This home improvement trade show wants to put you to bed

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When it comes to home improvements, sex rooms are generally not considered smart financial investments. What would-be buyer wants to have anything to do with someone else’s adults-only romper room?

But practical considerations haven’t deterred Brody Danger, an entertainer’s manager by day and burlesque drag dancer by night, from appearing on Netflix’s new home improvement show, “How to Build a Sex Room,” which was premiered on July 8.

“My favorite thing about getting older is that you stop caring what people think,” Mx said. Danger, 31, whose mother, a real estate agent, strongly advised against embarking on such a cutting-edge project. “You live there now.”

Mx. Danger, who lives in Denver with their partner, Bettie Belladonna, 40, also a burlesque performer, transformed part of their 800-square-foot basement into a classic Hollywood glam dressing room, complete with an oversized deep soaking tub in the middle of the room, with a small stage and a track.

The couple, who use their stage names socially and for this article, say the piece is now their favorite in the house. On Thanksgiving Day they had a party of 10 there. Guests were duly impressed to be able to dine in a room with doorknobs in the shape of naked women. “I like to think there was a lot of jealousy,” Mx said. Danger said.

At least there was some curiosity. Ms Belladonna, who works in the hospitality industry, recalled guests “petting the sex toys on the wall”.

“It was an amazing night and I think it’s because of the play that added that element of love,” she said.

“How to Build a Sex Room” follows a dozen couples as they transform bedrooms, basements and guest rooms into spaces where they can find some privacy and indulge in sexual fantasies. The host, a white-haired British designer named Melanie Rose, teases her guests with a purse full of whips, handcuffs and other toys, prompting them to imagine their own “Fifty Shades of Grey” playroom.

Ms. Rose, who lives in Los Angeles, has earned a reputation as the Mary Poppins of sex rooms. (For those looking for euphemisms, she also calls them “sacred spaces” or “fantasy rooms.”) So she’s an obvious addition to the Netflix lineup. The streaming network has been striving to corner the self-care niche of the home improvement genre with shows like “Get Organized With the Home Edit” and “Queer Eye,” two shows that attempt to solve personal problems with practical solutions. “How to Build a Sex Room” is the next iteration of this concept. Ms. Rose asks the owners about their innermost fantasies, encouraging them to look into design changes that only appeal to the two people sitting in front of her.

The result is a show that follows the HGTV script, but with a twist. The guests present a design challenge and Ms. Rose sets out to solve it. The show has no shortage of hammers, sheetrock, and plumbing issues. There are vision boards, filled with gushing graphics, renderings and descriptions of textured wallpaper and shower tiles. And there’s an affable plaid-clad contractor named Mike who’s ready to test out the new leg restraints on a bed. It all ends with a big reveal and tears as the happy couple savor the transformation.

“We’re going to make good use of this room,” said one guest, after exploring her new leather-and-neon retreat with a spanking bench and bondage cross, accessed by a ladder hidden under boards emblazoned with the warning, “Warning: adults playing.

At the center of the home improvement genre is a mantra: improvements should not only improve your life, but also the value of your property. Kitchens and bathrooms should be designed with a future homeowner in mind, who would be willing to pay big bucks for Instagrammable space.

“How to build a sex room” defies dogma. Forget about open days, it’s about what happens behind closed doors. Instead of ending up with a farmhouse sink and Edison light bulbs, you get couples stretched out on a padded sofa, their legs thrown over each other, adoring their newly-enhanced love lives. You get rooms with floor to ceiling mirrors and chains hanging from the ceilings. Unlike the anonymous, interchangeable couples you typically see on home improvement shows, these bare all, revealing details about their lives that most people wouldn’t even share with their closest friends, let alone the public.

The sex rooms aren’t particularly cheap. Ms. Rose estimated that the show’s renovations ranged from around $30,000 to $70,000, although the owners did not foot the bill. (The production company, High Noon Entertainment, paid for the work.) Some of the renovations Ms. Rose did privately cost more than $200,000. But she sees it as a worthwhile investment.

The bedroom “should definitely be the first place” the owners renovate, Ms. Rose told me. “Because that’s where we as a couple, as partners, sleep together, that’s where we have sex. This is where we start our families. So why not make it more romantic?

Shenika and Matthew Carter saw their renovation project as one that could save their marriage — a tall order for a home improvement show. “The love was there, there was no doubt about it,” said Ms. Carter, 41, general manager of the Urban League of Metropolitan Denver. “We couldn’t understand why there was a lack of privacy.”

The couple, who bought the five-bedroom home in 2019, had made significant upgrades – renovating the basement, customizing the patio and updating the backyard. “We were creating all of this for the kids,” Ms. Carter said. “We did everything imaginable to make it feel like home, but there was nothing for me and Matthew.”

So their bedroom was an afterthought, with two TVs, a towering four-poster bed, and laundry strewn on the floor. Their 5-year-old daughter often slept in the bedroom, while Mrs. Carter frequently fell asleep in the living room, which is hardly a recipe for romance.

Ms Rose has gutted the bedroom and adjoining bathroom, changing the layout so that Mr Carter, 38, who has a truck driving academy with his wife, can now watch her shower from the bed. They also added a stripper pole in the middle of the chamber. “I’m from Atlanta, the home of strip clubs,” Ms. Carter said. When she pole dances, “I’m in Atlanta in Denver.”

Their favorite addition, though, is the thumbprint-activated lock they added to the bedroom door. The family bed is a thing of the past. “It was a calculation, putting that knob on that door,” Ms Carter said.

Now the bedroom is the couple’s favorite destination. Each evening, after family dinner, homework, chores, and bedtime routines, they retire to their retreat, enjoying the improvements they’ve made to satisfy no one but the other.

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