Lighting is often overlooked when designing a home gym, but appropriate and even innovative lighting can make your workout room more inviting. “Good lighting design can mean the difference between a vibrant, energizing home gym and a dull, drab one,” says Mark Oser, an interior designer in Philadelphia who has designed everything from 400-square-foot home gyms to expansive residential gyms with swimming pools and basketball courts. Fortunately, you don’t have to spend big bucks for illuminating lighting design. With the right lighting, any home gym can look like you invested a fortune.
Natural lighting is ideal for a home gym. "Natural light streaming in from windows is more energizing than artificial light," says Virva Kokkonen Nilson, a lighting designer and co-owner of Virvatuli Lighting Design Company in Fort Collins, Colorado. If possible, use a room with large windows for your home gym. Alternatively, install fixed windows on the top quarter of exterior walls or the ceilings that can be used as skylights. Position your exercise equipment near the windows to take advantage of natural light during the daytime. In addition to adding a vibrant look to your home gym, Nilson points out that using as much natural light as possible is cost effective in the long run since using natural light won’t run up your electricity bill.
Artificial lighting is a must for working out at night and in basement home gyms. However, artificial light doesn’t have to be harsh or a space hogger. Oser recommends keeping lamps and floor fixtures to a minimum to allow plenty of room for exercise equipment. “In a home gym, it’s best to use ceiling lighting design to optimize floor space for workout machines and fitness activities, like stretching." He suggests recessed lighting for a soft glow. Use 6-inch round recessed “pot” or “can” lights for every 30 feet of floor space, recommends Oser, who is the owner of Designs by Mark, Inc. and has been a featured design on HGTV. Consider LED recessed lights. They use 90 percent less power than regular incandescent bulbs, according to lighting designer Nilson. She also recommends full-spectrum daylight light bulbs in fixtures. “They’re closer to natural light than more yellow artificial light."
Oser suggests using modern, chic lighting fixtures to make your home gym really come alive. “There are some gorgeous overhead light fixtures that are practical and beautiful,” says Oser, who once used a chandelier light fixture for an elegant home gym. To brighten a dark corner, try a beautiful sconce light. Accent lighting is mainly decorative, but can add a unique look to a home gym. Nilson suggests a neon light sculpture set against a wall. Light dimmers can set the mood for a yoga or stretching session. Motion and heat sensitive lights will automatically turn themselves on when someone enters the home gym and off when the home gym is empty, but this high-tech feature can be pricey. A less expensive way to make a statement with your home gym is to paint each wall a different bright color. The combination of energizing colors and appropriate lighting will make even the smallest home gym pop.
It’s best to avoid fluorescent lighting in a home gym. Although fluorescent bulbs emit the brightest light, the effect can be harsh. Fluorescent lights also tend to flicker and can cause fatigue and headaches in some people, according to Nilson. Be sure to plan the layout of your exercise equipment before designing your lighting scheme to ensure appropriate areas in your gym are enhanced. Don’t forget the mirrors to monitor your progress. Overhead lights will produce a more even distribution of light for the most flattering effect, Nilson says. Floor light fixtures can create a glare against mirrors. In addition to motivating you to continue getting physical, the combination of mirrors and good lighting design will give your home gym a feeling of roominess. Top off your eye-catching home gym with pictures of body builders or Olympic athletes on the walls, spotlighted with accent lights.
- Mark Oser; interior designer and owner of Designs by Mark, Inc.; member, American Society of Interior Designers; Philadelphia, PA
- Virva Kokkonen Nilson; lighting designer; co-owner, Virvatuli Lighting Company; associate member, International Association of Lighting Designers; Fort Collins, Colorado