Laying out a Home Gym You Actually Want to Use

Jennifer Tzeses January 12, 2023

Get weights off the floor, make sure there’s space between equipment and don’t forget motivational colors and art

Designed by Stephen Brockman, this gym at Jolie in Manhattan features floor-to-ceiling windows for an inspired view. EVAN JOSEPH

In the same way belonging to a gym close to home increases your likelihood of actually going, having a home studio with a functional layout ups the chances you’ll, in fact, use it. 

We consulted with design pros for ideas on how to lay out a workout space to maximize form and function in a way that will encourage you to break a sweat. 

Consider Your Workouts

“The types of workouts/equipment you need dictate the amount of space you need, i.e., a Pilates reformer versus a weight machine or a treadmill. Ensure an organized layout and intelligent use of space, allowing enough distance for the various equipment to breathe and not risk injury.

“Home gyms don’t require much equipment. You can usually satisfy even the most athletic homeowner with a pair of stationary bikes, room for floor mats, a few weight-training machines, a rowing machine and a treadmill.

“Elegant light fixtures, decorative wallpaper, and chic window treatments can make a home gym feel warm, inviting and well-designed, unlike their utilitarian commercial counterparts. 

“When it comes to flooring, absorbency is crucial for joint wellness and maintenance, especially for floor workouts like yoga or Pilates. If you have the space, zone a water/sweat-resistant vinyl flooring.” 

—Designer Kendall Wilkinson in San Francisco

Designed by Kendall Wilkinson, this home gym has an easy flow. Matthew Millman

Add Interest 

“Bringing in inspirational art is important. It’s very personal and specific to what type of exercise you engage in—for yoga it might be about presence. For a Peloton, it might be the French countryside. 

“Connecting with nature while exercising is a critical design feature that will encourage users to actually use the gym. It’s not terribly inspiring if you’re just looking at the wall. Plus, connecting with nature calms our nervous system. Higher floors are great for connecting with nature. I love when I feel I am among the treetops while exercising. 

“It’s useful to divide the space into two areas if possible—one more active (treadmills/Pelotons) versus floor work, like yoga and stretching. The type of exercise is important here, too. It’s nice to have a softer floor for weightlifting but for yoga or Pilates, you want a wood or vinyl floor.”

—Rachael H. Grochowski, founder and principal architect at RHG Architecture+Design in Montclair, New Jersey

Maximize Views and Minimize Noise

“Start with a room with a great view and add wood panels, expose a concrete wall or create a screen out of perforated metal panels. Make sure these materials connect to the building or the place. And add plants for a real connection to nature.

“Since noise is one of the biggest challenges of fitness rooms, add rubber tiles or mats to the floor. This can help dampen the noise created by impact. Acoustical paneling is both beautiful and effective in dampening other noises like music and speech.”

—Stephen Brockman, partner at Deborah Berke Partners in Manhattan

Streamline the Space

“In order for your gym to be functional, you need ample space to move. Organize weights, mats and other accessories on shelving, ideally up off of the floor. Group like items together and consider how you move through your workout when placing all of your equipment.
“Treat the gym as you would treat the rest of your space. Paint makes a tremendous impact on how you feel. Do you want your gym to feel light and airy or moody and intense? You can use the colors of fixed elements like your walls and flooring to create a look that suits your needs and reflects your personal style. 

“Mirrors can enlarge a space and reflect light so, not only are they key to your workout, but they can enhance the look and feel of your home gym. If a typical wall-mounted mirror isn’t your style, consider a large antique mirror or leaning floor mirror. 

“A mix of artificial and natural lighting is always ideal in any space. For a gym, recessed lighting is key as you want to avoid any hanging fixtures or standing lamps that could interfere with your workout.”

—Teresa Boyd, co-founder, Olive Hill Design Company in Verona, New Jersey

Create Zones

“The best location for a gym is a space with ample doors and windows so that the workout area can extend to the outdoors, pool, sauna or cold plunge—weather permitting.

“Layouts with zones are the most efficient for home gyms. Flow without clutter is best achieved with strong storage solutions as well as racking, hooks, etc.

“Consider adding distinction with flooring like Australian porcelain in a geometric format and mats layered to eliminate sound and impact issues.

“Automated shades for privacy and desired light and an integrated sound system are a must.”

—Manhattan Beach, California-based designer Wendy Word 

Paneled ceilings and porcelain tiles give this gym designed by Wendy Word a light and airy feel. Karyn Millet

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