Hello, 2017. May you be a damn sight better than the old year. You kind of have to be.
When we first saw this house at the open house weekend, there was an old painted red upright piano in the basement. It was there for inspection and every time we were able to take a look at the house, though other things, like an old church pew in the carport that I desperately hoped they would leave, disappeared. During our settlement, the previous owners, who grew up in the house, said that they would remove the piano if we wanted them to but that they'd prefer to leave it all other things being equal because they had no place for it. They explained that a woman named Mrs. Peacock had given it to their mother and it had been there since they were very young children. I don't know if they painted it or it was always like that but I do know that they'd always just called it, "Mrs. Peacock's Piano."
Between the two of us, The KingofHearts and I have fixed our fair share of things over the years. We dragged home one unplayable piano from some woman's garage/construction site The KoH worked on and for the cost of a $30 bag of plastic piano joints, a bit of wood cleaner and some elbow grease, we turned that thing into a real piano that we used for almost a decade. It was the piano the girls first learned to play on until a few years ago a friend gifted us her father's beautiful spinnet piano when he was moving into a smaller space and didn't play anymore.
So, to say the least, we were pretty confident in our piano-restoring abilities and told the owners we'd be happy for them to leave it for us and we'd try to make it playable again.
However... once we moved in and took a closer look at Mrs. Peacock's piano, it turned out to be in much worse shape than we had originally anticipated. Restoring it would entail way more money and time then we really wanted to put into it and my suspicion was that even then, we would not really end up with a decent sounding instrument anyway. So we decided to get rid of it eventually to free up some space in what was now The KoH's wood shop.
Then it sat there for a long time - over a year.
We talked about putting it outside and making into a planter... or a fountain.
We talked about cutting the legs off of it and using them to prop up a cabinet where the KoH stores his handmade swords and knives.
We talked about letting the kids take a sledge hammer to it and bringing out the pieces one by one for the garbage collectors to take. That one felt unnecessarily mean.
We talked about mailing the pieces one by one to my mother... like Radar did with a Jeep in M*A*S*H. I'm sure she would have appreciated that.
Ultimately, I felt badly about destroying the piano that had been in the house since the 1960s and I decided that Mrs. Peacock's piano - or at least a part of it - belonged with the house. So I pulled off the front panel - which was really quite beautiful - one day last summer and refinished it with antiquing glaze.
Then I hung it on the wall in the stairwell, alongside some antique windows a friend had given us, which we were using for decoration.
(There are several more of these windows decorating our basement.)
I loved it.
Eventually, I secured an antique copy of a song that means a lot to me, one of my all-time favorites: "Without a Song," That music now sits on the desk to the side of the filigree.
That got me thinking. What more could we do with Mrs. Peacock's piano so it can live harmoniously among us?
I didn't like the idea of putting it outdoors, because it'd be only a matter of time before the whole thing was destroyed in the weather. Then one day, The KoH and I hit upon the idea of making it into a desk. One afternoon he and The Caterpillar removed the keys and hammers and most of the other inner workings from the cabinet, cleaned everything up, and replaced the keyboard desk with a plexiglass cover because, as it turned out, you could see the unique serial number and maker stamp inside, which was pretty cool.
Then they added lights for better homework doing-ability.
I think it is beautiful.
In the meantime, I took some of the hammers and dipped them in resin for unique jewelry opportunities.
The latest project was completed over the Christmas vacation when I caught a cold and with it, the inability to sleep past three am. Putting together these piano key sets was actually really fun and done mostly done with leftover materials in The KoH's shop for $0, at least until his router broke in the middle of carving out the edges of the plaques I'd cut and I had to go buy the wood plaques that I glued them to. So like $24. Still not a bad deal.
Funny story. I came up with this idea out of my very own head and thought I was the most unique-thinking individual in the world for it. Originally, I wanted to do this, but too many of the keys were broken and damaged beyond repair or display quality. I had all kinds of ideas about adding some of the hammers and other bits of the piano along with music, all modern art-y style, but in the end, I settled on just putting together a few sets of in-tact keys, cleaning up the old ebony and ivory (Did you know that the best way to clean ivory piano keys from the 1800s is with toothpaste? Let that sink in for a second.), staining the wood, adding a bit of hardware and then mounting them on three separate wood plaques. About halfway through the project, I took a look on the interweb and found that not only am I not the only person who's thought of using piano keys as artwork, but see the first hit in this google search? I'm not even the first person to come up with this particular design and place it in a stairwell. I hate it when other people have my ideas before me.
At any rate, they now live with the face board on the stairwell wall.
I'm still working on a way the ebony from the black keys will become jewelry and The KoH is making the pin board into a jewelry hanger for The Dormouse and there might be a flower bouquet or two to make from the rest of the hammers. We have more ideas than time and effort, it turns out.
And that's how you cannibalize a piano, my friends. And how Mrs. Peacock's piano came to be a permanent fixture in this house. Where it belongs.
I think Mrs. Peacock, where ever she is, would be pleased.