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Illustrations by Carly Jean Andrews.

Design Your Tiny Apartment Like a Dominatrix

Mark Hay

Mark Hay

It's not the size that counts. It's how you use it.

Illustrations by Carly Jean Andrews.

For many kinksters, the real fun happens at home. You dream of outfitting your humble abode with bespoke hooks and clamps, gorgeously sadistic metal contraptions, and carnal designs. Unfortunately, setting up your own kinky space can be tricky, especially if you live in a tiny apartment.

To find out how sex dungeons can be created in tight spaces, VICE reached out to a number of BDSM enthusiasts who've made their own personal or professional playgrounds in unlikely domiciles. We asked them to share their wisdom for anyone who might be looking to turn their dorm room or urban hovel into a first-rate place to be bound, boned, or beaten. Here's what we learned:

Don't Copy Commercial Dungeons

"In New York City, no one expects a BDSM player to have the full dungeon setup you see in the movies," said Michal Daveed of the Eulenspiegel Society, a venerable New York kink group. Instead, she recommends that you work with your limitations.

"I don't think anything is impossible, given even a closet," said Mistress Lady Wednesday, a pro domme who started her career seeing clients in the living room of a small, shared Brooklyn apartment. Basic kink equipment, after all, is simple: a few punishment tools, ropes and clamps, cleaning supplies—all stuff you can get at Home Depot.

Work with What You Got

"Suspension is the one thing not all places can handle if you don't know what's a real wall and what's a fake wall and what the original construction was," said Mistress Lucy Sweetkill, a pro domme, co-founder of New York's La Maison du Rouge (with Domina Dia Dynasty), and an expert when it comes to conceptualizing and designing kink spaces.

Hooks, eyeholes, and/or a suspension bar could end up seriously damaging your apartment—not to mention you or your partner—when your rig rips out. Instead, Sweetkill suggests freestanding, portable suspension rigs. "They're metal tubes that break down… they're made so you can travel with them and so they can support all the weight, so you could suspend someone in the middle of them."

Of course, they're not cheap. A full freestanding rig at Fetters UK, an outlet Sweetkill stands by, will run you more than $2,600. Even a basic portable rig with a decent rating on Etsy will set you back $550.

"Whips would be hard to do in a small space," Sweetkill added. "Unless you have a very long apartment."

Size matters, too: "I could no longer use a bullwhip on my pain sluts," said Lady Wednesday, after moving into a smaller apartment. "So instead, I intensified the pain I inflicted with a multitude of clips, which I would slap off with a riding crop."

A decent crop or cane from a quality outlet will run you between $10 and $70, while a leather flogger, a more involved but still small kink tool, can go from $65 to $365.

"It's really tough to give golden showers in an apartment where the bathroom is off-limits," she continued. "Puppy pads help, but sometimes the splatter is too wide and annoying to clean up."

Any pads should do, but if you're trying to control as much splatter as possible, and planning for as many sessions as your heart desires, you might as well order the hundred pack of XXL pads off Amazon for a cool $60.

Furnish Your Home with Kinky Care

Lady Wednesday labels "dungeon furniture," more complex or bespoke apparatuses, a tertiary consideration at best. She thinks that most things you can do without, using standard furniture and everyday items instead.

"Lots of BDSM furniture… is highly expensive and not better in a way that's required," said Mistress Sweetkill, "especially in personal use." Her bed is from IKEA, but she still uses it to tie people up just fine. At the end of the day, all you really need is a few sturdy posts or railings to sling ropes or straps around. IKEA's $179 steel-framed Leirvik could do in a pinch. Or, if you want to tie someone up vertically, you could even use a heating pipe.

"When I go into any store, the first thing that comes into my mind—just because I'm perverted like this—is, What else could I use this for?" she added. "Thinking about those things, and having a little more intention about what you're buying… is one of the best ways to both save money and to have something that's going to be multi-use in your vanilla life and your kink life."

Some items work great in both kinky and vanilla contexts. The aesthetic around general furniture can be enhanced or altered for a kinky session with the use of some swap-out colored light bulbs (Moodies, an aptly-named brand, will sell you a five pack of red silicone-capped lights that are safe to bump into for $14) or dark shades (more on that below). Even a good surround-sound system (affordable but well regarded sets, like those from Monoprice, run around $150 on the low end) can help you set the mood.

It's not just furniture, either: Many items in your place can be kinked. Dominatrix Sandra LeMorgese, who has written about her time navigating kink in New York, gets rhapsodic about exercise equipment. "Jump ropes can be used for rope play. Dumbbells can serve as anchors for restraints. Workout benches are perfect for bondage. And if you have anything like a Bowflex machine—be still, my heart—the opportunities are pretty much endless."

Plus, you can always make modifications to vanilla furniture to amp up its kink potential. "If you have a wooden bed frame," advised LeMorgese, "drill a small metal ring into each corner. When you play, these rings make perfect restraint anchors for arms and legs. When you're not playing, they just disappear underneath the edges of your comforter or bedspread."

Storage Is a Priority

"In my apartment, no one ever knew where all my stuff was because I hid it all in clever places," said Lady Sweetkill. "Kink equipment and toys can take up a lot of room, but you can store them the same way as winter coats." In her case, this involved a matching luggage set that fit in with her general aesthetic. It was inconspicuous when she wanted her room to come off as vanilla—unlike a clear plastic storage box full of whips—and it was inconspicuous enough to pull out for a session.

"If you're someone who likes heavy metal bondage, that gets a little more complicated, because now you're looking at heavy metal tools," said Lady Sweetkill. "But I don't find many people who build that collection up. Most people are just trying to build up a BDSM 101 collection: some rope, hoods, gags, blindfolds, maybe handcuffs. Some corporal punishment items, and you can do one flogger or whip… I guarantee you they will fit in two or three storage bins."

All of this, however, is an opportunity to buy furniture that provides storage space and bondage potential. Noted Lady Sweetkill, "If I take all the storage stuff out [from under the bed], I could tie somebody to each post underneath."

Don't Skimp on Privacy

"Hang up blackout curtains," said LeMorgese. "Not only will this keep the neighbors just across the alley from getting too nosy, blackout curtains will make your apartment darker." She recommends these $181 honeycomb shades, but says that anything available at Home Depot will do. The store is such a reliable resource for dominatrices, LeMorgese calls it "Domme Depot."

"Buy a thick, sound-muffling rug," she added. "If you have people living on the floor beneath you, a rug will go a long way toward dampening the sound of your sensual adventures." Domme Depot has you covered here as well, offering a sound- and vapor-blocking mat that can go under a typical rug—which LeMorgese will vouch for—for just $0.53 per square foot.

In a big city, "Unless you're screaming bloody murder, nobody's going to bother you," Lady Sweetkill noted. But, better safe than sorry: "If you're doing something in your home that requires an exchange of money, then you have a high chance of getting in trouble."

Decorating Should Be Fun

"One of the joys of kink is creativity," said Daveed. "Turning part of your [living] space into a designated 'dungeon' area can be a fun challenge… Or you can go the holistic route and have toys, or even S&M furniture, spread throughout… Whatever works for you and your floor plan."

"We're lucky to live in a world... where you have all these options," said Lady Sweetkill. "It's not difficult at all to make things cohesively fit, if you take the time to look."

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