ITV America has had an interesting history, spanning five decades. In those decades they’ve produced Muppets specials to Lifetime TV. During the recent two decades though, they’ve collaborated with Netflix to reboot and rebrand reality TV shows like Queer Eye. And now, that collaboration has produced a show called How To Build A Sex Room. Its host is British interior decorator, Melanie Rose. Rose takes American clients who need to makeover a random room into their home into a sex room. She talks to these Americans about their history before they became a couple, using that history to feel out their romantic dynamic. She mostly needs to cater to couples, and let’s do some math, couples are two people who have individual needs. But she has the occasional polyamorous family and the single person too.
All of you, and by all I mean a few dozen who read this, know that I like my history and race, and I bring it up because Rose does something interesting in the pilot. She works with Raj and Ryan, a straight Black couple, and she feels out their feelings about sex toys, which include whips, which somehow doesn’t trigger Ryan, and black handcuffs, which does. Viewers watching this implicitly know his complex feelings. Specifically, ones that Black people have with handcuffs and thus, any form of bondage. Rose delves deep enough into the subject, and Raj and Ryan do the same in the show’s confessionals. Rose handling Ryan also shows the differences between the few who hesitate on trusting her, the most who do trust her, and who talk about how she listens to them, which she does to all of them.
Anyway, in those confessionals, the Americans spend time in a swanky sexy room and say things that bring levity to otherwise complex emotions. I was gonna be an armchair historian about BDSM, which Rose also does. But the short(ish) end of it is is that again, Black people and maybe people of colour have complex feelings about BDSM and any other fetishes and kinks. History and religion come into this. But it’s also condescending to assume that Black people are exclusively not into BDSM etc., because Raj is into bondage. The series also includes Asian polyamorists, Black former strippers, and Black Shibari rope artists. And remember Rihanna singing about S&M?
Makeover shows never deal with kink except for the one time a guy from Queer Eye wore a harness. Interestingly – there’s that word again – enough, Sex Room shows the intersection between the fetishistic and the normal. Rose expresses her multifaceted aesthetics through her own confessionals, calling herself cheeky but also classy. Classy, therefore, means the right amount of genital art and the innuendo that follows. The show turns viewers into horny versions of the protagonist of The Yellow Wallpaper, seeing genitals everywhere, but we’re not crazy because they’re there. They’re there even in the gentrified floral golden wallpaper that she picks out for another straight Black couple, Shenika and Matthew, who, this time around, are into regal aesthetics.
Sex Room luxuriates while showing its B-roll. The key to make anything, even painting walls, sexy, is to slow it down, which is something that I, someone who likes sex quick, need to learn. I don’t always agree with Rose’s aesthetic though. I like Raj and Ryan’s floor mattress, Shenika and Matthew’s Queen Anne bed, and Orlando and Matthew’s chest. The first one is easy to explain, if you know you know. But the other two can only mean one thing – cheap turns me on, and it’s strange why this show averts from that.
Sex Room likes to intertwine and sometimes that ethos bring mixed results. Normally, renovation shows do one home at a time, but this one decides to put two, sometimes three rooms per episode. The reasons for trying it this way is understandable. It makes sense with Netflix’s binge model. Trying new things is always good. And this way, there’s something for everyone. You might be or not be into a Black couple who have complex feelings about bondage. Or are or are not into another Black couple who want to be each other’s King or Queen. So, you might be into The Family, the multiracial polyamorous couple who are into watersports etc. Or Gary and Tricia, who are trying BDSM. Still, this juggling act is, confusing to watch sometimes.
Nonetheless, Sex Room makes for a text where viewers could read and luxuriate into every deal. A few parting thoughts though. Rose’s last client is a single standup comedian in her fifties, Lisa, who left her inattentive husband to attend to herself. Rose gives her a room and a half. She turns a shoddy back room and an open backyard into a sun room with a sex garden. First, Rose isn’t shy when it comes to using black wallpaper but she uses bright colours more, which can blow viewers’ mind in a good way.
Second, the sexual tension between Rose and her contractor Mike is a lot, if not slightly forced. Although it’s a trat to watch Rose light up when seeing good design. Third, when I look at the sun room and shed, it’s full of things like coffee tables that has dents that intentionally fit Lisa’s butt. There are genitals everywhere. They reminded me of modern day people finding miniature statues of curvy prehistoric women, arguably used as pornography during that day. I wonder what future civilizations or aliens might think when finding all these genital art. I like that whoever finds these artifacts know that our civilizations liked sex a lot.
Watch How to Build a Sex Room on Netflix. The trailer below is age-restricted because you have to be this big if you want this ride. Now let me go make some plans.