Each episode of Netflix’s new design series How to Build a Sex Room begins with interior designer and host Melanie Rose sitting down with her clients to discuss their deepest sexual desires. She often gets the conversation started by digging into her little bag of tricks, leading some to call her the “Mary Poppins of sex rooms.” Instead of a spoonful of sugar or useful household items, Rose’s bag is filled with sex toys, including a pair of handcuffs, a flogger, and a butt plug. “Bless butt plugs!” Rose tells TIME. “When I come out with a stainless steel butt plug I know they will be shocked by it. But I want that reaction, I want to see what they’re used to or haven’t tried yet.”
Rose knows her sexual frankness might be shocking to some, especially those who blanch when they hear the title of her show. “But that’s the thing I’m trying to dispel through the series,” she says. “Just because somebody has a sex room, isn’t a reason to judge. You might want to be a little bit envious of them.”
How to Build a Sex Room is less Taxi Cab Confessions and more Queer Eye for anyone who is looking for a designated space to explore their sensuality. “I’m trying to create experiences for people, to get them in that mood,” says Rose.
When it comes to designing a sex room, Rose, who has worked with people to make what she calls “sacred spaces” for about 10 years, doesn’t stick to any hard and fast rules. She has never designed the same room twice because no couples’ kinks are ever the same. However, she did share some design advice that makes for pretty good sex advice, too: “It’s there for enjoyment and if you get it right the first time, that’s great,” she says. “And if it takes a few tries, that’s fine as well. Just have fun.” Below, Rose shares her dos and don’ts for making sure your sex room (or whatever room you’re having sex in) will get you in the mood.
Don’t forget to make your bed
When you walk into a bedroom, Rose says, you should immediately see the bed. It needs to be the focal point so that it “stimulates the feeling of, ‘Oh my god, I want to get between those sheets!” In some ways, it’s just science. “The brain sees something really beautiful and sensual and you’ll gravitate towards it,” she says. “You’re not going to gravitate to one that’s unmade and doesn’t look very nice.” It’s why she believes that the easiest way to turn your sex room or bedroom into a pleasure palace is to simply make your bed everyday. “Change out the bed linens, put some throw cushions on there,” she suggests. “Get a lovely throw to put on there so when you go to bed, it’s more of an erotic experience.”
When you don’t have a designated room for sex, Rose says you have to be more mindful of what you’re bringing into your bedroom. You don’t want to risk ruining the mood. A heavy four-post bed and a giant flatscreen might not stimulate the libido, but adding a fluffy area rug and keeping your sex toys in a nearby nightstand could. Deciding how interested you are in BDSM might also influence what kind of bed you want. “I might bring in a specialized bondage bed if you’re going to be restrained or hanging from it,” she says. “But some just need a bed that they can snuggle up in.”
Do expand your sex toy horizons
When it comes to adult toys, Rose has found that couples often “stay hard-nosed to certain items,” which she believes is a real shame. “The adult toys industry is always coming up with something new and exciting,” she says, which is why visiting your local sex shop is “like going into a candy store.” You might already know what you like, but that doesn’t mean it’s the only thing you want. “There are some people who are like, ‘I don’t need those toys, I have my fingers,’” she says. “Well, carry on with your fingers, but don’t be afraid to try something a little bit different, a little bit more erotic. Go into an adult toy store, do some research and explore.”
Rose believes every sensual room should have at least one vibrator. “I think it’s a misnomer that if someone’s using a vibrator, the partner’s going to be redundant,” she says. “In essence, the partner should be getting off on it, just as their other partner is getting off on it.” For those looking to take things up a notch, she suggests glass dildos or butt plugs. “When you say glass people are like, ‘Is that going to shatter inside me?’ No,” she says. “It’s made of pyrex so you can keep it hot and cold for a bit of temperature play.”
Don’t be afraid of wallpaper
Rose believes that wallpaper has gotten a bad rap over the years. “You say wallpaper to someone when designing a sex room and they go, ‘Oh my god, wallpaper! It’s going to be flowery!” she says. But today’s wallpaper isn’t your grandma’s wallpaper. “You don’t have to go about mixing glue and pasting it up. They’ve now come up with peel-and-stick for those living in a rented apartment,” she says. “And oh my god, the right wallpaper adds so much choice!”
The interior designer describes herself as “a very touchy-feely person, not with other people I don’t know, but with fabrics,” and often uses textured wallpaper to give couples a more sensory experience. On How To Build a Sex Room she used wallpapers made of leather, velveteen, faux crocodile, and a black sisal, a weaved fabric often used for cat scratching posts. “It’s got a nitty gritty feel so I sometimes use it where all the BDSM toys are, where all the action happens,” she says. “But it looks luxurious.”
Do add shock value
With every room she designs, Rose makes sure to bring a touch of whimsy that she hopes will delight the client. She may do this by adding boudoir photography, sensual paintings of dripping orchards, or penis-shaped hooks. The latter is one of her go-tos on How To Build a Sex Room. Why? “Because it’s a penis!” she says. “People don’t expect it.” She was actually surprised Netflix let her use so many different shapes and sizes of penises on the show. Her favorite being a set of “big beautiful bronze ones that look like works of art to me,” she says. “Thank you Netflix, for letting those come with me.”
Often, the penis hooks are so well placed that it takes clients a minute to realize that the decorative items they’re admiring are actually hanging phalluses. “I like when people go, ‘Oh, look at that! And then it hits them, ‘Oh my god, that’s a penis!’” That’s why Rose wants her clients to remember that these sensual pieces aren’t only functional, they can be quite decorative. “Something like a stainless steel butt plug could be used as a paper weight and it will have people go, ‘Oh, what’s this?’” she says. “These pieces, especially the more expensive luxury item toys, are absolutely works of art.”
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