How to Design a Home Gym That You’ll Actually Want to Spend Time In


Though the time for resolutions has come and gone, recommitting to a fitness routine at any time of year is always a worthy goal. The convenience of a home gym can be a great motivator to keep atop physical and mental health goals, but a space that is designed well is doubly effective. “The end goal is to design a home gym that is not just a place to exercise,” says designer Tanya Ryno of New Jersey–based luxury gym design firm Iron House Design, “but a bespoke wellness retreat that inspires and supports the client’s health and fitness journey whether they are a weekend warrior, longevity seeker, or a professional athlete.”

If a trip to a home gym is meant to accomplish more than just a quick weights session, it’s got to look—and play—the part. In recent years, workout equipment brands like Technogym, Mirror, and Peloton have set a new, sleek standard for the aesthetic of gym machines. Gone are the days of bulky black plastic treadmills rotting away in an unfinished basement or cluttered garage. Now the room should also rise to the occasion, and to do so it should be an extension of a home’s overall aesthetic—not its ugly-duckling space.

Get personal

The first step in designing an effective and attractive home gym is getting to know your client’s fitness routines and ambitions. “Take into consideration who will be using it,” advises Ryno, who founded her studio with her husband, Jim, a former celebrity trainer, and has worked on a variety of private gyms for the rich and famous, including at Camp David, the presidential country retreat. “Oftentimes, there are spouses who do completely different workouts. And then many of them have children who do sports and will actively be using the gym as well. This conversation is crucial as it helps us tailor the space to their specific fitness objectives.” It also informs what machines or workout areas are needed, allowing the designer to develop a custom layout that will help the client achieve those pesky new year’s resolutions, whether they include more leg days or daily dedication to meditation.

Location, location, location

In the pandemic, garage conversions were the most popular spots to house a home gym, says Los Angeles–based designer Michaela Cadiz. Those spaces are often well-suited to the square footage and ceiling height needed for a full range of workout motions. However, their popularity underscores another, more surprising trend for the space: indoor-outdoor access. “If possible, clients are looking for an outdoor space to lift weights, jump rope, do sprints, and meditate year-round,” says Cadiz, who adds that a detached garage is often a good choice for its backyard adjacency. If the gym does not have exterior access, a great view of nature, plentiful sunlight, and good ventilation are motivation musts. As is sound isolation, says Ryno, for homeowners whose fitness space is within their main four walls.

Because equipment is usually quite heavy, expert planning is key when incorporating a gym into a home. Due to load, it must be located [at ground level], Ryno notes. And designers should help clients set realistic expectations of the type of equipment a space can accommodate. “Don’t get me wrong—you can fit a gym in less than 300 square feet,” she says, “but all too often our clients come with a wish list of specific equipment and features that simply won’t fit. And it’s typically very deflating for them to find that out.”



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