An antique piano bench can be a treasured heirloom, a prized piece of antique furniture, or a cherished childhood seat which brings back fond memories from the past. In fact, you may have practiced your first piano concerto on an antique or vintage piano bench and had no idea. Yet, there's a few tell-tale signs you can look for which indicates that a piano bench or stool is much older than it looks.
Piano Stools vs. Piano Benches
Old westerns often depict a piano player sitting on a round three-legged stool playing his piano in the town saloon. These piano stools of the old west were the early country cousins to the piano stools of the 19th century. Prior to the 1840s, piano stools were both intricately crafted with animals' feet and motifs for the elite as well as plainly carved for the average person. The artistry of the 1850s added floral motifs, cabriole legs, and elegant serpentine shaped seats to the piano stool model. By the late 19th century, piano stools from England and America were elaborately made with cushioned and embroidered seats. Throughout the 19th century, stools were the predominate furniture used to sit at a piano in order to accommodate for modesty by keeping the wide hoops and crinolines that were fashionable at the time from lifting and revealing women's undergarments. As more streamlined silhouettes became fashionable, the need for small stools vanished and piano benches started gaining popularity in the late 19th century and early 20th century.
Styles of Antique Piano Stools and Benches
Antique piano stools come in a variety of decorations and artistic styles, with Victorian stools being particularly known for their exquisite detailing work on the legs and feet. There are even rare examples of piano chairs that were created which modified the piano stool slightly by adding a sculpture and heavily detailed back rest. These came in interesting motifs and shapes like clam shells for instance. However, in terms of piano benches, there are three basic forms: concert bench, rectangular bench, and piano chair.
- Standard piano bench - These are rectangular and can be made with a matching piano bench cover; in addition, their heights can't be adjusted.
- Concert piano bench - These can easily be adjusted using circular nobs and were covered with plush upholstered seats.
- Piano chair - Incredibly uncommon piano furniture that marked the transition between piano stools to piano benches; they were rather uncomfortable, which directly contributed to their lack of popularity.
Design Characteristics of Antique Piano Stools and Benches
Antique piano stools and benches were specially crafted to match the aesthetics of the piano they were meant to be partnered with. Thus, the types of woods, leg shapes, and visual motifs used to decorate these pieces have incredible variety.
Different Leg Designs
Given that antique piano stools and benches have been manufactured for a few hundred years, there's a lot of different leg styles that were used on these pieces. Some examples of these styles include:
- Louis XV
- Early American
- Round reeded
- Queen Anne
- Round fluted
- Round tapered
- Spade foot
- Square tapered
- Brass ferrule
Types of Wood Used
Since piano stools and benches are designed to complement their partnered pianos, historically they've always been crafted out of wood. Yet, there wasn't any agreed upon superior type of wood throughout history, meaning there's examples which utilize both native and foreign species. Some of the most common woods used that your antique piano stool and bench might have been carved out of include:
Antique Piano Stools and Benches Costs
One of the most difficult parts of owning an antique piano is finding a stool or bench to properly match it. Unfortunately, since these were highly customized, there's no guarantee that you'll be able to find an exact pair. However, given that there's an incredibly large inventory of these antique stools and benches available, you shouldn't have any trouble finding one that speaks to you. Generally speaking, benches and stools that are more contemporary will cost less than those that are a few hundred years old. Eighteenth and nineteenth century stools and benches, in particular, are rather expensive, settling around $1,000 on average. For instance, a Regency piano stool made out of mahogany is listed for almost $1,300 in one auction while a 1890 Renaissance revival walnut stool is listed for almost $1,000. To contrast, early 20th century stools and benches will cost you between $500-$1,000 on average, like this 1920s revolving piano stool that's listed for $650.
Customize Your Own Piano Stool or Bench
If you have a vision in mind of the stool or bench you'd like and can't seem to find an authentic one that fits it, you can always have a custom stool or bench created to match your piano. Companies like Vanda King's Piano Showcase can repair damaged stools and benches and build customized ones for you matching you wood, stain, and fabric specifications. By utilizing the talented craftsmen around you, you don't have to give up on having your vision fulfilled.
Take a Seat - Symphony Style
Antique stools and benches aren't only meant for those who play the piano; they can be moved into kitchens, living rooms, and vanities to be turned into eclectic seating for your family and friends. With all of the choices of styles available, there's no chance that you won't find a piano stool or bench to look incredible in your home.