This Home-Renovation Show wants to put you to bed

As far as home improvements go, sex rooms are generally not considered smart financial investments. What future buyer wants anything to do with someone else’s adult-only trunk?

But practical considerations didn’t deter Brody Danger, an artist manager by day and burlesque drag dancer by night, from appearing on the new Netflix home renovation show, “How to Build a Sex Room,” which premiered 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 specialized project. “You are the ones living in it now.”

Max. Danger, who lives in Denver with their partner, Bettie Belladonna, 40, also a burlesque performer, turned part of their 800-square-foot basement into a classic Hollywood glam-style dressing room, with an oversized soaker tub in the middle of the room, together with a small stage and runway.

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

At least there was some curiosity. Belladonna, who works in hospitality, recalled that guests were “fiddling with the sex toys on the wall.”

“It was a great night and I think it was because of the room that added this element of love,” she said.

“How to Build a Sex Room” follows a dozen couples as they transform bedrooms, basements and spare rooms into spaces where they can rediscover some intimacy and indulge sexual fantasies. The host, a white-haired British designer named Melanie Rose, fires up her clients with a handbag full of floggers, handcuffs and other toys, pushing them to imagine their own “Fifty Shades of Grey” playroom.

Mrs. Rose, who lives in Los Angeles, has gained a reputation as the Mary Poppins of sex rooms. (For those looking for euphemisms, she also calls them “sacred spaces” or “fantasy spaces.”) So she’s an obvious addition to the Netflix series. The streaming network has tried to corner the home improvement genre’s self-care niche with shows like “Get Organized With the Home Edit” and “Queer Eye,” two shows that try to solve personal problems with practical fixes. “How to Build a Sex Room” is the next iteration of that concept. Rose peppers the homeowners with questions about their most intimate fantasies, encouraging them to lean into design changes that please no one but 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 Mrs. Rose sets out to solve it. The show is not short on sledgehammers, Sheetrock and plumbing problems. There are vision boards, filled with graphics, renderings and exuberant descriptions of textured wallpaper and shower tiles. And there’s an amiable plaid-clad contractor named Mike who’s ready to test the new leg rests on a bed. It all ends with a big reveal and tears as the happy couple enjoy the transformation.

“We’re going to make great use of this room,” said one guest after she explored her new leather and neon retreat with a banging bench and bondage cross, accessible by a ladder hidden under floorboards with the warning: “Caution : adults at play.”

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

“How to build a sex room” challenges the dogma. Forget the open house, it’s about what happens behind closed doors. Instead of ending up with a farmhouse sink and Edison bulbs, you’ll find couples sprawled out on a tufted sofa, their legs draped over each other, drooling over their newly improved love lives. You get rooms with floor-to-ceiling mirrors and chains suspended from the ceilings. Unlike the anonymous, interchangeable couples you typically see on home improvement shows, these bare all and reveal details about their lives that most people wouldn’t even share with their closest friends, let alone the viewing public.

Sex rooms are not particularly cheap. Mrs. Rose estimated that the renovations on the show ranged from about $30,000 to $70,000, although the homeowners did not foot the bill. (The production company, High Noon Entertainment, paid for the work.) Some of the renovations that Ms. Rose has performed privately, costing upwards of $200,000. But she sees it as a worthy investment.

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

Shenika and Matthew Carter saw their renovation project as one that could potentially 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, executive director of the Urban League of Metropolitan Denver. “We couldn’t figure out why there was a lack of intimacy.”

The couple, who bought the five-bedroom house in 2019, had made significant improvements — renovating the basement, customizing the deck and updating the backyard. “We made all this for the kids,” said Ms. Carter. “We did everything we could think of to make it feel like home, but there was nothing for me and Matthew.”

So their bedroom was an afterthought with two televisions, a large four-poster bed and laundry strewn across the floor. Their 5-year-old daughter often slept in the bedroom, while Mrs. Carter often fell asleep in the living room – hardly a recipe for romance.

Mrs. Rose cleaned the bedroom and adjoining bathroom and changed the layout so that Mr. Carter, 38, who owns a trucking academy with his wife, can now watch her shower from bed. They also added a stripper rod to the center of the bedroom. “I’m from Atlanta, home of the strip clubs,” said Ms. Carter. When she dances on the pole, “I’m in Atlanta in Denver.”

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

Now the bedroom is the couple’s favorite destination. Every night after family dinner, homework, chores, and bedtime routines, they retreat to their retreat and enjoy the improvements they’ve made to please no one but each other.

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