A $120,000 Steinway Piano in your Airbnb, what could possibly go wrong?

New filter allows guests to search for listings with grand pianos. But sometimes things "play out" in unexpected ways.

A $120,000 Steinway Piano in your Airbnb, what could possibly go wrong?
A $120,000 Steinway Piano in your Airbnb, what could possibly go wrong?

Airbnb is well known to be the ultimate source for a home away from home – whether you are a tourist, digital nomad, or just looking for a longer-term stay. Airbnb has more recently been upping its luxury game with the introduction of Airbnb verified (they also have a specific division for lux apartments). They have begun search optionality (filters) for those seeking high-end amenities. What could be more high-end than a Steinway piano? But as with any high-priced item or amenity, it comes fraught with risk. We reached out to some of Airbnb’s finest hosts who happen to have the creme de la creme of pianos as a part of their offering. 

Warning, not for the faint of heart. 

Fashion Faux Pas

Just ask Gina, who hosts a luxurious €1000-a-night pad in Paris. She figured that providing access to her $120,000 Hamburg Steinway model L could be successfully navigated by sharing house rules that call for the guests to notify her if they want to use her prized possession. In addition to requesting open communication, she insists that the piano be covered when not used. 

Different views of Gina's Hamburg Steinway model L in her Paris apartment

When Mikhael, a well-known fashion designer inquired about staying at Gina’s high-priced abode during Paris fashion week, Gina quickly asked if the designer intended to use the space for any kind of gathering or professional use. Mikhael quickly allayed Gina’s fears and swore that the home would only be used as a place to spend the night before embarking on Paris fashion week activities. He agreed to the no-gathering house rule, and Gina accepted the booking based on his positive review history. 

To Gina’s shock and horror, she was alerted to social media posts of her piano, not only uncovered but completely covered with a fashion model lying down on the instrument with a sultry gaze making no mind of the fact that her scissor hands were scratching up the high and delicate polish, replete with sharp edges that could easily scratch and damage the instrument. Mikhael had turned the apartment into a fashion studio, and the piano into his prop. 

Screenshots from Eva Shaw's (@evashaw) Instagram story featuring Gina's piano and Mikhael's designs

We asked Airbnb, about their insurance coverage and how a host should handle a situation such as that, and they explained that their top three tips for homeowners with grand pianos were to interact with the potential guests beforehand, ensure the guests knew what to expect, and make sure you are covered with insurance. They further explained about insurance saying:

"In our Winter Release this year, Airbnb updated AirCover for Hosts, a set of tools and specialized support that provides top-to-bottom protection for Hosts. Most significantly, we tripled damage protection from $1 million up to $3 million, protecting both homes and its contents. Under damage protection, Airbnb will now pay to restore, replace or reimburse Hosts for valuables, including pianos, damaged by guests at its appraised value. If a Host’s piano was damaged, a Host can now file a damage protection request in a few simple steps and easily track its progress from submission through payout."

On Par with the Wine Cooler

We spoke to another Paris host, Chris, whose loft overlooks the Sacre-Coeur in Montmarte, and whose home has been named in the top 15 of all Paris Airbnbs by Road Affair.

Chris's Steinway in his Montmartre apartment in Paris

Chris seems to have anticipated nightmares like Gina’s, and not only covers the piano but locks it up too. His house rules allow guests free access to everything in the apartment except the piano and wine cooler. Chris told us that he’s not willing to take chances with his beloved instrument. 

“My personal piano is just that, very personal to me,” Chris said. “If a guest indicates to me that they are a concert pianist, I am sometimes willing to share the use of the piano with them. Otherwise hell no!”

Then, in contrast, host Chauncey Upson in New York includes his Steinway in his listing description as well as numerous photos of the $80,000 Steinway model L manufactured in New York. Guests who check the Grand Piano box in the Airbnb filters are notified that Upson’s listing includes this amenity. 

When asked if he’s ok with guests using his piano he said that his piano adds to the appeal and rentability of his apartment. He estimates about 20% of his customers, Airbnb his spot specifically to use the Steinway. 

"You’d be surprised how many people rent my house, that do it because there’s a piano," Upson said. "It tells you that it’s self-selecting. [People] who choose my Airbnb want to be able to play the piano."

Upson has had everyone from professional piano players to novices selecting his Airbnb for its Steinway. 

"Every once and a while I've heard kids tinkering on it, and I actually don’t care," Upson said. "As long as they’re not banging on it, I don't mind. The piano is meant to be played, after all."

We asked him if he had any stories of damage, akin to Gina's experience. Upson told us that the worst incident that occurred was when someone got their phone stuck in the back of the piano (the fallboard). 

Upson's Steinway model L in his Brooklyn Airbnb

“Someone’s phone was on [the piano top] and it was down and they pushed it up and the phone just went back..." Upson said. "I had to get my piano tuner guy to come, and he wasn’t available to come that day or the next day so the person had to go without a phone for a few days. It was stressful because phones are so important to everyone."

Playing it Safely

On the other side of the globe in Tel Aviv, host Inbar also includes his piano in the Airbnb search functionality. Their home, Opulent Presidential Suite, was the former meeting spot for numerous government officials. (Read the sign below for more details). As such the hosts wanted to preserve the fraternal element of the space and make it welcoming for music making. Their home features original artwork by famous Israeli artist Igael Tumarkin and designer furniture by Roche Bois. The piano fits in seamlessly. 


Government official sign from Inbar's pad in Tel Aviv

Opulent Presidential Suite with Hot Tub, tells us that their guests have included international concert pianists and a well-known professor of piano in Jerusalem who has made over five repeat visits.

"There's been no damage to the instrument, although it has sometimes required extra tuning," Inbar said.

A Change of Tunes

Although we understand the appeal of the grand piano filter, we were curious as to why Airbnb had thought to introduce it. They explained to us that the decision was prompted by the change in flexibility that millions of people now have about where they live and work. 

"That’s why Airbnb introduced a new way to search earlier this year designed around Airbnb Categories, making it easy to discover millions of unique homes travelers never knew existed," Airbnb said. "In May, over 50 categories featuring 4 million unique homes selected for their style, location and proximity to a travel activity were unveiled. 'Grand Pianos' was among the 50+ Categories that we unveiled in May, due to the growing popularity for this unique amenity among travelers."

As with anything in life, there are always risks, but we find it admirable that Airbnb is making artful and musical living part of its focus. Nothing makes a house more of a home than the harmony between music and space. Kudos to Airbnb and bon courage to all the hosts out there who wager their grand pianos being ridden like a horse who’s about to compete in the Kentucky Derby. 

Shots of Inbar's piano from different angles in his Airbnb.