If you picture a Steinway grand piano, it probably has sinuously tapered legs, maybe a curlicue or two, the overall effect one of grace, tradition and elegance. Your mental image probably does not include outsized, hulking, rough-hewn black legs, and a contrastingly glossy, tiger-striped body overlaid with chevrons and zigzags. The difference is Lenny Kravitz.
Two years ago, Steinway invited the multi-award-winning musician, designer, style icon, actor and now writer (he has a memoir out), to design a limited edition of their Model B series. Yet the initial reaction of the venerable piano manufacturer, when Lenny Kravitz presented them with his design, was a collective raised eyebrow.
A visual tour de force, his concept marries elements of the Art Deco and Art Moderne styles with nods to African art, mixing rich woods and metals. Hand-painted geometric carvings run across the piano’s lid and sides, referencing traditional tribal motifs, while cheetah-print upholstery tops the bench. But the most show-stopping feature may be the poplar legs, whose blocky heft and distinctive notchings were inspired by the West African sculptures that Lenny Kravitz has long collected. Resembling charred timber, these structural supports mark a surprising departure for Steinway—which has been creating instruments for the world’s leading musicians since 1853.
Lenny Kravitz comes to Steinway as the latest creative partner tasked with conceiving a limited-edition piano—following in the footsteps of such visionaries as fashion designer Karl Lagerfeld and sculptor Dale Chihuly.
Altogether, the expert artisans at Steinway’s vast Queens facility will spend some 200 hours hand-carving each instrument, the rim of which is crafted from 15 layers of rock maple, then accented with two layers of Macassar ebony veneer. The team also worked with other members of the Queens creative community: The lyre that supports the piano’s pedals is cast in solid bronze at the nearby Modern Art Foundry, coincidentally located in the Steinway family’s historic former mansion. Although Lenny Kravitz’s scheme was ambitious, it never strayed beyond Steinway’s repertoire of possibilities.
The Kravitz Grand, as it’s known, of which only 10 will be made, is one of his most successful design projects to date.