An exercise in style: The design lover's guide to creating a home gym

view gallery VIEW GALLERY

Want to keep in shape, but don't fancy ugly fitness equipment ruining your chic interior?

Exercising is a great leveller. No matter how tight your abs, you're still getting intimate with a stranger's sweat when you grip the step machine handles at the gym. Even if you have a space for your exercise equipment at home, it's no doubt too aesthetically challenged to show off to guests. Because, as a rule, home gyms are ugly. The design of most equipment is as evolved as a phytoplankton. And panting on a shaking plastic frame in a crudely painted boxroom is about as inspiring as, well, most gyms out there.

It doesn't need to be like this. Not according to design authority Philippe Starck, who believes it is possible to blend form and function everywhere, even when shifting flab. "Life is an impossibility carried out," he says. "Better perpetuate it. For this, we have to love life, to love ourselves at least 15 minutes per day. At home, at work. A few exercises and a good posture – elegant, obviously."

Obviously, Philippe. Still, fitting your own gym makes sense. If the location of your workplace changes, being locked into an expensive gym membership is annoying. Many gyms do not have the right equipment if you're training for a specific event. For anyone who works from home, an on-site gym is the ideal place to spend your lunch hour.

High design

It is easy to buy workout equipment from large retailers such as LifeFitness or Technogym, but taking on your home gym as a design project is explored by just a few niche companies. "People are starting to realise that they are happy to spend plenty of money on a new kitchen or bathroom, so why not a gym?" says Mark Healy of Space Concepts, a high-end gym design firm which creates bespoke gyms for clients' homes and yachts.

Personal trainer Healy and his design colleague David Stammers use methods to transform dull gym equipment that sound like wizardry: different brands of kit can be transformed with chromium-plating, powder-coating and re-upholstering to co-ordinate with each other and with the feel of your home. "Anything can be done," says Healy. "I don't think enough thought is going into the aesthetics of equipment at the moment. But hopefully we're seeing the start of the end of boring-looking equipment."

Philippe Starck's collection of multi-purpose office exercise equipment for Italian company Alias is evidence of this, and solves the dilemma of the time-poor, health-conscious design obsessive. No doubt quite a small market, but his necklace and bangles which double up as weights, sculpted hand weights and the sleek wall bar for pull-ups and stretching open up a new landscape of possibilities for the home gym.

Another slick space-saver is the Ciclotte (Ciclotte.com), a stationary monobike that is ergonomic, tough and portable, and wouldn't look out of place next to your Egg chair or Barcelona sofa. If you can only spare part of a room for your gym, invest in a portable climbing wall. Treadwalls (Treadwalls.com), based in the US, makes tilting portable walls. Custom Holds (Customholds.com) and Holdz (Holdz.co.uk) both sell child-friendly holds to transform a house or garden wall into a climbing wall for the whole family. Or if you prefer a more traditional workout, the chic Tumidei XFit (Tumidei.it) acts as a a full body gym-in-a-box. It's not cheap, at more than £4,000, but includes a treadmill, exercise bench and dumbbells, a drill rest and a pop-out entertainment system.

Affordable fitness

On the off chance you don't yet own a yacht that's crying out for its own gym, Space Concepts work with all types of projects and budgets, and offers advice on equipment to people who don't have the funds to upgrade their workout space.

Matt Clough of Clough and Clough started off, like Healy, as a personal trainer, and designs gyms across Yorkshire and Cheshire. Clients include premiership footballers. He says you can start up a home gym from as little as £1,000. This might mean putting up with the ugly equipment you want to avoid, but he recommends Escape Fitness Escapefitness-.com) for its "curvy, slick designs – exactly what you'd expect from a high-end gym".

Nick Sadler noticed a gap in the market for decent home gyms after living in New York, where a gym in your apartment block comes as standard. His company Motiv8 fits gyms in private houses, luxury flat developments, schools and offices. He suggests economising by leasing equipment. At around £200 a month it could be cheaper than gym membership for the whole family.

