Furniture Style and Finish
Although for most buyers the qualities of performance and construction are of greatest importance in selecting a piano, a piano is also a large piece of furniture that tends to become the focal point of whatever room it is placed in. This is especially true of grands. Add to that the fact that you'll be looking at it for many years to come, and it becomes obvious that appearance can be an important consideration. For some buyers, it may be the most important consideration.
Vertical pianos without front legs are known as Continental style (also called Contemporary, European Contemporary, or Eurostyle). They are usually the smallest (42 to 43 inches high) and least expensive pianos in a manufacturer's product line.
Pianos with legs supported by toe blocks are sometimes known as Institutional or Professional style, particularly when the cabinet also has little in the way of decoration or embellishment.
School pianos are a subset of the institutional-style category. Generally 45 to 47 inches in height, these are institutional-style pianos made specifically for use in school practice rooms and classrooms. They usually come equipped with long music racks for holding multiple sheets of music, locks for both the lid and the fallboard, and heavy-duty casters for easier moving. They are generally available in ebony or satin wood finishes. Sturdy and sometimes plain-looking, they are also often purchased by non-institutional customers for less furniture-conscious locations. (If you're buying a piano for an institution, please read "Buying Pianos for an Institution," elsewhere in this issue.)
Vertical pianos with free-standing legs not reinforced by toe blocks are generally known as Decorator style. Common decorator styles are Queen Anne and French Provincial, generally in cherry (or Country French in oak), all with curved legs; Italian Provincial, typically in walnut with square legs; Mediterranean, usually in oak with hexagonal legs; and Traditional, most often in mahogany or walnut, with round or hexagonal legs. Matching music racks and cabinet decoration are common furniture embellishments. Furniture-style preference is an entirely personal matter. A practical consideration, however, is that front legs not supported by toe blocks have a tendency to break if the piano is moved frequently.
Hybrids styles, containing features of both institutional and decorator styles, are common, especially in Asian pianos.