The legendary men’s lifestyle magazine endorsed radical designs of the time, and another type of voyeurism: the domestic kind.
In the decades since its release, Playboy’s July 1961 issue has become somewhat of a collectible. But the reason driving that covetable status is probably different from what you think. It isn’t a particular Playmate, rather a multipage spread titled “Designs For Living,” featuring rising modernist designers like Charles Eames, George Nelson, and Harry Bertoia—and, of course, their beloved creations: Eames’s Lounge Chair, Nelson’s Coconut Chair, and Bertoia’s Diamond Chair among them.
“Exuberance, finesse, and high imagination characterize U.S. furniture design today,” begins the article by John Anderson, a longtime writer for the magazine. It’s a sharply written academic exploration of New American design ethos that bobs and weaves from Bauhaus traditions to the modern art movement. Pioneering designers like Hans Wegner, Eero Saarinen, Jens Risom, and Paul McCobb are all mentioned. This type of Playboy feature was not an anomaly; if you flipped through the magazine from the 1950s through the 1970s, you’d spot write-ups about architecture, furniture, and other decor.