A gym to suit your needs

Calling in the professionals rather than ordering in a cross trainer from Amazon will get you the gym you want, rather than a one-size-fits-all set-up which epitomises all the reasons you don't want to pay to visit a gym. "We often work with the whole family and discuss what they want out of the space," says Clough. "A racing bike for a triathlete, for example, rather than a room full of stuff they don't need. Or a Versaclimber (Versaclimber.co.uk), a treadmill for climbing, is popular with combat sportspeople, and you can fit a continuous pool into a 20ft space."

Sadler has fitted Concept2's SkiErg (Concept2.co.uk) for powder addicts, and Technogym's EXCITE Top to target the fitness needs of a keen sailor (Technogym.co.uk).

Audiovisual

The most obvious way to drag a home gym up to 21st-century standards is by incorporating clever audiovisuals. Healy uses Sensory International (Sensoryinternational.com) to install systems that rival those of entertainment venues. "You don't want to be messing around with a CD player if you're sweaty," he says. "But the most important thing is for users to be inspired. The audiovisual aspect has to flow, so that they want to exercise." Clough uses Finite Solutions (Finitesolutions.co.uk) to install home cinemas in gym rooms and integrate iPods onto flat-screen TVs. Another hi-tech option is incorporating virtual reality equipment into the design, such as a bike programmed with famous courses, so you can cycle the Tour de France and even race a friend online while you're at it.

Multitasking

Space might be limited, or you might not want to waste expensive audiovisual gadgets on exercise alone, so make your gym work for its money. Space Concepts has fitted a Swissball holder that doubles up as an armchair, a padded floorwork area which works as a Wii Rock Band stage with a plasma screen and disco lights, a folding exercise bench that transforms into a nail-bar seat and hairdressing station, and even a boxing ring which turns into a dance floor for private parties.

Sadler works with The Open Living Company (Openlivingcompany.com) to create gyms inside garden sheds which often double up as office space, their use disguised with pretty paint, flowers and greenery.

Still not convinced? Think of the money. Christopher Bailey from estate agency Knight Frank uses a formula to work out how much value luxury add-ons actually bring to your property. Based on a study of 1,300 houses between 1995 and 2009, he worked out that a gym could add an astonishing £600,000 to a £2m house. If only I had known all this two months ago, when the sight of the ugly fitball in my newly painted flat became too much, and I was driven to stab it with a pair of scissors.

Space-concepts.co.uk; M8group.net; Cloughandclough.co.uk

Discover more property articles at Homes and Property
Sport
sportGareth Bale, Carl Froch and Kelly Gallagher also in the mix for award
News
Japan's Suntory Beverage & Food has bought GlaxoSmithKline's Lucozade and Ribena
news
News
A tongue-eating louse (not the one Mr Poli found)
newsParasitic louse appeared inside unfilleted sea bass
Sport
Nathaniel Clyne celebrates after salvaging a point with the Southampton equaliser
footballAston Villa vs Southampton report
PROMOTED VIDEO
Life and Style
Out and about: for 'Glee' character Bert Hummel, having a gay son was a learning curve
lifeEven 'cool' parents need help parenting gay teens
News
peopleJack Monroe accuses David Cameron of 'misty-eyed rhetoric'
News
The illusionist believes hypnotism helped him to deal with the lack of control he felt growing up
people
News
Tana Ramsay gave evidence in a legal action in which her husband, Gordon, is accusing her father, Christopher Hutcheson, of using a ghost writer machine to “forge” his signature
peopleTana Ramsay said alleged discovery was 'extremely distressing'
Arts and Entertainment
Robin Windsor and Aljaz Skorjanec rehearse their same-sex dance together on Strictly Come Dancing
TV
Money
Anyone over the age of 40 seeking a loan with a standard term of 25 years will be borrowing beyond a normal retirement age of 65, and is liable to find their options restricted
propertyAnd it's even worse if you're 40
Arts and Entertainment
Perhaps longest awaited is the adaptation of Jack Kerouac’s On the Road with Brazil’s Walter Salles directing and Sam Riley, Kristen Stewart and Viggo Mortensen as the Beat-era outsiders
books
Arts and Entertainment
theatreSinger to join cast of his Broadway show after The Last Ship flounders at the box office
Life and Style
fashion'To start singing with Pharrell is not that bad, no?'
News
news
Property search
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Austen Lloyd: Employment Solicitor

