//LA-based, English interior designer Melanie Rose is the host of the wildly popular new Netflix show “How to Build a Sex Room.” The show was shot in the Denver metro area in summer 2021.
Melanie Rose starts with a simple question: “So I understand you want to build a sex room—Why?”
The answers she receives from those featured on her massively popular new Netflix show, “How to Build a Sex Room,” vary. Some look to further explore their kinky sides, while others are looking to create a refuge for intimacy. The show follows 10 couples, a polyamorous family of seven and a single woman in the Denver metro area. For each, Rose tackles spaces ranging from simple bedrooms and basements to Sprinter vans and sheds. She pushes her clients juuuust beyond their comfort zones, taking them to boutique toy shops, dominatrix lessons and one-on-one Shibari classes.
But for many of her clients, she’s doing more than creating a sanctuary to act out their sexual and sensual fantasies. Rose builds places for intimacy, self-exploration and reigniting love that has lost its way. She takes cues from the partners she works with and runs with them, designing warm and welcoming spaces that cater to the desires and needs of each.
The LA-based, British interior designer has worked with clients to develop personalized lovemaking rooms for around a decade. With such a specialized line of work, Rose has developed a treasure chest of knowledge and a simple bag of tricks that often includes a flogger, riding crop, strap-on and butt plugs. Ms. Mayhem caught up with her to ask about shooting the show in Denver, how couples can start introducing more flavor into their sex lives and why she’s just so damn lovable.
This interview has been edited for length and clarity.
Denver has a history of being a sex-positive and kinky city. Is this one of the reasons the show was shot here?
If you think about it, Denver is really not known for its kink community. Los Angeles, oh, that’s a given; New York that’s a given. So I think Denver is really perfect for this. It wasn’t a really known kink community; it’s known for Aspen and celebrities going here, there and everywhere. I’m glad we filmed it in Denver, and there are such wonderful people within that community as well.
When we think of a typical BDSM dungeon, especially those we see in porn, they’re very sterile and empty. How do you make sure that even your kinkiest rooms don’t end up feeling cold?
Well, because it’s got the Melanie Rose touch, darling. But you’re right. You mention the words BDSM or kink and people automatically go to ‘dungeon.’ That’s part of the reason I wanted to dispel this through the show. [Sex rooms] don’t have to be dungeons, for starters. And they don’t have to be dirty and disgusting.
What is it about bringing a comfortable design to a space specifically for sex that helps us open up more intimately?
I think because you’re normalizing it more. We all feel comfortable in our living rooms, our kitchens, our bedrooms and our bathrooms. We like to think they’re decorated and you feel comfortable in that environment. And it’s the same thing with a sex room or a sacred room or a fantasy room—You actually feel comfortable in that. In that environment, you should be able to open up and talk about experiences more freely.
What were some of the biggest challenges you faced with people on the show?
I think the only challenge in the show was with the polyamorous family because you’re dealing with not just one or two personalities; now I was dealing with seven people all wanting their own piece in there design-wise. It’s like, OK, how do I make that work? And sometimes you have to just let that go for a minute, get on with some of the design and then start adding in what their particular kinks are.
Why is it so important for people to explore their kinky sides?
I would say, why not? I mean, we’re given beautiful bodies, and we don’t need to go too vanilla. I think there is another world out there that we can explore with our bodies. It’s one of the things where—If you’ve been between the sheets and you’ve had your hair pulled or your bottom spanked a little bit, it’s under that umbrella of BDSM. Nobody would actually think about that at all. Nobody would relate the two together, but it is, in that essence, that form. Why not explore our bodies further?
Right, a lot of people don’t think of those more mild things like hair pulling or spanking as under the BDSM umbrella. Is that because we’re so desensitized by extreme porn now, that it’s almost become vanilla?
Almost, yes. I mean, you can look at some extreme practices—Again, we go back to that thing of, OK, it needs to be consensual. You need to have a safe word. But yeah, I think you’re right. That side of it then becomes vanilla, but to the people that are having a vanilla sex life, that hair pulling and that little bit of spanking is a little bit naughty for them.
How do you suggest people start to introduce kink and BDSM into their relationships?
Start with a conversation. Our show was really geared toward partners sitting together watching it and perhaps turning to each other and saying, “Oh, would you start that conversation?” And then just go from there and say, “Oh, would you like to be flogged?” If you’re gonna go that far, I would certainly research that first. Don’t go off with a flogger and just wildly beat somebody about. You don’t want that, there are specific areas for that—across the shoulders and the buttocks, those meaty portions of the body. But open that conversation. “Why don’t we try some couples toys?”
I know for my partner and I, the show did start and restart conversations. We’ve been wanting to do Shibari classes for a few years. After watching a couple of the episodes, we looked at each other and said “Alright, let’s finally do it.” So thank you for that!
[Laughs] Oh, you are very welcome. It’s only in the past couple of decades that Shibari has been known to the West. It is a complete art form in its own right. And I love how it is in a sense—you are giving a lot of power to somebody else and you’re relinquishing that. I’m glad you are gonna go now!
Me too! Thank you for the inspiration. So, it’s obviously very easy to talk to you about this stuff. What do you think it is about you that makes people so comfortable with opening up about the most intimate details about their lives? One of the couples you worked with, Matthew and Shenika, shared they were facing separation. That’s a lot to talk about with a stranger.
You know, it’s an interesting question, and in a sense, hard to answer I suppose. Being English, we don’t often like to talk about ourselves and we don’t like to praise ourselves. It’s a very non-English thing to do. But I’ve had to get used to that because of having interviews. I think a lot of it is because I am so matter-of-fact about it. And I also swear a lot. So as soon as I go, “Oh, for fuck sake,” people are like, “Oh my God, she’s normal.” It’s like, yeah, of course I’m normal. It does just put them at ease. You can talk to me about anything; my job is to listen.
Matthew and Shenika were very withdrawn. I mean, I went into their room and found that he’s reading a book about how to find your fucking G spot. It’s like, dude. The worst thing is when you put me in a situation like that, because I’ve already got that image: Two fingers inside, reading, “Darling, do you feel it?” It’s just the way my mind works. But it was saving their marriage in essence and I think they felt very comfortable with me just because I am matter-of-fact. I’m not going to bite anybody’s head off, and I’m certainly not judgmental.
Throughout the show, you demonstrate your in-depth knowledge of the BDSM and kink world fairly often. Does that come from personal interest or is it knowledge garnered from working with design clients?
Darling, very subtly put. That comes from working with clients for the last decade. A lot of it is research. I’m very practical. A lot of it is knowledge and with that knowledge, you can then pass that wisdom on to your client. Do I practice any of this myself? I’m going to let you guess that one.
Any recommendations on shops in Denver to visit?
Vanilla Kink. We filmed there and they were very knowledgeable. And Awakening Boutique! Such wonderful people. I like to say it’s those boutique stores that offer the best. At the mainstream stores, employees are taught in a methodical way how to answer questions that the client asks. But you go to Awakening or Vanilla Kink and it’s like, “Oh, I think you should try this.” It’s really personal. And that to me is the best. That’s the best.
Some of the bigger mainstream stores can be intimidating. It’s just fluorescent lighting and walls and shelves full of vibrators. It’s less personal. When you go to these smaller boutique stores, you are getting the attention and the help you really, really need. Now I’ll probably get slammed by some of the big mainstream stores, but I would much prefer to shop at a boutique store and get to know some knowledge and know that I’m being looked after.
Is there anything else that you want people to know about the show, sex or relationships?
I just hope people watch the show. I would suggest people watch it a second time because there are things I think you miss the first time. I would watch the show a second time with a notepad and pen.