At last night's Boston Early Music Festival concert, the harpsichord on stage was a French-style double-manual built in 1984 by the late David Jacques Way, currently owned by Boston organist and keyboard addict Peter Sykes.
That is one seriously pretty instrument. (It's better in person—the palette actually tends towards an uncanny glowing verdancy.) Looking at it made me curse the one-size-fits-all 2001-monolith grand piano design that is now pretty much ubiquitous.
It's interesting, given our human propensity towards all things blingy, that piano design has become so staid in comparison with its plucked ancestors. It's probably the result of a combination of form-following-function and the music-appreciation ideal of keeping one's attention soberly focused on the music. I would suspect the advance of the Steinway brand played no small part, as well. (And given some of Steinway's recent forays into more elaborate cases, basic black certainly starts to look better in comparison.) But really, instruments all around have become pretty sedate, design-wise. Guitars still get a little adventurous (though less so than in the heyday of 70s metal); accordions still break out a bonanza of mother-of-pearl now and then, as does the occasional drum set. But you have to hang around the period-instrument crowd to see string instruments with heads, for example.
Someday—as soon as I am deemed worthy of attention by those fickle mistresses, time and money—I'm going to build my own harpsichord, paint it black, and then decorate it with old-school tattoo flash: skulls, hula girls, hearts that say "MOM," &c. (At the rate I get through projects, tattoos will no longer be cool by that point—even better.)