£30000 - £60000 per annum + Excellent: Austen Lloyd: Employment Solicitor - Ke...

Argyll Scott International: Risk Assurance Manager

Negotiable: Argyll Scott International: Hi All, I'm currently recruiting for t...

Austen Lloyd: Clinical Negligence Solicitor

Highly Competitive Salary: Austen Lloyd: HAMPSHIRE MARKET TOWN - A highly attr...

Ashdown Group: IT Systems Analyst / Application Support Engineer (ERP / SSRS)

£23000 - £30000 per annum + pension, 25days holiday: Ashdown Group: An industr...

Day In a Page

In a world of Saudi bullying, right-wing Israeli ministers and the twilight of Obama, Iran is looking like a possible policeman of the Gulf

Iran is shifting from pariah to possible future policeman of the Gulf

Robert Fisk on our crisis with Iran
The young are the new poor: A third of young people pushed into poverty

The young are the new poor

Sharp increase in the number of under-25s living in poverty
Greens on the march: ‘We could be on the edge of something very big’

Greens on the march

‘We could be on the edge of something very big’
Revealed: the case against Bill Cosby - through the stories of his accusers

Revealed: the case against Bill Cosby

Through the stories of his accusers
Why are words like 'mongol' and 'mongoloid' still bandied about as insults?

The Meaning of Mongol

Why are the words 'mongol' and 'mongoloid' still bandied about as insults?
Mau Mau uprising: Kenyans still waiting for justice join class action over Britain's role in the emergency

Kenyans still waiting for justice over Mau Mau uprising

Thousands join class action over Britain's role in the emergency
Isis in Iraq: The trauma of the last six months has overwhelmed the remaining Christians in the country

The last Christians in Iraq

After 2,000 years, a community will try anything – including pretending to convert to Islam – to avoid losing everything, says Patrick Cockburn
Black Friday: Helpful discounts for Christmas shoppers, or cynical marketing by desperate retailers?

Helpful discounts for Christmas shoppers, or cynical marketing by desperate retailers?

Britain braced for Black Friday
Bill Cosby's persona goes from America's dad to date-rape drugs

From America's dad to date-rape drugs

Stories of Bill Cosby's alleged sexual assaults may have circulated widely in Hollywood, but they came as a shock to fans, says Rupert Cornwell
Clare Balding: 'Women's sport is kicking off at last'

Clare Balding: 'Women's sport is kicking off at last'

As fans flock to see England women's Wembley debut against Germany, the TV presenter on an exciting 'sea change'
Oh come, all ye multi-faithful: The Christmas jumper is in fashion, but should you wear your religion on your sleeve?

Oh come, all ye multi-faithful

The Christmas jumper is in fashion, but should you wear your religion on your sleeve?
Dr Charles Heatley: The GP off to do battle in the war against Ebola

The GP off to do battle in the war against Ebola

Dr Charles Heatley on joining the NHS volunteers' team bound for Sierra Leone
Flogging vlogging: First video bloggers conquered YouTube. Now they want us to buy their books

Flogging vlogging

First video bloggers conquered YouTube. Now they want us to buy their books
Saturday Night Live vs The Daily Show: US channels wage comedy star wars

Saturday Night Live vs The Daily Show

US channels wage comedy star wars
When is a wine made in Piedmont not a Piemonte wine? When EU rules make Italian vineyards invisible

When is a wine made in Piedmont not a Piemonte wine?

When EU rules make Italian vineyards invisible