Taking a stroll through the neighborhoods of Denver, you’ll find nothing out of the ordinary — cookie-cutter cul-de-sacs, quaint homes and quiet neighbors. But Netflix’s newest hit series How To Build A Sex Room proves that you never know what goes on behind closed doors — even in your own neighborhood.
Released earlier this month, the show has made waves nationwide, accumulating an outpouring of support for the show’s sex and body-positive nature. Though you may have seen it on Netflix’s top trending shows list, many don’t realize the show was filmed predominately in Colorado’s Front Range. Featuring the work of local businesses and the intimate lives of Denverites, How To Build a Sex Room transforms not only the homes of these couples but our understanding of the sex positivity movement entirely.
Since founding Denver’s TADAM Photography, Tiffany and Tyler Martin have prided themselves on their innovative approach to the art form.
“We wanted to create glimpses of women that could be confident, empowering, sexy, but in the everyday,” said Tyler Martin, who sat down with 303 for an interview. “Often times what we find in a lot of boudoir photoshoots is you get hair and makeup, you wear a special lingerie, you put a costume on almost as an entrée to feeling confident and sexy. We wanted to tell stories that proved that, actually, it’s in these quiet, in-between moments when you’re reading a book or having a cup of coffee. There’s tremendous beauty in being fully embodied in self.”
Working largely in the boudoir photography space, their work aims to utilize “art as a tool for breaking down archaic shame narratives.” But it was about a year ago now they received one of their most intriguing inquiries to date.
“We got an email from one of the associate producers at High Noon Entertainment saying they had a filming inquiry,” Martin said. “They outlined that they were interested in doing a show that they described as ‘home renovation meets sex fantasies’ with the overall goal to normalize talking about sex and all the different interests that make up that world.”
Naturally, they assumed the email was spam. But just two months later, the couple found themselves on the set of the new Netflix original How To Build A Sex Room, involved with photographing two of the couples in three of the eight-episode series. Their experience in boudoir and female-focused photography made them a perfect fit for the show, but their decision did not come without hesitation.
“The nature of the show didn’t concern us…it was the treatment for the show. I think a show like this has the opportunity to capitalize on the taboo,” Martin said. TADAM Photography has long focused on eliminating just that, emphasizing body positivity and removing the shame around sexuality.
“That’s something that is very important to us, because we see women being shamed for body image, for their position towards sex itself. We’ve always wanted women to fall in love with the fact that they are beautiful for their sake, not because they are dictated by an adoring public,” Martin said. “We trusted it would be treated as something we should not carry shame about. All of us exist because sex has to happen, so why is it that we allow shame narratives to take place? That’s something that we resonated with, especially when we were talking about the show early on, that this is a show that wanted to bring to light that people, their tastes and their interests, add to a bouquet of experiences as opposed to reinforcing that there is one right way that everybody should be subscribed to. That was something we really endorsed.”
Premiered on July 8, How To Build A Sex Room follows interior designer Melanie Rose as she completes erotic renovations for couples looking to spice up their sex life, introducing them new to toys, kinks and confidence in the bedroom. Featured in Episodes 1, 7 and 8, Martin photographed two couples on their “field trips,” venturing outside their comfort zones to explore new sides of their partners, and themselves.
“In consultations, we do something called an archetypal exercise. We have women talk to us about who they once aspired to be, who they currently see themselves as, who they aspire to be in the future. We didn’t get to do that here because the couples didn’t know the field trips they’d be going on,” explained Martin. “What we had to rely on was the sensibilities and the conversations the production teams were having with those couples. We were really pleased with the values the team, both behind and in front of the camera, brought to the show. There was a strong desire for authenticity, even though we were in the business of making entertainment and making something that would be on Netflix. There was a sincere desire to authentically represent people in a way that was honoring the vulnerability they were showing on camera.”
But despite the incredibly public nature of the photoshoots, Martin discouraged any kind of performance from his subjects.
“There were aspects of being in front of the camera, many different cameras, that is somewhat unnerving,” Martin said. “We would put the camera down and talk to Gary or AJ or Trisha or Taylor and ask them ‘what are you experiencing right now? Are you trying to perform?’ That’s what we tried to get away from, a performance for us or the audience or the camera, and instead a connection with self and a connection with the person in front of you. When that happened, we were able to capture that in a way that honors them.”
One of the lucky couples featured was Denver locals Taylor Stonack and her partner AyJay Lasater. Introduced in episode one, the pair have been together for over three years after meeting in AyJay’s living room.
“I had been attending Sofar Sound shows local to Denver…and AyJay hosted shows out of his house before the pandemic,” said Stonack. “I rolled up to his front door…I walked in, I saw him, I thought he had really great hair and a sexy body. I made some silly comment asking him how he got his hair to swoop the way that it does…the rest is history.”
