There’s nothing quite so mindlessly watchable as a home renovation show, and Netflix’s new series offers one big innovation in the format. Rather than building smiling homeowners new kitchens or tiny homes or man caves, How to Build a Sex Room promises to help them spice up their lives with the creation of dedicated sex spaces.
Vanilla couples wind up with rooms that look like cheeky Airbnbs, strewn with furry handcuffs and the like, while those committed to sexual adventuring are designed kinkier sex dungeons, usually in a Burlesque-y mid-2000s style. It’s cute! But one thoroughly un-sexy concern dogged me while viewing the first few episodes: What about all those stories about shoddy workmanship in home renovation shows?
Over the last few months, numerous reports have outlined the sometimes disastrous aftermath of home makeover TV. “As the popularity of the shows has grown,” wrote the New York Times in May, “so have whispers of incompetence, negligence, and shoddy construction. A number of former contestants on such shows say they were promised a dream house, but ended up with a construction nightmare.”
BuzzFeed reported that homeowners were alleging that they’d been “ripped off” by Candis and Andy Meredith, who host the Magnolia Network series Home Work. They described paying for work that was never finished—many homeowners who appear on renovation shows pay for the privilege—and dealing with shoddy work when it was completed. One woman who worked with the show said that the Merediths proposed adding a back deck to her home, only to install it on top of a sprinkler system. She says it caused flooding in her home, which she had to pay $18,000 more to repair. (“We adamantly deny that we have ever stolen money from these clients,” the Merediths wrote in a statement on Instagram. “Watching a single sided narrative unfold and these hateful comments from said narrative is extremely painful.”)
Meanwhile, a Las Vegas couple told the Times that an appearance on Property Brothers left them in a house with electrical problems and an “improperly installed” gas line. (It there’s one thing in a house that you’d want to be installed properly, the gas line would be pretty high up there.) Despite the fact that they noticed problems with the renovation during the big, episode-ending reveal, the couple was “instructed to reshoot the ending of the show multiple times,” the Times reports, “while they feigned excitement.”
Social media is also full of tough-to-verify but fascinating-to-read accounts of people left with crappy houses and massive repair bills after appearances on these series. Innocence shattered, I now watch all renovation shows—How to Build a Sex Room included—with a far more skeptical eye.
It’s nothing personal: As far as these series go, How to Build a Sex Room has its charms. Designer and host Melanie Rose has something of a Supernanny vibe, if Supernanny’s raison d’etre were getting couples to open up about their sexual desires and embark on romantic adventures. Much of the show is devoted to field trips and exercises designed to spark conversations and curiosity. The flogging possibilities presented by a St. Andrew’s cross are thoroughly plumbed, and sex toys are cataloged and explained. It’s sweet to see the featured couples giggle, embarrassed but generally looking pretty excited, as they consider the state of their sex lives and goals for their relationship. And the contractor Rose works with, an amiable guy named Mike, seems to know his stuff, or at least as far as I, someone who very much doesn’t know said stuff, can see. (I’d have a little more faith in his work, though, if the show revealed his last name.)
Still, as basements are finished and fancy bathtubs and spacious showers are installed, I can’t help but think of all of those complaints from alums of other home reno series. You want your sex room to be fire, but not literally on fire, you know? Good luck to these people!