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.

There’s more to designing a home gym than just piling equipment into an unused room — it requires creating a layout with good spatial flow.

The 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 said. That often means interlocking rubber-tile or vinyl flooring, similar to the kind commercial gyms use, installed wall-to-wall or as a large area mat on top of other flooring.

Another option is to use cushioned mats that can be rolled out individually, in discrete workout zones, across a hard floor of wood, laminate or concrete, Ms. Hollis said. (Carpet is not ideal, because it’s difficult to clean.) She suggested “a couple of different types of mats — one for weights and one for yoga.” Individual mats can also be placed under equipment like stationary bikes, to dampen noise and catch drops of sweat.

For the walls, Ms. Hollis recommended paint with an eggshell sheen, as it’s easier to clean than a matte surface.

Or, you could cover the walls with a more durable material. Ms. Hilliard used plywood on the walls of one 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.

Credit…Rob Karosis

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.”

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