25. It is currently out of tune, but nothing seems seriously wrong with it. Under the darkened old laquer I think it is birds eye maple or burl walnut. I have seen restored pianos of this exact piano that are selling for thousands of dollars.

    Will my wife ruin a legitimate antique if she pai ts this piano?

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