As a woman of a Xennial/Elder Millennial age, I grew up with “Sex and the City”, “The L Word” and all of the hookups from the Real World on TV. These shows were groundbreaking for the time, but old hat now. And, one of my besties is a relationship writer and author, so talking about sex openly with friends isn’t a big deal. But I’m not accustomed to writing about sex on any platform. Well, that was until I read that Netflix had a show called “How To Build a Sex Room.” Suddenly I knew I was reading about a show that was standing at the crossroads of design and desire and was ready to talk sex, broadly at least.
First of all, let me say, one of the bright spots on Netflix is the Home and Design content. It’s entertaining, fun, not about flipping a house (thank goodness) and can explore home content deemed too hot for HGTV. With “How To Build a Sex Room” Netflix seems to highlight one of the best things about designing residential design; a designer helping people live their best lives at home. When I began typing this post, the show number was 7 in the Netflix top 10 ( it’s since moved out of the top 10) and that already told me that I was not the only curious “design enthusiast”who was watching. So what am I thinking about it from a design perspective?
What this show illustrates really well in the fact that being a designer is really personal, intimate work, especially in residential design. A designer needs to know how you live, want to live and what goes on day to day. To say there needs to be honesty, trust and empathy between designer and client is an understatement. And while overt conversations about sex may not come up in the client on a regular basis, tangentially, an interior designer may learn things like whether clients sleep in the same room or even same bed as their partners among other private information. Lifestyles questions pertaining to design may uncover even more unexpected details about clients as well. Someone may even answer the door in the and sit through an entire design meeting and presentation in the tiniest of tiny shorts (yes that has happened to me– please don’t do this). But it’s the designer featured on the show, Melanie Rose, that was the real highlight for me. She’s like a naughty auntie, who is probably living a better life than one could possibly imagine. She has also now equipped me with a whole new design lexicon; words for design elements I never knew existed.
While, of course, all of her televised clients want a sex room at home, she learns so much about each of them by asking them open questions about their consensual sex lives, orgasm frequency and sexual boundaries with equal parts professionalism, aplomb and playfulness. Sometimes Melanie leans heavy into cheekiness but never once veering into shame or judgement. From sensual bedrooms to basement lairs to a farmhouse sex shed, no one space is alike and her clients are happy. Melanie even designs custom furniture when the design calls for something more specialized or better suited to her clients’ tastes.
Do I like every room? Actually I don’t like most of them but she also wasn’t designing for me. And, now, my newest design pet peeve is the design of furniture for intimate or sex play. While most of it seems extremely functional and at times more ergonomic and supportive than THE BEST office chair, most of the time the furniture looks aesthetically unpleasant. I liken it to home gym equipment. Materiality can change and perhaps the look of it gets more sleek and modern, but the basic function and form is the same. This makes it so the interior plan, design materials and other non-specific furniture play a larger role in the designed room. If you go back to my gym analogy, an exercise bike would be just fine in your garage but if you dedicated and designed a space for it and other gym accessories, with good flooring, wall treatments, a gorgeous mirror and a suitable space plan, it will probably look a hell of lot better. A sex room feels like it’s in a similar vein.
Turning to escapism, intimate connection, sensuality and play can help us ground into our bodies and process our emotions when our brains can’t handle much more.
Themes that constantly come up on “How to Build a Sex Room” are desire, pleasure and fantasy. And it makes sense for the times we live in. With the rising costs of everything, a never-ending pandemic and the continued fight over abortion and bodily autonomy, it’s a heavy time. Turning to escapism, intimate connection, sensuality and play can help us ground into our bodies and process our emotions when our brains can’t handle much more. While many, probably most, of us won’t have a sex room (outside of the bedroom), we can create an air of sensuality around our homes that comfort us, support us and create a needed escape with or with out the sex. Think about the softness of sumptuous sheets on the skin, how a scented of a candle can ease the vibe, or bringing flowers home. Those are simple every day pleasures. But most of us move into a space and don’t give it the attention it needs or asks of us. Outside of nurseries, I rarely see a space designed for the person or people who will inhabit it. You even see that on the show. A client’s living room is outfitted with neutral, oversized furniture or a bad layout, but the sex room, well, that’s ready with a designer’s touch, fancy finishes and custom furniture. I was definitely entertained by the show, but maybe we all need to think about spreading the sexy around the house. Not every room needs a custom sex swing (does it 🤔?) but can I get a good living room layout and a rug? Before you even get to the sex room, that would help set the mood a lot! Maybe that’s the interior designer in me. Either way I’m in full support of a sexy room and this fun show.
I have a ton of other thoughts about the show but will spare you for now. I’m also thinking about tackling the experiential retail design they highlighted on the show in another post because I have some thoughts on that too. But for now, I gotta go.
Have you watched it? I would love to hear your thoughts!