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How to Design a Home Gym That You’ll Actually Use
A new year often comes with new resolutions, and for many, those resolutions center on physical fitness. Whether you want to work off all those holiday cookies or stretch your way into a healthier year, a home gym can make that more convenient — and safer, as the pandemic rages on.
A dedicated home gym isn’t a necessity, of course, but if you’re fortunate enough to have the space, it can be a real luxury — especially if it’s well designed. To make it a place where you’ll enjoy spending time, give it some thought and concentrate on the design, advised Sara Story, a New York-based interior designer and exercise enthusiast. “It should have a good atmosphere and good lighting,” she said, much like any other room in your home.
For tips on designing a hard-wearing gym that’s a joy to use, we asked designers how they approach workout spaces.
Nicole Hollis, an interior designer, turned a small, awkward room on the top floor of her San Francisco townhouse — roughly the size of a walk-in closet — into her home gym.
Olga Hanono, an interior designer, recently completed a four-story home in Mexico City with a gym on the top level, which has glass doors and views over neighboring rooftops. “It’s not the deepest, most obscure corner of the home,” she said. “On the contrary, it’s a space filled with natural light.”
Crisp Architects, in Millbrook, N.Y., because “chances are, you’re going to want to shower after you work out.” And if you’re going all out, consider installing spalike features like a steam shower or a sauna.
Mirror, Tonal and Forme are as unobtrusive as a wall-mounted mirror or picture frame. Peloton has streamlined stationary bikes and treadmills. Wahoo and Tacx make stationary smart trainers that allow carbon-fiber racing bicycles to be used indoors. Ergatta and WaterRower make rowing machines that look almost as handsome as finely crafted rowing shells. And companies like Bala and Kenko are rethinking what weights should look like.
Heather Hilliard, an interior designer in San Francisco. For instance, she said, “if there’s a treadmill, you have to have space behind it, in case someone falls off. And you need space for navigating between machines.”
With electronic machines like treadmills and Peloton bikes, she added, it’s critical to have electrical outlets nearby, so you don’t have extension cords snaking across the room. When possible, Ms. Hilliard likes to add floor outlets directly below the machines.
It’s also important to leave space for floor exercises, Ms. Story said. “You don’t want to go into a gym where it’s just all machines,” she said, because it could feel claustrophobic. Leaving open space at the center of the room will make your gym feel less cramped, while also providing room for yoga, stretching and calisthenics.
Valerie Grant, an interior designer, created shiplap wainscoting using wood planks for another gym.
All of the designers interviewed for this story also suggested adding mirrors — either mirrored walls or large framed mirrors — to enlarge the sense of space and let you check your form as you work out.
Pay Attention to Lighting
You don’t have to blast your workout space with the kind of overhead light you’d find in a commercial gym. Installing layers of lighting with multiple fixtures — and using dimmers to control those fixtures — can create a more inviting atmosphere and allow light levels to be adjusted for various activities.
“We incorporate a mood light and ambient light for the experience,” Rush Jenkins, the chief executive of WRJ Design, in Jackson, Wyo., wrote in an email.
And because it’s a home gym, you can choose fixtures you’d never see in a commercial gym, like chandeliers, pendants and sconces. “Depending on the height of the gym space, the main lighting could be a beautiful chandelier, or it could be a subtle flush mount,” Mr. Jenkins noted.
It’s also important to consider where the fixtures are positioned in relation to the workout zones, he added: “You don’t want to be down on a mat during exercise and looking up directly into a bright light.”
Uma Sound Lantern from Pablo, which doubles as a speaker. “It’s like a candle,” she said. “And it moves around with me.”
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