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“I’ve always been attracted to design since I was a kid, but I didn’t really understand what it was,” Lenny Kravitz told Departures in an exclusive interview. “I was definitely moved by shapes and designs and I understood that if you arrange things a certain way, they would give off a certain feeling.”
He may be known for hits like “Are You Gonna Go My Way” and “Fly Away,” but the rock star famous for guitar riffs also runs a thriving design firm called Kravitz Design. The way he tells it, the story started when he got his first record deal and had no money to decorate his Soho loft, so he took pieces of furniture off the street and refinished them. When he started making money, he began buying things he was interested in, then purchasing houses and designing them before selling them and starting all over again.
“I was really hooked to the process of putting the whole thing together,” he said. After a while, though, it got to be too much. He decided he wanted to design for other people, so he opened his company in 2003. “It’s another wonderful outlet for me as a way to express myself,” he added.
So when Steinway & Sons approached Kravitz about collaborating, he was jazzed about the prospect. “It’s not often that you get a chance to create something of this magnitude, to really reimagine a classic Steinway piano. And so I was interested from the very first phone call,” he recalled.
When it came time to design the piano, Kravitz drew inspiration from three disparate influences—African art, Art Deco, and Brutalism—and combined them to create the ultimate fantasy piano for his home in Paris. Presenting his design to Steinway’s team was another story. According to the musician, they were surprised by what they saw.
“I brought in a mood board and examples of the carvings I wanted, starting with those legs, and I think they saw it as a challenge, but what was beautiful was that they were completely supportive even though they weren’t sure how they were going to craft everything,” Kravitz explained.
Steinway has collaborated with other artists on limited edition pianos, but the Kravitz Grand is unlike anything the venerable brand has ever produced. Only ten of these pianos will ever be made and each one sells for $500,000. It takes a team of talented artisans over 200 hours to hand-carve the motifs on the piano rim, the inner lid, and the music desk, which are made of Macassar ebony. The top stick and pedal lyre are cast in bronze. The piano bench features a faux cheetah print inspired by the idea of an Art Deco parlor. The white keys are synthetic—not real—ivory and the black keys are ebony. Kravitz is vegan, so it was important to him that no animal products were used in the making of the piano. The piano is a Model B Spirio | r, which can record music and play any of the songs in a vast music library synced up to an iPad. The first one is destined for Kravitz’s Paris abode.
“It came out even better than I had imagined and you don’t get that often in any creative endeavor,” Kravitz enthused. “If you get it close to what you thought, that’s good. If you get it what you want that’s ever better, but to exceed your expectations, that’s a real gift.”