How to Design a Home Gym That You’ll Actually Use

The safest place to exercise is at home, as the pandemic continues. Here are some tips to help you create a personal gym that you will love to use. Many people make resolutions to improve their physical fitness. A home gym can help you burn off holiday cookies and make your year healthier. It’s important to think about the design and make it a place you enjoy spending time in. Sara Story, an interior designer and exercise enthusiast from New York, suggested this approach. “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.ImageThe gym at Sara Story’s home in Texas has expansive views, as well as a wall of mirrors and storage for essential gear in cabinetry and racks.Credit…Robert ReckChoose the RoomAlthough it’s nice to have an expansive space for your gym, it doesn’t need to be a huge room. Nicole Hollis, an interior design professional, transformed a small, awkward space on her San Francisco townhouse’s top floor into her home gym. It was roughly the same size as a bedroom so she made it a gym. Rather than trying to de-emphasize the tight quarters, she played them up, painting the walls and floor in dark colors to create a sense of drama, a strategy that many designers use for powder rooms.ImageNicole Hollis turned a small, awkward space in her San Francisco house into a dramatic gym by painting the walls and floor in dark colors.Credit…Douglas FriedmanBasements are a popular place for home gyms because they often have leftover space, but for the fitness-obsessed, it’s perfectly acceptable to put a gym in a more prominent spot — like an unused guest room, or a home office.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. She said that it is not the most obscure or deepest part of the house. “It’s a space that’s filled with natural light,” she said. Art, decorative sconces and a well-worn punching bag provide additional personality.Credit…Jaime NavarroTake Stock of Your EquipmentThere are many ways to work out, from free weights to elliptical machines, so knowing which equipment you’ll actually use is important. You’ll find a gym that looks great and is both functional and attractive. It allows us to place useful, but also beautiful objects in these places.” Mirror, Tonal, and Forme interactive fitness systems are as discreet as a wall-mounted mirror, or picture frame. Peloton has simplified stationary bikes and treadmills. Wahoo, Tacx and Tacx offer stationary smart trainers that can be used indoors with carbon-fiber racing bikes. WaterRower and Ergatta make rowing machines that are almost as beautiful as the finely crafted shells. ImageMs. Hollis set up a Technogym home gym in Thousand Oaks. Credit…Douglas FriedmanDeveloping a Plan. There’s more to designing home gyms than just putting equipment in an empty space. It requires planning. Heather Hilliard, an interior designer from San Francisco, said that it is important to consider the client’s needs and what type of cardio equipment they will be using. She said that if you have a treadmill, there should be enough space behind it to prevent someone from falling off. You also need space to navigate between machines. Ms. Hilliard prefers to place floor outlets below the machines. This will allow her to do floor exercises. She said that it is not a good idea to go to a gym with just machines because it can feel cramped. 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.ImageA home gym created by Crisp Architects and Valerie Grant Interiors has protective wainscoting and resilient flooring.Credit…Antoine BootzAddress the Floor and WallsThe flooring and walls in a gym should be durable and easy to clean.”Some form of resilient floor is always a good idea,” Mr. Crisp stated. Crisp said. Carpet is difficult to clean and is not recommended. She suggested that you use two types of mats: one for weights and one to do yoga. Ms. Hilliard used plywood to cover the walls of a home gym she designed. Crisp Architects, working with 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.ImageAnother home gym designed by Crisp Architects is finished with a decorative chandelier.Credit…Rob KarosisPay Attention to LightingYou don’t have to blast your workout space with the kind of overhead light you’d find in a commercial gym. Using dimmers to control the fixtures and layering lighting can create a more welcoming environment and adjust the light levels for different activities. “Depending on the height, the main lighting could either be a beautiful chandelier or a subtle flush mount,” Mr. Jenkins said. She said, “It’s almost like a candle.” Image: CLB Architects and WRJ Design created this home gym. A cabinet houses small appliances and essentials such as water and towels. There’s also a nice view. (Credit…Audrey HallFinish it OffUsing furniture and accessories that make it easy for you to keep your gym tidy and allow you to complete your workouts without interruptions is a great way to stay on track. Cabinetry and case goods are great, but you can also use a few baskets on the ground to help. A bench, stool, or chair is a good place to rest your eyes between exercises, and a place to hang a towel. If you enjoy watching TV or listening while working out, but don’t have a portable speaker or headphones in mind, you can add audiovisual equipment to your room. Ms. Hilliard also likes the idea of a small kitchenette-style station. She said that sometimes she makes custom cabinets. These cabinets can house water coolers or bottles, and an area for towels and a hamper for those with dirty hands. “We want it to have the feel of a high-end fitness center so that people will actually want it to use, the better.” Sign up here for weekly email updates about residential real estate news. Follow us on Twitter at @nytrealestate