Film and TV

How to Build a Sex Room: Eight Naked Truths

Brodie and Bettie check out their new tub while Melanie Rose (far right) looks on.
Brodie and Bettie check out their new tub while Melanie Rose (far right) looks on. Caleb Alvarado/Netflix
In the hit Netflix show How to Build a Sex Room, a client of designer Melanie Rose describes her as the “Mary Poppins of sex rooms.” One of the things that makes the eight-episode series so deliciously watchable is Rose’s ability to take her clients’ desires (which are sometimes quite opaque) and manifest them in a physical space, an actual room intended entirely for sex.

Filmed in Denver using local residents and experts, this erotic take on the home makeover has plenty of other things to enjoy, as well as a few how-to lessons. Eight takeaways:

1. You need room to move

In the episode where we meet Tricia and Gary, Rose quickly decides that the couple’s bedroom, which they had originally earmarked for their sex room, is far too small to encompass all of their wide-ranging interests. So she talks them into a sex shed on their five-acre property instead, kitting it out with all the accoutrements that would have had to take the place of more necessary pieces of furniture, such as dressers.

This practical problem emerges again when Rose consults with Heather and Sarah, two van-dwelling lovebirds whose limited space and lack of a real bed have seriously cramped their sex life.
The camper van gets a real bed.
Netflix
Rose enlists the help of van renovation experts at Boulder's Vansmith to build an inviting bed for the couple. She even manages to fit a sex swing into the mix, with both indoor and outdoor hard points for the swing’s mount, and her creative use of the roof of the van gives Heather and Sarah yet another place to enjoy exploring (each other).

2. Access matters!

In the first episode, Taylor and AyJay ask Rose to build a sex room in their basement. To get there, they must traverse a steep and seemingly perilous ladder (we're not sure the passageway qualifies as a set of stairs). Look, we understand that there are only so many places in any given house where you can put a sex room, and it looks like these two are dealing with an older property, to boot. But what happens if one of them develops joint problems later in life, or gets injured playing a sport? (Or having sex?!)

A sex room that requires dexterity to access is not going to be accessible to everyone. Or to anyone consistently throughout several decades of life! Here’s hoping that AyJay and Taylor enjoy many fruitful years of ankle, knee and hip health so that they can also fully enjoy their sex room.

3. Your city (yes, yours!) has a ton of resources

From custom leather sex swings to ass-print furniture, this show is full to bursting with sexy and fun novelties for every taste.

click to enlarge
Custom furniture designer and photographer Tyler Martin works on a piece for a client.
Tyler and Tiffany Martin of TADAM Photography
Rose takes her couples to bondage workshops at Studio Friction, introduces them to high-end sex toys at Awakening, hires local photographers at TADAM Photography to take intimate boudoir images for wall display, and uses the services of Tyler Martin (of TADAM Photography) to create a custom coffee table for Lisa, the single lady in the final episode. (We’re not 100 percent sure where Rose sources the custom sex swing leather, but Colorado Saddlery looks like a good bet.) She even locates a couple of pro dommes, including Mistress Nicci, to provide some guidance.

Point being, you don’t need to head to San Francisco for the Folsom Street Fair to find your alternative sex resources. They're hiding in plain sight, right in Denver.

4. Furniture is your friend

The Tantra Chair makes an appearance over and over again in the show, for good reason: It’s smaller and more versatile than an actual bed. Rose also enjoys introducing couples to the St. Andrew’s Cross and creates several custom versions for rooms throughout the series. When you’re building a sex room, furniture can solve most (if not all) of your problems. And in some dungeons, furniture is basically the entire event!

5. Lights, camera (optional), action!

Rose has two big rules for constructing a sex room. Number one: The bed needs to be front and center. The second involves creating a mood. She does this by paying close attention to her clients’ preferences around lighting and texture.
Features, textured wallpaper, furry throws and other sensuous feels make their way into the rooms, but lighting is really where the spaces start to shine. Adjustable lighting can illuminate what you’re about to get (if exhibitionism is kind of your thing) while dimming down the experience for the event itself. That said, unlike furniture, lighting requires a little more effort to change. The chandelier with dicks or tits all over it is replaceable, but it’s not exactly as simple as moving a spanking table into storage.

