Art & Architecture

Interior Design with Sex in Mind

When someone walks into your space, they should be able to learn a bit about you. If you’re a diehard sports fan, you’ll probably have a few pieces of jockish memorabilia set against your team’s colors. Lovers of nature might boast plant heavy interiors with an eye for natural materials when it comes to finishes. An academic may focus a room on their favorite texts while a cinephile may frame everything around a Hollywood scene.

Interior design is a means to project both lifestyles and desires, of who you are and who you want to be. It’s a chance for you to curate your life by getting someone in the mood for you. Yet, regardless of taste or style, a space is turned upside down when it’s context is a sexual encounter. That shrine to Tom Brady? That wall of Pulp Fiction props? They may be cool to you but, when trying to bed someone, your interior choices may cast you as too distractingly dorky to be sexy.

Designing an interior with sex in mind is a fine art, one that requires a balancing of personal taste with proven techniques to make all involved look and feel as sexy as possible. Tim Campbell, designer and principal of the New York and Los Angeles based Studio Tim Campbell, is well versed in how to make a sexy home since this is a common, subtle request from his residential clients. “I’ve done a lot of houses for guys who are newly divorced,” he says, noting that his job is to help enable environments to “express their masculinity” and make everyone look as attractive as possible in the process.

What makes an environment special is for it to feel as though you are about experience something new, be seduced and leave addicted.

Campbell has a few tips for immediately setting a mood. Candles are a safe bet along with dark, tactile materials like leathers or suedes along with furs, real or not. He notes furniture featuring upholstered leather and nail studs—a la, a headboard—suggests kinkiness without doing anything but existing while a great chaise may invite more than a cuddle as an alternative bed. Then, of course, there’s the actual bed. “Not to fetishize a four poster bed but a four poster bed lends itself in some capacity for a more risqué sexual experience,” he explains. When paired with a well placed antique mirror, an inviting and revealing shower, and ambient lighting that is neither LED nor fluorescent, one will have given more than enough suggestion of sexual intention.

It’s all about subtlety. Campbell says no to shapely furniture pieces, left out lube, “sexy” posters, or leaving out a copy of a book like Fifty Shades Of Grey. Campbell isn’t alone with these beliefs as Roman Alonso—founder and principal at Commune—echoes these feelings. “I don’t think someone will feel it’s sexy if they walk into someone’s house and it’s full of sexually charged photography or art,” Alonso explains, continuing “unless it’s part of a personal collection and connected to the individual.”

Like Campbell, Alonso notes that the sex appeal of a space “should happen naturally”—just like your own sex appeal. “I don’t think pretending to be someone you are not through the use of decor is ever sexy,” he says. This comes from Alonso and Commune’s rich experience designing spaces for clients like intimate luxury lifestyle brand Kiki de Montparnasse. “The client’s brief was, ‘I want a store where my mother can feel comfortable shopping for a dildo,’ thus the space had to feel elegant and comfortable and luxurious,” Alonso says. “The most important elements were lighting and color. The palette of mauve tones along with the warm lighting made the space feel sensual and feminine, plus there was an elegance to the furnishings.”

A bottle of your preferred lube perched next to a stack of your most treasured art books; or your sleek modern dildo nestled inside your favorite ceramic

Alonso also stresses lighting as even a straightforwardly sexy brand like Kiki de Montparnasse benefitted from this. “To entertain and create a comfortable—and, yes, even sexy—atmosphere, kill the ceiling lights,” Alonso says. “Use the lighting from sconces or floor and table lamps. And put them all on dimmers.”

Subtlety is clearly key when it comes to sexing interiors but what about those who want to be a little more direct? Or those whose sexual lifestyles are worn further from the hip? Interior designer Yaoska Davila of Yaoska Interiors thinks people should focus on the playful aspects of sex, pushing toward an edginess (and sometimes silliness) in your interior sex game. “What makes an environment special is for it to feel as though you are about experience something new, be seduced and leave addicted,” she explains of her philosophy for designing toward sex. “Above all, I aim to create a comfortable environment that draws you in with a sincere invitation for free experimentation.”

Davila suggests embracing sexual and seductive objects one loves but to “edit away all the bullshit” so items from your real life and sex life can coexist seamlessly—and to do it unselfconsciously, freely. “For example,” Davila explains. “A bottle of your preferred lube perched next to a stack of your most treasured art books; or your sleek modern dildo nestled inside your favorite ceramic.” For the more discreet, Davila recommends “an ornamental 19th century urn” by the bedside to house sex toys. And a silicone doll? “Make sure they’re dressed tastefully and not hanging out in the foyer greeting your guests.” For inspiration, she recommends looking to museums like Musee Rodin in Paris to see how the body, sexual fantasy, and life can interact seamlessly.

If one still wants more, consider designating a dedicated space for sexual practice. “I've been to enough of those apartments with the room at the end of the hall that's always strangely locked,” Peter Cooke, director of BDSM space and product design studio Fetters, explains. “Specific BDSM spaces are inherently intimate and deeply personal domains.” Regardless of what sorts of play happen in these spaces, Cooke recommends adding easy to clean floors, toy displays, select (but key) multi-functional play furniture, materials like leather, rubber, and vinyl, and—of course— considered dramatic lighting.

But outside of a dungeon situation? One has to balance “between class and crass” so select art pieces and designed moments don’t have to be adjusted when in-laws come over. And, sometimes, so-called normal home spaces can be just as kinky as they invite people to get creative with different sexual scenes. “A separate BDSM play space is often the holy grail,” Cooke says. “But people are more often using everyday rooms in their homes for play so the edges between sex spaces and every-day domestic environments are increasingly blurred.”

“Certain types of BDSM scenes also benefit from a more casual home setting,” Cooke says before adding a winking aside. “I'm thinking domestic service here.”

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