The piano bench is often an afterthought when buying a piano, and this is hardly surprising, it’s not normally the most glamorous of products. However, one new company, Kaunus, is looking to address this issue with an exciting new range of designer piano benches.
Let’s take a step back and firstly clarify the difference between a piano bench and a piano stool. In simple terms a bench has a rectangular seat, whilst the top surface of a stool is round, sometimes oval. The piano chair, offering back support, is another option, although far less common. The height of the bench/stool/chair is critical and so ideally the height should be adjustable.
A Very Brief History
The history of the piano bench/stool is too big a subject to cover here, but to grossly simplify things… the piano stool came first. Grand pianos of the 18th/early 19th century were something of a luxury and accompanying stools were beautifully crafted to match the style of the instrument.
As pianos became more affordable and less ornate, so did the stool. A basic 19th century upright would have a simple three-legged stool, however elaborate carved stools would continue to be produced for the more expensive instruments.
The popularity of the stool lasted for many years, helped in some part by the fashion of the times. The hooped skirt was a popular garment through much of the 19th century, and the stool preserves one’s modesty when it comes to sitting at the piano in one’s finery.
Towards the end of the 19th century, partly as a result of changes in fashion, benches started to replace the stool. These often had lifting seats or a storage cupboard to store sheet music. Over a period of time bench designs became simpler and more functional.
Types of piano bench
The standard piano bench is rectangular and the height cannot be adjusted. A piano cushion or pad can be used to raise the playing position. Wider versions seat two players for duets and/or tuition.
The concert bench is adjustable, using a round knob on the side, and is usually padded. Duet versions with two separate adjustable sections are available.
The piano chair with adjustable seat height, is now far less common.
Today’s piano benches, unless specially made for “limited” or “special” edition pianos such as the “Pictures at an Exhibition” Steinway (above), have become a tiny bit dull.
Kaunus Piano Benches
A new Spanish company is addressing this. Zayda Jiminéz from Castellón in Spain set up Kaunus Design S.L. with a mission to produce truly beautiful and practical piano benches.
Several years ago Jiminéz, a furniture restorer, pianist and designer, purchased a grand piano, and felt that the choice of available benches failed to match the beauty of the instrument. She thought there must be countless people wanting a really special, elegant and beautiful bench for their piano. And so the Kaunus brand was born.
Jiminéz has launched eight Kaunus models – she refers to then as Legends. Pastrana, Mitsuko, Luka, Sergei, Arthur and Malena are benches, and Lola and Helene are oval stools.
Each model is hand-built, in Spain (Barcelona and Valencia), using the finest materials and finishes. For instance, Pastrana, incorporates Spanish olive tree roots.
Each bench incorporates the company’s exclusive height adjustment system (KHAS). This calibrated gas spring mechanism ensures the pianist is always sitting at the same correct height.
Jiminéz states that each design was inspired by a particular musician, and that each model has its own personality. For example “Malena” is provocative, “Lola” — extravagant, “Mitsuko” — serenity, “Luka” — prodigious, Helene — rebellious.
Prices for the Kaunus piano benches/stools range from 8,000 to 10,000 euros (approx. $9,500 to $11,850) — more than the cost of some pianos! However, these are exclusive, hand-made, collectable pieces of furniture. They are works of art. Each takes around 6 months to make, and the skills of six different craftsmen.
Every Kaunus product is registered with a unique serial number engraved on a plate under the seat, and comes with a Kaunus Certificate of Authenticity signed by Zayda Jiminéz.
And if you are paying tens, maybe hundreds of thousands of dollars for a piano, you don’t want the “package” to be let down by the bench.
Kaunus benches can be pre-ordered from the Kaunus website. The company can also customise its designs to personal requirements.