Rethinking Your Sex Salon Furnishings

by Amy Fusselman

Do you think you have successfully furnished your sex salon because you have put together your IKEA bed and hung up some Xmas twinkle lights? Well, here’s someone for you to contemplate: Catherine the Great, the Empress of Russia from 1729–1796. Catherine the Great’s sex salon was decorated with pieces like this (quite NSFW after the jump!):

Table by Dominique Roitel

This is table made of sycamore and walnut. It has been hand-carved to depict four giant, erect penises supporting a gold lacquer table top. The cojones of the penises look like breasts. The side of the table top, in case it’s not clear, is lavished with more carvings of penises, ladies’ asses, and other things of that nature.

Now, I know what you are wondering. You are wondering, “What do I sit on while eating my fruit snacks at this table?”

This is how Catherine the Great would answer that question:

Chair by Dominique RoitelWhy, in this throne-like chair, featuring more carvings of penises, asses, spread-eagled women, etc., etc. A close-up of the detailing:

We have one man to thank for the fact that these pieces of furniture exist: French master craftsman Dominique Roitel. Working from an illustration, Roitel has done us the great public service of recreating these pieces in three-dimensional form. (The originals, owned by Catherine, were destroyed in a fire by the German Army.)

I was able to speak to Roitel briefly at a celebration for the furniture at the Cote France showroom at the New York Design Center last week. Standing amidst scantily clad women who posed with partygoers as they sipped champagne, Roitel described the painstaking process of bringing these pieces into the world. It all began with his asking himself the question, he said, of whether or not he could, in the 21st Century, “redo the craft” of the originals.

As a result of his commitment to answering that question affirmatively, these objects have not been not lost to history. And commitment it was: each piece took over two years and more than 2,500 hours of carving to create.

They are priced accordingly. The table is available for $169,000; the chair $369,000. The last time these objects were exhibited was at the Palais Garnier opera in of Paris. They are now in New York, on view for the next few weeks at the Cote France showroom.

But the inspiration is free: go forth and decorate your sex salon in a similar fashion. And don’t forget to add “the Great” to your name.

Previously: An Interview with Sheila Heti; Conceptual Art at the CDG Warehouse Sale

Amy Fusselman is the author of The Pharmacist’s Mate and 8. She is the editor of the online journal Ohio Edit, and she also writes a column, “Family Practice,” for McSweeney’s Internet Tendency. Her forthcoming book, Savage Park, A Meditation About Play, Space, Objects and Death, Written Expressly for Americans who are Nervous, Distracted, and/or Afraid to Die, will be out in 2014.