6. Contractors are everything

Melanie Rose has Mike, the un-agitatable general contractor who helps execute her vision and is worth his weight in gold. The clients themselves have Rose, who implicitly understands what they need. To build a sex room, you need a team of good people.

Kathy “Kiki” Sloan runs the Property Dominators real estate team at boutique brokerage VIP Real Estate. (Fun fact: Soriya, who appears in Sex Rooms with her boyfriend Lester and five other members of her polyamorous family, is an agent on the Property Dominators team.) Sloan specializes in helping members of the kink, BDSM and ethically non-monogamous communities find and sell homes that are perfect for them.

“I had a friend who bought a new build,” she explains, “and while it was being built, there was this constant conversation about where the dungeon was going to be and how that was all going to lay out.” One nice thing about new construction is that you can add your own, um, equipment before the drywall gets hung. Sloan says she’s also curated a group of contractors who can accomplish jobs such as installing hard points in a pre-built home, so that heavy items — such as sex swings — can be accommodated.

“This show is a lot about relationships,” notes Tyler Martin, furniture designer and photographer, “and that relationship to each other and to self is, I think, reflected in the artistic approach that’s taken.”
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One image from a TADAM Photography boudoir photo shoot.
Tyler and Tiffany Martin of TADAM Photography
The owner of a boudoir photography studio, Martin says that a lot of TADAM Photography’s work is about helping “people to connect more with how they express themselves and their own voice, and not some prefabricated idea of what it ‘should’ look like.”

7. Every aesthetic can be sexy

How do you build a sex room for a self-described “top” who’s into farmhouse chic? Sound impossible? It’s not — you just need the right mindset.

Rose’s “mood boards” help capture the high-level aesthetic and feel that her clients are seeking, and then she uses her creative powers to somehow manifest it. With Tricia and Gary’s sex shed, she actually does manage to make the farm-loving aesthetic downright, um, hot.
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Tricia and Gary's sex shed.
Caleb Alvarado/Netflix
Raj and Ryan’s room is a fabulous example of Rose's skill: Raj prefers more of a bohemian look, while Ryan is very into technology. Rose created a room that contains all of the elements that speak to Ryan’s tech-loving soul (sound and light and a sweet wall-mounted fireplace) while also focusing heavily on the touchy-feely romantic side of things.

8. All good things must come to an end

Some day, you're going to need to sell that house with a sex room. Sloan notes that while Denver has a “great community” in terms of kink and ethical non-monogamy, “business-wise, it makes the listing hard to sell” if the current owner insists on keeping that sex room intact.

The issue is basic supply-and-demand economics. There's a lot of demand for real estate, but not a ton for specialized real estate of any kind, whether that means a custom grow room for a cannabis club or a gorgeous sex room tailored to the current owner’s wants and needs. To get the highest and best price for a house, a seller needs to market the house to the largest possible number of buyers — and there simply aren’t that many buyers looking for a house with a sex room that was built for another couple (or group, perhaps).

“The fact is that when you’re talking about real estate and the buyer pool, the pool of buyers who want a house in a certain area gets smaller. Then for a house at a certain price point, the buyer pool gets smaller. And then you add ‘with a secret sex dungeon behind a bookcase,’ and the buyer pool becomes practically nothing,” Sloan explains, adding that she's had some luck helping sellers unload their furniture and other removable sex items, reshaping the room as a “bonus room” and then marketing the house as a “regular” listing.

Back in 2019, a “sex dungeon house” in Pennsylvania went briefly viral when it was listed for sale, but there were no takers. When it was listed again in 2021, the agent removed the furniture from the basement before taking new property photos...but still no takers.

"Some people were like, ‘I love this house, but I can’t buy it, because everybody knows it has a dungeon in the basement," explains Melissa Leonard, the agent who listed the house. “In the end, I think it wasn’t suited to a suburban family.”
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Amber Taufen has been writing about people, places and things in Denver since 2005. She works as an editor, writer, and production and process guru out of her home office in the foothills.
Contact: Amber Taufen