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 An Object Lesson

Hefner’s erudite interiors were fully automated, streamlined machines for high-end living, with doorless quarters to encourage debauchery. In contrast to today’s man caves and the musty drawing rooms of yore (where men lounged in cracked leather chairs and harrumphed into their cognac snifters), Hefner’s renderings were chockablock with gizmos and designed to seduce, with linear open plans so a man could smoke his pipe anywhere he damn well pleased

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These renderings, featuring recognizable midcentury furnishings and the entertainment console gadgets of the day, were often accompanied by profiles of the great modern minimalists. His interest in residential architecture for the upscale single male culminated in the Playboy Penthouse Apartment (designed by Chrysalis architects and featured in a 1956 issue), with its echoes of Neutra and the Eames Case Study House. But it wasn't until May of 1962, when the magazine published its ambitious pictorial, “Posh Plans for Exciting Urban Living!” that the design world took notice. 

“The notion of the single man began in the 1950s. The idea of the bachelor as a separate life was new and obscure,” Hefner said.

Truth be told, Hefner was never all that removed from his readership. A fantasist who enjoyed vicarious thrills, he lived for a time in his own office, sleeping on a pull-out cot after his wife tossed him out, and spending most of his days in pajamas. And his own homes—both his limestone-and-brick behemoth on Chicago’s Gold Coast and the more infamous digs in Holmby Hills, California,

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written by Cataldo De Franco