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I Design Sex Rooms Costing $200K, but They’re Not All ‘Fifty Shades of Grey’

Laveta Brigham

Netflix’s “How to Build a Sex Room” brings to light the business of sex rooms. Melanie Rose, the host, told Insider the most expensive item she’d installed was a tally-ho chair. Clients can spend about $200,000 on a sex room, but secondhand stores provide cheaper options. Loading Something is loading. […]

  • Netflix’s “How to Build a Sex Room” brings to light the business of sex rooms.
  • Melanie Rose, the host, told Insider the most expensive item she’d installed was a tally-ho chair.
  • Clients can spend about $200,000 on a sex room, but secondhand stores provide cheaper options.

Melanie Rose didn’t plan on becoming a sex-room designer. She just fell into it.

When Rose embarked on her interior-design career 10 years ago, she planned to create kitchens, bathrooms, and other spaces.

One day, a client turned around and asked her whether she had ever designed a sex room. Her answer was no, but she made a point of finding out more about them.

She got so into her new line of work that she ended up writing erotic fiction, and she pitched a TV series based on her writing to Adam Sher, the president of ITV America.

But Sher felt Rose’s career as a sex-room designer was a better subject for a program.

“I never thought I would land my own show on Netflix,” Rose said.

Now, she’s the host of the series “How to Build a Sex Room,” which first aired at the start of July. During the show, Rose renovates couples’ rooms into sensual spaces that fit their desires, allowing them to explore and develop their relationship.

Melanie Rose with hands clasped together in episode of How To Build a Sex Room.

Netflix



Rose wants to dispel the perception of sex rooms as dirty. When people search on Google, they are likely to encounter extremes like sex dungeons. But she says the rooms can be classy — it just depends on what people find erotic.

“You might think that there is a type of person that wants a sex room,” she said. “There is no type. It could be your next-door neighbor.”

For instance, in the second episode of “How to Build a Sex Room,” Rose met a couple wanting to add a spark to their relationship.

She made them a “honeymoon suite” focused around sensuality. It had a bed, a living-room area, and a relaxation space. The subtle decorations, including candles, fluffy throws, and flower petals, gave a romantic but discreet feel.

Rose was born and raised in London. Before becoming an interior designer, she was a TV and theater actor. She was speaking from her colorful couch in her Los Angeles home, which she said “really speaks to really what I am, vibrancy.”

She specializes in creating sensual and erotic rooms that she dubs “sacred spaces,” according to her website. “I am my own businesswoman away from that,” she told Insider. She still carries out traditional renovations as well.

Sex rooms aren’t cheap

Converting rooms into sex rooms can be an expensive project depending on the size and complexity of the space, Rose said. If you’re taking down walls or installing lavish furniture, the dollars can add up.

Creating a small sex room can cost $35,000 to $40,000, but larger ones can have a hefty price tag, sometimes above $190,000, Rose said.

During the show, Rose installs showers, puts up walls, and scatters sex-themed ornaments and artwork across the clients’ rooms.

“It can be as big as you want it to be and as expensive as you want it to be,” she said.

One of the sex rooms created by Melanie Rose, which shows a bed with lots of pillows, throws, and mirrors on the wall.

Netflix



Clients’ reactions to their finished sex room can be joyful and emotional.

One couple in the show, Shenika and Matthew, asked Rose to revive the sexiness in their relationship that had gone since they had children. Rose created the “Vegas Suite” pictured above, which had an en suite bathroom — a feature she says she loves to install for clients.

Melanie Rose shows two happy clients the finished sex room.

Netflix



One of Rose’s favorite memories was when Shenika saw the end result, teared up, and told her: “You have saved our marriage.”

Tally-ho chairs and sex swings

The most expensive item Rose has incorporated into one of her projects is a tally-ho chair. This curved-back chair, equipped with straps and stirrups, can cost a few thousand dollars, Rose said.

The green tally-ho chair that featured in the film “Fifty Shades of Grey” cost $14,600, according to Bloomberg. Gwyneth Paltrow’s Goop has included a $28,500 version of the chair called the “Tufted Boudoir Chaise” in its holiday gift guide this year.

Meanwhile, the hottest item on the sex-toy market right now is a sex swing, a piece of equipment that hangs from the ceiling with stirrups attached, Rose said.

Shot of one of the rooms created by Melanie Rose, which shows a bed with a sex swing.

Caleb Alvarado/Netflix



“Everybody wants a sex swing,” she said, adding that the appeal was the novelty of being suspended in the air. “Some are not that expensive,” she said, adding that “Amazon do them.”

The response from her clients about their new equipment? Curiosity, she said. “It’s experimenting, it’s exploring, it’s going on a journey with your partner that makes it even more fun,” she said.

Cheap hacks for building sex rooms

For those who are looking to fit a sex room with a lower price, Rose said thrift or secondhand stores offered great alternatives.

She suggested finding a secondhand glass cabinet or repurposing a bookstand by sticking wallpaper to the back of the shelf and displaying sex toys in there.

“Tart it up, use your imagination,” Rose said.

Melanie Rose smiling at two clients fully clothed in the bathtub in one of her sex rooms.

Caleb Alvarado/Netflix



Lots of stores, such as the UK chain Marks & Spencer, have great bed linens, Rose said, adding that people didn’t have to choose high-end products, as long as it felt comfortable.

Going cheap wasn’t Rose’s advice for sex toys, however: “I always say buy quality.”

Boutique stores have the goods

Rose says few places sell the furniture required for sex rooms.

“It’s not like I can go down to the store or go to furniture store and say, ‘Hey, I’d love to look at a tantra chair, please, and do you have a bondage bed I could look at?'” she said. “It’s very different.”

Instead, Rose heads to boutique stores and family-run businesses.

“You want to keep those stores alive and thriving rather than going to big chains,” she said.

For the Netflix show, Rose said, she bought accessories for the sex rooms from local stores including Vanilla Kink and Awakening in Denver. Stockroom in Los Angeles is one of Rose’s favorite places to shop for lingerie and bondage for her clients.

Melanie Rose points to a mannequin wearing a feather scarf and lingerie

Rose, host of Netflix’s “How to Build a Sex Room.”

Netflix



“It’s a place where I can go in and I can just touch and feel everything and inhale that beautiful leather, which is really intoxicating,” she said.

At the end of the day, Rose pointed out that sex rooms needn’t always revolve around sex. Whether having a bath or drinking a cocktail, she said, it’s about spending intimate time with each other.

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