Interior designer Melanie Rose helps Wesley and Hannah, a young couple with a toddler, build a secret sex room filled with tantric furniture.
“So I understand you want a sex room,” says Melanie Rose, the star of Netflix’s new home improvement show, a minute or two after meeting Taylor and Ajay, the young couple who enlisted the services of British interior designer. “Or maybe just a room where the sex takes place,” replies Raj, a jazz singer we meet later who prefers something wiser for the bedroom she shares with her husband, a creative entrepreneur. On How to build a sex room, the rooms may look different, but they help everyone who uses them to experience more pleasure. With her red-rimmed glasses, cropped gray hair, trendy necklaces and sensible sneakers, Rose looks like your cool aunt. But in her bag, she carries butt plugs, dildos and other adult toys along with her tape measure and clipboard. (She says she’s taken on the nickname “Mary Poppins of Sex Rooms.”) In the first episode, she hands Taylor and Ajay a black leather whip. The couple hired her because they want to turn their unfinished basement (accessible by a ladder down a hatch in their laundry room floor) into a “sexy rock and roll dungeon.” Rose assures Taylor and Ajay that “we are going to have so much fun” as they exchange playful blows. Before long, they are being taught lessons in its use.
Interior designer and pleasure room expert Melanie Rose.
How to build a sex room is technically a home renovation reality show As Extreme Makeover: Home Edition, Flip or Flopand Upper fixator – complete with hammered walls, ripping out unsightly wallpaper and introducing expensive sofas. And after watching, you might want to buy your own inversion table or flogger, as Rose recommends. But the show offers more than inspiration for consumption; it is also a positive sex education. Rose’s method includes open discussions about intimacy and consent, a crash course in toys and furniture, and lessons with experts in dirty talk, BDSM, and boudoir photography. Very sexy sex is no longer aspirational enough; people demand a dream house to have it. And How to build a sex room shows you how to get both.
Rose says she’s been designing sex rooms (which she’ll sometimes call “pleasure” or “sacred” rooms to avoid a reflex grimace) over the past decade. “People ask me, ‘Is there only one type of person who wants a sex room?’ And the answer is no” – in the show it mentions “bankers, teachers, cops and maybe your next door neighbour”. The show mixes things up, featuring gay couples, married couples with teenagers and toddlers, a recently engaged couple, a polycule, and a recent divorcee in her 50s.
All home improvement planning is intimate, but Rose’s conversations really go into another realm. “The first question is, ‘Okay, you asked me in – tell me about your sex life.’ Rose said. “Tell me about your intimacies. What do you think is missing? She asks questions about her clients’ favorite positions, their flaws, what they are curious to explore. “We’re clam chowder with a little Tabasco,” Wesley, a law enforcement officer, says of his sex life with his wife, Hannah, a real estate agent. (They have a 3-year-old child who has taken over their house.) They move on to visualizing the room. “Most of the time they don’t really see it as anything,” Rose says. But when her clients have an idea, sometimes they come into conflict with each other, or they don’t want to talk about their fetishes and desires in front of each other. “That’s where I become the mediator or arbiter,” Rose says. “I’ll give them each a piece of paper and just say, ‘Go away and write it down.'”
Rose’s design for Matthew and Orlando, a long distance couple we meet in episode three, was inspired by erotic artist Tom of Finland and a production studio. The all-black decor matches the rest of Matthew’s apartment.
The spaces in sex room are filled with saturated colors, a wide range of textures, erotic art and toys – lots and lots of toys: vibrators, dildos, handcuffs, blindfolds and ElectroWands. For Matthew and Orlando, a long-distance couple we meet in episode three, Rose creates what she describes as a “sleek, masculine” space and a “high-end BDSM tanner.” All the surfaces are black: the satin ceiling, the sisal wall, the slate floor. Rose installs penis-shaped hooks for them to hang their harnesses on, and she sets up Tom from Finland posters. Because Matthew and Orlando enjoy making videos for each other, Rose provides them with a webcam and studio lighting. Ouima and Jesse, first-time owners who say they want to rekindle the playful spark of their meeting, ask for a “Red Mill!-room type. They get what their Baz Luhrmann-loving hearts desire: red velvet damask wallpaper, a pewter ceiling, a baroque gold floor mirror, and a lampshade made of dozens of fluffy white ostrich feathers. As Ouima was once an exotic dancer, Rose places a pole in the center of the room and a golden cage chair nearby for Jesse. “Subtle isn’t in my vocabulary, darling,” Rose said.
When a couple asked for a Red Mill!-inspired bedroom, Rose leaned on Luhrmannesque theatricality.
When it comes to crafting a pleasure room design, Rose has a few rules: no rugs, not even a stain-resistant rug. She recommends tiling (and installing a drain “if there’s that much body fluid”). Safety is another important element: Know the structural hard points of your part if you are installing something that supports weight. “If you’re installing a sex swing, do it on a ceiling joist,” she says. And see everything in person before you put it on. “I’m very sensitive,” Rose says, explaining why she physically handles everything that comes into a room. “I love feeling leathers, picking up vibrators and dildos.” Most of the toys on display come from Reserve in Los Angeles, and all the furniture – the St. Andrew’s crosses, the tantric chairs, the bondage beds – is custom made.
While most spaces of How to build a sex room are outfitted with specialty furniture and dozens of sex toys, the bedroom Rose designed for Raj and Ryan, a couple who wanted a “sexy honeymoon suite,” is understated.
You, the viewer, may not be planning your own sex room, but the show’s takeaways are ambitious nonetheless: In any relationship, fantasies – whether they involve setting, communication or bodily fluids – should be fun to explore. “We don’t want to put people off the show, honey; we want to transform them on“Rose said.