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Red Room Challenge

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"Pete," Chris said, wiping dried grout off his hands with a towel, "I love Lisa as much as you do, but..."

"But what?" Peter was standing outside the bathroom, which meant he was currently protected from the detritus of the final tiling mess. It only figured, Chris thought with a suppressed groan. Peter came up with the ideas, and Chris was the ones getting his hands dirty trying to attach that grand design to the real world. "She'll love it. And I'm sure she'll have some good ideas."

Chris sighed and took another look around the bathroom. It was a wet room, completely waterproofed and tiled through with black and silver mosaics. The sink had no basin, just a shelf for runoff to slide down, made in concrete flecked with black stone. And while the loo was tucked away behind a door, the dual-headed shower and spa bath were right opposite the door. Mentally, Chris ticked off jobs left to do--another layer of grout, siliconing everything in, and fitting the power points and lights--but all in all he was happy with what had come out of a good week's work.

The rest of the basement, however, was looking... well, barely finished was probably the word for it. There were walls, there was gyprock and a layer of plaster, and there was a ceiling. An unpainted ceiling, but it no longer felt like standing in a basement. It felt like standing in an ill-lit room.

He stepped out of the bathroom, put his hands on Peter's shoulders, and said as solemnly as he could, "Peter, we are not asking Lisa for help designing our sex dungeon."

"First off," Peter said, "He's the one who keeps calling it a sex dungeon, not me."

"Oh, my God," Lisa said, cradling her teacup in her hands. "Really?"

Chris groaned and dropped his head to the table. They were sitting in a cafe in town, and Peter seemed to be getting too much entertainment out of his embarrassment.

"Okay, so why is it not a sex dungeon?" Lisa said, touching Peter on the arm.

"It is a sex dungeon," Chris muttered into the table.

Peter laughed. "Okay, so I have this friend who died last year of cancer--"

"Oh, I'm so sorry," Lisa said.

"It's okay, we'd known it was coming for a while, and everyone got to say goodbye properly," Peter said. "But yeah, I'm the only person who lived close enough to him so I wound up inheriting a bunch of his really nice, uh..."

"Bondage furniture," Chris interjected. Lisa laughed in what sounded like delight.

"Well, yeah but it's really classy--"

"Bondage furniture!" Chris repeated.

"What even is bondage furniture?" Lisa asked in a scandalized tone.

Chris sat up and gave Peter a you-tell-her look.

"Well," Peter started, then he caught Chris' expression and just started laughing again.

Lisa sat back in her chair and gave Chris a long-suffering look. He echoed it back to her as well as he could. "It's a bed frame, and a bench, and a St. Andrew's cross," he finally said. "And okay, it's all heirloom quality hardwood, with leather, but..."

"Ah," Lisa said. "So what are we talking..."

"It's all oak and black leather," Chris said, "And the bed frame has this headboard with this beautiful inlay of, like, ebony and ash, and it's beautiful but it's also got these, like, rings bolted into it..."

"Ooh la la," Lisa said.

"So look," Peter said, "I thought we should have a place for everything in our basement, and--"

"And now it's a sex dungeon," Chris said. "We've just about finished putting in the bathroom, but the rest of it is still in the design phase."

Lisa had her hands clapped to her mouth, but her eyes were sparkling. "You have to let me see it," she said. "I will absolutely help you decorate your sex dungeon, boys, let me at 'em."

Lisa showed up at their house with a book of fabric swatches and a Pantone guide tucked into her purse. She cooed appreciatively over the upstairs, then followed them down the stairs into the flood-lit basement. "Oh, this is a nice space," she said. "I'm surprised the ceiling height is as good as it is."

Peter waved over his head and fit his hand between his hair and the ceiling. "Yeah, it's pretty good for a basement, isn't it." He cleared his throat. "Here, look at the bathroom!"

"Yeah, I just finished grouting it," Chris said. "Peter's going to be finishing the siliconing, aren't you?"

"Yeah, yeah," Peter said, then took Lisa by the shoulders and escorted her over. "Ta-dah!"

Lisa's gasp of delight warmed Chris' heart, even though the design had been mostly Peter's ideas. "Ooooh, this is so luxurious," she said. "Look at that shower, it's divine!"

"Thank you," Peter said. He was playing it cool, but he was chuffed. "Do you like the sink? We got Keenan to do it custom."

"Really?" Lisa stepped carefully over to the sink and ran her fingers over the finish. "Oooh, look at the shine of it. And those stones in it have come up a treat, haven't they?"

Chris stepped closer to admire his handiwork. "Yeah, we got the idea from the, ah, entryway that they did at the Weatherboard."

"I love it. And the tiles! These are gorgeous." Lisa cooed over the mosaics, and the random-looking pattern of silver tiles dappled through the black in the shower. "This is great, guys. So what's the problem with the rest of it?"

"Well..." Peter scratched his head. "We're having some disagreements on the colors. And the fabrics."

"What are you going to do for light?" Lisa stepped back into the main room and looked around. The basement was large for a bedroom, and definitely had enough room for all the furniture they needed to store with room to spare. "You don't really have any windows in here--oh, there's one."

The window she'd pointed out was set up high in the wall, and was barely glimmering with reflected sunlight. Chris grimaced. "Yeah, the window situation isn't very good in here. We're planning on putting in downlights, and some, er, wall sconces, and maybe some floor lamps."

"I think you need all the light you can get down here," Lisa agreed. "What about flooring? Are you going carpet? I'd think you'd want to go with carpet."

"Well, the problem with carpet," Peter interjected, "Is that it's harder to keep clean--"

Lisa burst out laughing as Chris winced.

"It's true!" Peter said, catching her laugh. "I mean, just thinking about it."

"So what colors do you want?" She pulled out her sample book and started paging through swatches. "I mean, this is a place you want to feel really intimate, but you don't want it to feel like you're in a cave."

"I just want to stay away from black as much as possible," Chris said. "I know we used it in the bathroom, and I like it there, but--"

Peter nodded. "I mean, I think we should bring it through, all the black leather in the furniture--"

"But like an accent color," Lisa continued the thought. "Not a black... hole." She tapped her finger against a page of wallpaper samples. "How about a gold? Warm golds and greens, with brown and black from the wood and the leather?"

Chris craned his neck to look over her shoulder. The samples she was looking at had a bit of an art nouveau motif of gold-on-gold, with delicate black scrollwork through it. "Oh," he said. "That's nice."

"We could go brown with the carpet," Peter suggested.

Lisa flipped pages in her book. "Like a warm brown? Like--"

"Like a cinnamon-y color. Like toast," he said.

"All right," Lisa said. "Let's get to a table and we can sketch out some ideas, right?"

"Lead the way," Peter said, gesturing to the staircase.

As Lisa mounted the stairs, Peter threw his arm around Chris' shoulders. "So..."

"So?" Chris asked him.

"So admit I was right," Peter said, grinning. "It was a good idea to ask Lisa to help decorate our sex dungeon."

Chris poked him in the ribs, grinning, and headed up to the kitchen to put the kettle on. They were going to be brainstorming for a while.