Playboy Mansion Pool and Grotto Turns 40

photo of a woman swimming in a pool of beer

In 1973, famed Playboy publisher/editor Hugh Hefner introduced the world to his version of a modern-day Xanadu, the iconic property known as the Playboy Mansion West. A wildly imaginative adult playground, the property conveyed the extreme luxury and personal freedom that reflected the cultural ethos embodied in Hefner’s revolutionary publication.

Located in Holmby Hills, a wealthy Los Angeles enclave famous for its celebrity residents, the 5.3-acre estate features a 29-room Gothic/Tudor estate home originally built in 1927. Hefner purchased the property in 1970 and quickly set in motion a massive renovation that would result in one of the most photographed, distinctive and storied residences of the 20th Century.

Among the veritable dream team of design professionals and artists involved in the project, Hefner turned to the husband and wife architectural team of Suzanne and Ron Dirsmith of Chicago, who had been instrumental in designing Playboy’s corporate offices and the original Playboy Mansion, both located in the Windy City.

The Dirsmiths were responsible for the design of a number of the most distinctive features in Hefner’s new playground, which he would eventually occupy as his permanent residence in 1974. Among the many design elements, the property would feature a lavish organic, freeform pool and a large, all-natural, cave-like grotto.

The swimming pool and grotto would soon be used as a setting for a number of Playboy’s photo shoots and, as a result, would become one of the most influential swimming pool designs ever, essentially inventing the “lagoon” pool genre that would become synonymous with the 1970s.

The grotto itself would soon become the stuff of legend — or infamy, some might say — as the storied site of modern-day sexual bacchanals.

Hefner reveled in the mystique and for the next 40 years, he would host countless gala parties that became favored by a cavalcade of A-list celebrities. Hefner’s Xanadu remains one of the great achievements in residential design.

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