Their journey to being cast on the show is not dissimilar to the Martins, receiving an unusual email calling for couples looking to create a sexy space. Despite initial hesitations, Stonack and Lasater decided to take a chance and move forward in the casting process.
“We loved the idea of being part of such a positive conversation around sex, and normalizing things — not even necessarily the specifics of what you are into — but the topic in general. That’s what was really attractive to us. But reservations definitely came out during the whole process, even before filming,” Stonack explained. “It is very intimate, and you are sharing details about yourself some people aren’t even comfortable telling their best friend, let alone the whole world. There were definitely a lot of emotions, both good and bad, and everything in between. We were really excited about it, and as we learned more about the show — the producers, the passion behind it, the film crew, just the overall positivity — we knew it wasn’t going to be a shaming show, it wasn’t going to be totally outrageous. It was going to be real people, real couple, real stories, and about their love and their love of intimacy, and wanting to explore more.”
Their episode follows Melanie Rose as she designs a “rock and roll sex basement” for Stonack and Lasater, but their journey went far deeper than a home renovation. Stonack boasts in the show that she and her partner will “try anything twice…and sometimes go a third time just in case.” Her bravery and curiosity lead to an exploration of new sensations and expressions, even experimenting with her first flogging session. A sexual assault survivor, this experience unlocked a forgotten sense of empowerment for Stonack.
“In [the assault], I couldn’t speak. I’ve always been a very loud person.. but in that moment, I couldn’t say no. I froze in fear. But going through the flogging session, they would say ‘thank you for your no.’ It was so empowering, it gave me my voice back,” Stonack said. “I think it’s very healing, to be able to see and explore that. While it wasn’t talked about on the show, that was one of the most impactful and powerful moments of my life, to feel like I could use my voice and speak my truth and set those boundaries of consent and have them be respected. It was a very healing moment for me.“
The final renovation also displays a portrait of Stonack, taken in their boudoir style shoot with TADAM Photography for the show.
“When we did Taylor’s image in Episode 1, the feedback we got was that she fell in love with that picture. She couldn’t stop staring at it, because what she saw was a view of herself she hadn’t seen in a long time,” said Martin. “That is the type of reaction that we love to hear. We don’t heavily photoshop, we adjust photos for balance, but we don’t photoshop or make people skinnier then actually they are. We show them as they are and the beauty that they currently hold, not some aspirational other. When she had tears in her eyes and was crying at the image, that’s ultimately our goal: for them to see themselves in as clear a lens as possible.”
Stonack is a firm believer that communication is key to any relationship, and that vulnerability, though challenging, is crucial. The pair took this vulnerability to a new level, putting the most intimate details of their lives on display for the world to see.
“It’s really hard to be vulnerable, especially to talk about something thats taboo, but I think it changes everything. Being able to be vulnerable and talk about things and set boundaries. Communication is a word we throw around, but it’s not an easy thing to do. It makes for a better partnership, it makes for a better love life, it makes for a better friendship. Ultimately, AJ is the love of my life but he is also my best friend,” said Stonack.
Yet through the ups and downs of the show, How To Build A Sex Room became a life-changing experience for the couple, one they hope inspires others to lean into curiosity and embrace their own desires.
“In society, we are taught that our bodies are our tool. But really it is finding the power within yourself and your mind to believe that you are beautiful. To believe that you are enough, that you are strong, that your wants and your needs matter,” said Stonack. “Our hope is to allow someone else the space to feel seen, to feel comfortable sharing their desires and their wants. Everyone has to start somewhere, for someone it may just be saying, ‘I don’t like that’ or ‘I want to try this.’ And that’s just the beginning. My hope now going forward, and AyJay’s as well, is to continue to welcome these conversations because that’s where we all have to start.”
Similar to Stonack and Laster, the TADAM Photography team views their time on How To Build A Sex Room as just the beginning. The Martins continue to do boudoir and intimate couples photography in Denver, using their art as a means to spark conversation.
“My overall hope is that we strike a better balance around giving people the space to wrestle with the shame narratives most of us have grown up with, in a way that is supportive and not reactionary,” said Martin. “Figuring out who we are as individuals — emotionally, psychologically and sexually — that’s a long journey. It gets longer the more we laden taboo and shame on top of that. My hope for the show is that we show a diversity of experiences and that we should be more curious about that. Not just because it tends to be more taboo in some spaces, but because curiosity is really what is fun. It’s fun to learn from one another, even on topics that we haven’t been trained to deal with.”
Released in July, all eight episodes of How To Build A Sex Room are currently streaming on Netflix. The show, filmed predominantly in Denver, features the work of TADAM Photography’s Tiffany and Tyler Martin. To see more of their work or book a shoot of your own, visit their website.