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Pianos Make Strange Bedfellows

Smith & Co. Convertible Bed in Form of Upright Piano, c. 18851

In Myrna Kaye’s book There’s a Bed in the Piano: The Inside Story of the American Home, she elucidates a “drive to maximize space through convertibility [that] is peculiarly American.” [ 2 ] Some believe that it was a way to show off one’s standing and wealth (after all, the piano served as a symbol of societal status in the late 19th and early 20th centuries, for families to demonstrate proper breeding and refinement—especially in young ladies). The piano bed performed a duel function: providing entertainment without sacrificing space (an idea that seems to be inherently American, both for its whimsy and practicality).

Piano Bed in Luce Visible Storage. 3

Not much is known about this second example, an “instrument” designed in Great Britain during the 1930’s, specifically created for people who were restricted to bed rest. Whether this caught on or was a popular accouterment to the infirm is unknown; but since they no longer are manufactured, inference surmises it was merely a passing fad.

Piano for the Bedridden, 1935, from the Spaarnestad Collection. 4