Posted on March 27, 2020 by Gordon Smith

There’s a lot more to creating a gym than a couple of treadmills and a water cooler, which is why we’ve put together our guide to gym design to help you avoid the common pitfalls and help you create a great space for clients, staff, guests or residents.

What are the trending looks in gym equipment?

Bespoke, high-end gyms look stunning. The more time you take looking around a beautifully designed gym, the more detail you will find. From the welcome mat to the showers, to the smartly displayed equipment with the gym logo, every small consideration counts.

Changing the colour of the equipment to tie in with the rest of the gym’s design is a great way of not only tying a concept together, but creating the illusion of more space. Bulky machinery that blends in rather than clashing with its surroundings will always look slick.

Gyms can be highly bespoke, providing you know what to personalise. motive8’s gym design expert and Managing Director, Nick Sadler, understands current trends when it comes to the look and colours of equipment:

“Popular colours for gym equipment are chromes and natural woods. This look is becoming hugely popular at the moment”, says Nick.

Carbon fibre is another high quality material that is used in bespoke gym design. Fitted wall racks and pull-up bars look great in the very light-weight carbon fibre.

The wood finish is another great look for high-end gyms. You can get dumbbells, water rowers and other equipment in various wood finishes, which are very trendy at the moment.”


It’s not just treadmills and rowers that can also be customised – the small details count just as much. Branding and logos can be printed or etched onto weights, stretching and yoga mats, and their colours can be customised to match the overall scheme.

What’s the best equipment for office gyms?

Corporate gyms and office gyms are an expanding marketplace. As employers focus more and more on their teams’ physical and mental corporate wellbeing, companies are building gyms in corporate environments to meet their demands.

We asked our personal trainers what equipment the perfect office gym should have. They replied:

  • Boxing equipment
  • Dumbbells
  • Squat rack
  • Bench
  • Stretching area
  • Treadmill
  • Cross trainer

BB and squat rack –  for fundamental compound movements and for loading if somebody is experienced.”
Shawn Mullix, Head Personal Trainer at motive8

Jenny Cromack, Director of motive8 North said:

Boxing Equipment – gloves, bags and pads – great for everyone to work at their own level of intensity and are ideal for stress release surrounding busy work schedules.

I also think kettlebells are great in corporate sites as they are good for getting an effective workout in during a short period of time i.e. if people are using the gym on lunch breaks etc.

In the zone

Another aspect of making a gym bespoke is tailoring its space to its users.

“Zoning is a very popular technique for dividing up a gym into its respective types of exercise. One zone for stretching, another for weights etc.” Nick Sadler, motive8

Zoning floor areas not only organises a gym nicely, but shows its users that the space has been personalised to their exercise needs. Customers will feel they are very well looked after if their regular gym caters to exactly what they like to use.

There is also a good practical and design reason for zoning floor space. Different flooring can be used in each zone so that the floor is the most suitable for a particular type of exercise. A hard non-scratch floor, for example, is great for running and rowing machines; whereas a thicker but slightly softer area in the stretching zone would be much kinder on people’s knees – even if they are using a mat.

Mirror mirror, where on the wall?

There are two main reasons for using mirrors in a gym. The first is around function and practicality, the second being aesthetics.

From a functional perspective, mirrors make a workout space much safer. When you’re in a gym you’ll notice they are more commonly located in stretching and floor exercise areas, as well as free weight zones; this is so that people can see exactly what position they are in when stretching and lifting.

One lift or stretch done incorrectly can cause injury, so being able to check posture and gait in the mirror makes a big difference.

The aesthetic reason for having mirrors in a gym is because they can help to make a space feel larger than it really is. Mirrors can also help make the most of a room’s natural light, which enhances wellbeing.

Not only that, but mirrors also reduce the amount of repair or touch-up work that needs to be done. When people stretch, they do tend to put hands on walls which can get dirty very quickly and will inevitably need to be re-painted. With mirrors, however, hand marks can simply be wiped off, keeping the gym cleaner for longer.

Cheats for great gym design

There are many ways you can have a great gym space on a budget. Be warned though, cheap equipment and cutting corners will end up costing you more, but there are ways you can manage spend more effectively.

Being creative with a space is a great place to start. Through the use of lighting you can make a space feel bigger, and using equipment, such as towers, replaces the need for lots of individual pieces.

Creating a multi-purpose space can also help reduce costs. Using boxes or benches to store free weights or free-standing equipment means you change from cardio to class workouts quickly and efficiently.

Avoid cutting corners

You might decide to save a few pounds through buying from a cheaper supplier only to have to re-purchase an item sooner than expected due to poor quality and false promises. When it comes to gym design, there really is no compromise on getting the job done properly.

One of the most common factors in client gym design briefs is that cost plays a hugely important role in their plans. Yet their aspirations for the final result is one of perfection and a happy end user – exactly what we at motive8 aim for in everything we do. From bespoke home gyms to the larger corporate and residential gyms we work on, we have learnt that smaller budgets don’t necessarily mean a compromise on a great end result.

We use a variety of methods to achieve the right outcome – be it clever pieces of equipment that can replace the need for lots of separate items or a fantastic layout that genuinely provides the user with the best facility possible. motive8 has designed and installed over 200 facilities that continue to deliver on their promises.

Sadly we also come across a number of gyms that have been installed very poorly. A  lack of understanding of what gym users desire and a limited knowledge of the best equipment out there have resulted in a number of unhappy gym owners facing hefty maintenance and equipment replacement bills and unsatisfied users who fail to enjoy a fulfilling workout in their facility.

We’ve seen everything from mismatched, cheap equipment installations to saunas that have even set on fire! What’s more, our relationships with our suppliers means that we are perfectly positioned to negotiate the best outcome for our clients, regularly saving them thousands of pounds had they gone elsewhere.

If you are looking for a facility that fits your brief and hits your budget, then you know where to come!

Beware of fitness fads

20 years in the fitness business has taught us how to identify a long-term trend versus gimmicks. Investing in a short-lived exercise phase is a high-risk approach that could prove detrimental to a business.

We always analyse the market and really assess what’s going to work for our customers now, and in the future. It’s an approach that certainly seems to work as we have been working with some clients for over 13 years.

In terms of exercise trends, we’ve seen a few come and go, so we do watch this area closely. What we call the classics, such as Yoga and Pilates, aren’t going anywhere soon, but cardio does change and evolve at a fast pace.

We’re also seeing exercise evolving to be a more social experience and we’re now being asked more and more to create fitness and leisure-focused spaces.

Ultimately, what you don’t want to do is make purchases in a hurry. Instead take your time, get to know and assess the market before making any decisions.

Brand it up

For residential or corporate gyms, creating a more bespoke, branded look and feel creates more of a sense of common purpose and brand identity.

Small things such as branded mats or free weights can help users really buy into the space. You can also get customised equipment, so if you’re focusing on creating a more high-end space, then this approach works really well.

Branding and logos need not stop at the gym door; these can be continued through to the changing rooms and shower facilities or any spa rooms that may also be part of a high-end gym. Towels, water bottles, robes, soaps and shampoos can all be customised in colours, logos and even shapes!

Like anything, a gym can be as cost-effective or as expensive as you want it to be. If you’re on a tight budget, then simply adding lights using bulbs in your brand colours can make a difference and help create that wow factor you want from a gym space.

Of course, there are other considerations when building and designing a gym, such as health and safety and placement of equipment, but these pointers should certainly help you get started.

If you’d like to talk to industry professionals about creating a gym, why not get in touch and find out how we can help you. Please contact our friendly team on 020 8481 9700 /