Playboy Combines 2 Offices into 1 Sexy HQ

Playboy’s new headquarters is a tale of two eras, mixing Don Draper’s retro and rebellious vibe with Ryan Gosling’s modern-day Hollywood glamour.

When the media giant decided to move its longtime Chicago home to Los Angeles, it hired Wolcott Architecture Interiors to create a haven for 140 employees in their new office in Beverly Hills. The team would fuse elements of Playboy’s Santa Monica space in the new headquarters, too.

The Wolcott team needed to keep a few elements in mind when shaping the two-story, 34,000-square-foot space:

    • The Southern California culture
    • Playboy’s glory days of the 1960s
    • A rebranding effort that includes more digital content, a lineup of luggage, and new grooming products

“There were lots of angles to this project: some hospitality, some office space, and some technical,” said Tim Gajewski, associate at Wolcott, which is based in Culver City, Calif.

The headquarters contains a full floor of office space and a temperature-controlled library to safeguard archival information. Playboy’s Chicago and Santa Monica photography studios were efficiently combined in a suite on the first floor.

For the workstations, they brought panels down to remove barriers and create an open feeling. They then added a major design element — a central coffee hub — to unite multiple spaces.

“We called it Stonehenge because of the panels we created around it,” Gajewski said. There, a barista flutters in a few days each week to keep staff members buzzing with energy. “It’s also a way to bring people together to share ideas.”

Ideas drift outside, too. A north-facing balcony provides prime real estate for meetings, letting employees work from a sundrenched spot to draw inspiration from the Hollywood hills landscape.

“Southern California is all about allowing us to be outdoors,” Gajewski said.

Playboy took a page from Mad Men’s playbook and installed a swanky back-lit, stone onyx bar in the entertaining area off of the lobby.

Wolcott - Playboy Enterprises Onyx Bar
Wolcott – Playboy Enterprises Onyx Bar

But the bar also functions as a place for collaboration; it has become a regular place employees spend late afternoons stirring Manhattans as they mull over photo spreads and story concepts.

“They have a rule, which I’ve never seen in any firm, to allow their employees to go down at 3 p.m. for a cocktail.”

It’s clear that the L.A. location retains some of its Chicago roots. A 9-by-6-foot bronze bunny head made the 2,000-mile hop to hang on the split-face rock wall that unites the bottom floor with the upper level. And the circular floating staircase that links the two floors is an ode to similar stairs found in 1960s Playboy clubs.

Wolcott - Playboy Enterprises Main Stairwell
Wolcott – Playboy Enterprises Main Stairwell

“It also gives you that kind of curvilinear sensuous shape you can get in architecture when you use a curve,” he said.

Design goal: Subtle theme of sexiness

“They were looking for a more sophisticated approach, less like a teenager,” he said. That theme is woven throughout the headquarters, which features velvet materials and tufted seating to encourage people to “reach out and touch.”

The reception desk, hovering over sleek wood flooring, is made of anodized steel with layers of lacquer slapped on top.

Wolcott - Playboy Enterprises Reception Desk
Wolcott – Playboy Enterprises Reception Desk

“It’s an industrial material but an elegant and sexy material. When you go up to it you just want to touch it,” he said.

Adorning the office are feminine accents, like a zebra hide chair strategically picked because furs conjure images of luxury – perfect for a city that embraces excess and wealth.

“Not everyone appreciates [fur]. In Beverly Hills, it’s very appropriate,” Gajewski said.

Wolcott - Playboy Enterprises Finishes
Wolcott – Playboy Enterprises Materials

“It’s more about Ryan Gosling – that well-dressed Hollywood glamour that happens to be a young male,” he said. “An athletic approach, as opposed to the slob that sits there and might own a Ferrari. It’s about having a sense of style.”

Style was meticulously stuffed into every inch of the space, and as a result, the furniture-picking process was extremely tedious.

“The selection of the furniture was important for us. We took a great amount of time choosing finished materials with a subtle patina to them,” he said.

Modern Danish furniture and simple shapes that took center stage in the early 1960s –before the explosion of plastics — are prevalent throughout the space.

“We wanted to choose things that represented the absolute best of the early 1960s,” he said. “Elegant, but not overly indulgent.”

That meant hunting for vintage pieces that might have developed a worn-in aesthetic over time.

“Everything doesn’t have to be new and squeaky clean to have character,” he said.

He divulged some of his go-to stores: Salvage One in Chicago, Big Daddy’s Antiques in Culver City, and L.A.’s Tini, whose website — www.thisisnotikea.com — summarizes its unique midcentury modern and industrial finds.

The wall hangings grew up, too. The racey images found in Playboy’s pages are fewer in number, instead replaced with photographs depicting a young Hugh Hefner stepping out of Jaguar at the original Playboy Club in 1967.

“It was about really iconic things of that period that weren’t necessarily about sex,” Gajewski said. “It was just sexy.”

Similarly sexy is the centerpiece welcome art: a photo of a curled-up naked woman on her side, which tastefully leaves room for the imagination.

“It’s all about the sensuality of that shape and how it related to the architecture — as opposed to the vulgarity,” he said. “It’s about art and style as opposed to showing everything.”

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