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How to Build a Home Gym Tailored to Your Style, Space, and Athletic Preferences

House Beautiful logo House Beautiful 1/25/2022 Kelly Allen

While it can be nice to belong to a fitness center, there's no easier motivation than the perfect home gym. Not only is the commute just a few steps away from bed, but you can tailor a home gym to fit your specific athletic preferences and personal aesthetic. If you're tired of enduring a community space where people don't remember to clean the machines—or you simply want to dream up a room that'll actually inspire you to exercise (you know, one that's not super-bland)—we have you covered. Ahead, dive into designer-approved advice for building your own home gym—whether it's a converted closet or a full-blown studio.

Pick the Right Location

Where you put a gym within your house is crucial, no matter if you're dealing with an existing home or a new build. Spoiler alert: The throw-a-treadmill-in-the-basement strategy might be outdated. “I am seeing more clients who want their home gyms in primary locations,” says designer Sabrina Albanese. “They now consider this space just as important as a kitchen or bathroom.”

With a conveniently-located fitness room, you’ll be reminded to work out. Plus, it’ll be easier for everyone in the house to use. When Erin Wheeler of Sunny Circle Studio designed her own home gym, she decided to transform her office space (which was relocated to the finished attic). As the first room you see when you walk inside, it offers plenty of room and natural light. “It took some getting used to since it's in the center of everything, but it has been a game-changer for me both mentally and physically,” the designer says. “I use it every day, and so does the rest of my family.”

If you’re not trying to design a dark, party-like atmosphere à la SoulCycle, designers recommend choosing a well-lit area. “You can add a floor-length mirror to maximize lighting and make the space feel bigger,” Wheeler says. Working with a windowless space? Not an issue. Use ample light sources—sconces, LED strip lights, and even pendants—to give yourself adequate illumination.

For both practical and atmospheric reasons, you’ll also want to pick a spot with good ventilation, explains Sarah Zames, founder and principal designer of General Assembly. Various windows or large doors leading to the outside will provide good natural ventilation. In windowless rooms or those with little ventilation, you can leave the door open, incorporate ceiling or portable fans, and use an air conditioning system.

Tailor It to Your Style

The best part about being in complete control of a gym? It doesn’t have to look like the (blah) fitness centers you’re used to. A properly functioning gym can be as pretty as any other room in your home. As Kelly Finley of Joy Street Design puts it, “who has ever thought, Oh I love the way this commercial gym makes me feel? No one! Take this opportunity to really tap into what makes you happy, what makes you want to actually try to work out, and what would fit in with your home’s aesthetic.”

Bottom line: It’s all about what works for you. If bright colors and bold patterns motivate you to work out, run with them. If a meditation or yoga room is what you’re after, consider using calming neutral colors and natural materials, like wood and stone. Wheeler coated her home gym in Farrow & Ball’s Hague Blue for a moody look and added custom DIY moldings to frame two full-length mirrors for much-needed detail. The bottom line: Incorporate elements from your favorite design styles while tailoring the room's functionality to your fitness goals.


Video: The Best Home Gym Equipment, According to Fitness Experts (Cover Video)

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Maximize Space

Any room can benefit from space-saving hacks. When working with a small area, Wheeler suggests keeping the design simple. Any easy way to gain back floor space? Vertical storage options. “Try hooks, open shelving, or a pegboard to hang towels, resistance bands, yoga mats, and water bottles,” she says.

In Finley’s home gym, she uses an over-the-door towel rack to hold yoga mats. She also has a large built-in wall cubby to easily store other loose equipment and speakers.

Invest in High-Quality Equipment

The options may seem endless when it comes to at-home gym equipment and virtual programming options these days. So, even if you’re the type of person who prefers to go to group workout classes, you can gain a sense of community by participating in programs from companies like Peleton and P.volve. Finley is partial to ones that come with slim equipment, like Mirror and Tonal, to give you full-body workouts in a more confined space.

Other sleek machines and equipment to consider? This CLMBR machine that offers an unobstructed view (aka you can keep up with the workout on-screen and look out of a window if you wish). For those living in an apartment where your living room might need to double as a home gym, Brrrn offers slide boards that can easily be tucked underneath a sofa. Liteboxer—which can be wall-mounted or freestanding—takes up way less space than an actual punching bag. Oh, and The Ness sells a mini trampoline that you can take apart and store behind a door or hang on a wall.

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