Inside fitness centers that do more with less

This is part three in a series on fitness center design. Click here for part two: Why fitness centers need room to breathe.

In the basement of the brand-new Brooklyn hotel in New York City is a fitness center that makes the most of limited space. Marcela Caycedo (founder and principal of Espacio Design Studios) had only 305 square feet with which to create a space that would promote activity and wellness—while not feeling claustrophobic. 

Since the basement room had no windows, Caycedo used floor-to-ceiling mirrors along two walls to give the illusion of extra space. Guests using the equipment face the longer mirrored wall while exercising. “People want to look at themselves and see how they look while they’re working out,” she said. “That’s why the mirrors help. When it comes to interior design, mirrors help a lot to make a space look larger than it actually is.”


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The wall opposite the mirrors (and behind the exercise equipment) was painted with bright colors and words of encouragement for the guests. Since anyone using the equipment would see the designs in the mirror, however, Caycedo had words written backward to appear legible when viewed in reverse. “I wanted to make it colorful and fun and have people be able to read the text and have an incentive to work out,” she explained. “The colors are nice, the graphics are fun and the text is funny. I wanted to make the most of having small space.”

The floor of the room uses Johnsonite rubber tile that, Caycedo said, is easy on knees and ankles, and resists damage from machinery or dropped weights. Like the walls, Caycedo sought to make the floor colorful and fun, playing with black, blue, green and yellow tiles. By the free weights, she made a solid section of blue tiles that, she said, help guests focus on the task at hand.

“When it comes to gyms and fitness centers, no matter how large the space is, the design should be fun,” Caycedo said. "When you go to a gym, you expect to see machines, but a room with machines can be very boring. It can feel like an office: you only go because you have to. Make it fun, like an incentive. Make it playful. When people go there, they’ll feel good working out. They’ll feel like they want to keep going.”