In the not-so-distance past, the words “home gym” might have brought to mind images of dimly-lit basement corners storing stationary bikes and piles of dusty free weights. But just as the clothes we wear to exercise have changed (the athleisure trend came fast and furious, and it’s not going anywhere anytime soon), so, too, have the spaces in which we work out. Architects and designers can squeeze a gym into almost any part of the home, and design it for any kind of purpose — from shooting hoops to practicing barre. “These spaces are so much more than rooms full of fitness equipment,” says Doug Reynolds, owner of Northfield-based Reynolds Architecture. “It’s all about personalization.” And while the options for making it your own are practically endless, a few trends have floated to the top.
Want a gym but don’t know what equipment to buy? Before you hire an architect, consult with a personal trainer to help assess your needs and point you in the right direction, says personal trainer and yoga instructor Melissa DiLeonardo.
1. The Sports Center
The basement has long been a place where homeowners bring friends to entertain, and those popular man cave design accoutrements — wet bar, pool table, theater — are made for just that. Recently, Chicagoans have been adding competitive exercise spaces (think indoor half basketball courts, pools, and even golf simulators) to the list. “It’s not necessarily a guy down there by himself,” Reynolds says. “This is a social situation and a competition — and if virtual reality takes off, we can expect home gyms to change dramatically.”
2. The Zen Retreat
Master bathrooms can be excessive and over the top; we’ve all seen those spaces with tubs that could moonlight as pools and vanities that rival Beyonce’s. To complete the overall experience, those with both room and a budget are throwing low-impact workout spaces into the mix. In new homes, this means moving away from the underutilized sitting room and instead opting to attach a simple space designed for meditation, yoga and relaxation to the master suite. In older houses, designers are thinking about floorplans in a whole new light. To that end, Make It Better’s 2017 “Best Interior Decorator” Ilene Chase of Ilene Chase Design recently turned a small room off a client’s master bathroom into a barre room for the Highland Park homeowner and her two little girls. Featuring pink walls, wood floors, windows that flood the space with natural light, and even baskets filled with rolled towels, this is not your average home gym — but it suits her client to a T.
3. The Play Space
For parents with young children, childcare is one of the reasons that getting to the gym can be a great idea in theory — and a horrible, terrible, no good, very bad idea once reality sets in. Surprise: A home gym can fix all that. By incorporating the play room into the gym (or dividing kid and adult spaces with glass walls or large windows), parents can get a real workout in while keeping an eye on their little ones. Case in point: Chase recently completed a home gym in Deerfield that featured large windows with a view of the playroom. “Seeing the kids was very important to the homeowners, so we positioned the equipment to face the windows,” she says.
4. The Room With a View
Reynolds often works in flood plain areas of the city, which means that some of the homes he designs do not have basements. And while this forces the home gym to the first or second floor, he’s able to utilize other aspects of the property. “It’s really cool to have your fitness room looking out over your backyard,” Reynolds says. “You get better light and a better view, and you can connect with nature.” If yoga or meditation is your thing, even better.
5. The Office Max
Short on space? Consider integrating a workout space into your office. “A lot of startup companies combine working with working out, to achieve that clear mind and good energy, and this is the same concept,” Chase says. Desks can fold into the wall or be hidden away in closets to create more floor space, and workout equipment can be relatively minimal to keep the highly functional space cohesive. If you simply don’t have the square footage for a separate space, “this is really an excellent option, and much better than stashing a big treadmill in the bedroom,” she says.
If space is at a premium, consider purchasing an indoor rowing machine, or ERG, which provides a full-body workout when used properly. Another bonus? “ERGs easily fold up for storage, so they don’t take up too much space,” says DiLeonardo.
6. The Small Wonder
One of Chase’s favorite home gym transformations was designed for a Glencoe couple who desired a highly functional gym but didn’t have a dedicated space for it. By combining two small, unused rooms in the basement and blowing out some closet space, she was able to give the owners the few extra feet they needed for their equipment. “It looks really nice, and a frosted glass door separates it from the rest of the basement,” Chase says. And since it’s so well laid out, “it functions like a large gym,” she says.
More from Make It Better:
- 10 Instagram Accounts With Serious Home Design Inspiration
- Buti Yoga, Goat (Yes, GOAT) Yoga and 5 More of the Top Yoga Trends of 2017
- Check Out These Stunning Before-and-After Make It Better Reader Home Renovations
Michelle Huffman is a Chicago-area writer and editor. Over the past decades, she has written about homes, real estate and personal finance for Yahoo, CBS News and The Chicago Tribune. Michelle lives in Evanston with her husband, daughter and dog.
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