Far beyond a mere “girlie magazine,” Playboy in the 1960s was a glossy gateway to the good life. Like a worldly uncle or urbane older brother, it dispensed a cornucopia of knowledge regarding women, wine, cocktails, gourmet cuisine, sports cars, hi-fi gear and other pleasurable pursuits of the man about town.
From the beginning, Playmate pictorials were enhanced with the latest modernist furniture creations from Bertoia, Eames, Saarinen and other highly esteemed Mid-Century masters.
The premier issue of Playboy contained a feature piece on Desk Design For The Modern Executive. Later, the recurrent Modern Living series spotlighted current developments in à la mode furnishings. From there it was a natural progression for Playboy to segue into designing entire Bachelor Pads, an endeavour they began in September of 1956.
The finest expression of Playboy architecture was the Town House proposal designed for exciting urban living which graced the May 1962 issue. The extravagance and level of detail in the illustrations is understandable; it was originally envisioned to be the bachelor pad of Hugh Hefner himself.
Conceived by architect R. Donald Jaye, the design combined several tenants of 1960s modernism combined with the timeless masculine allure of unadorned natural materials including rugged fieldstone walls and rich teak wood panelling.
The result was a sort of modernist urban hunting lodge; a refuge for hedonistic living and a lavish setting for seduction.
The main living area of course featured a well-stocked cocktail bar. Opposite the alcohol dispensary was a generously scaled fireplace bookended by an Entertainment Wall containing built in hi-fi gear, speakers and a 21” colour television. When not in use, the TV was concealed behind teak panels. Deeply coffered poured-concrete waffle-pattern ceilings were a common feature utilized throughout.
Supplementing the dining table in the salle à diner was a bar useful for pre-dinner libations or causal snacking. The man of the house and his comely companion could choose from dining al fresco overlooking the atrium pool and fountains, or close the electrically operated curtain to create a more intimate environment.
The master suite contained the most signature item in the entire structure, the infamous Playboy motorized circular rotating bed with built in bar, refrigerator, entertainment system and remote controls for most everything else. Overhead, a television is suspended from the ceiling.
In a Playboy essay form 1958, Philip Wylie observed that the typical American home was becoming a boudoir-kitchen-nursery; dreamed up by women, for women…
The Playboy Town House provided a ready antidote, with an emphasis on modernity, masculinity and the express absence of bric-a-brac, patterned fabrics, pleats and ruffles. The Town House instead celebrated natural materials, simplicity of design, carefree maintenance and a plethora of labour-saving gadgetry.
The timeless architectural design of the Town House remains an attractive proposition today, and this holds true for the furnishings as well: a half-century on, with the exception of the Lavern Tulip Chair, the now-classic modernist furniture pieces mentioned above remain in production.
Gouache and ink renderings by Humen Ten