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Body & Soul

A home gym provides a tranquil spot for both a mental and physical workout

January 06, 2008|Barbara Thornburg | Barbara Thornburg is a senior style editor of the magazine. She can be reached at

For landscape architect Mark Rios of Rios Clementi Hale Studios in Los Angeles, home gyms represent a "sustainable solution" to working out. "My clients don't have to get in a car and drive anywhere--and they're a lot more likely to exercise."

The homeowners knew they wanted a gym when Rios began renovating their 1937 Lloyd Wright residence in West Los Angeles. Initially, they considered converting a basement area behind their TV room. Rios suggested a quieter, light-filled space--and then proposed additional landscaping. "Wouldn't you rather work out beside a garden?" he asked.

Today, the 16-by-20-foot gym, off a light-filled corridor adjacent to the kitchen, features two sets of telescoping doors that open the space for an alfresco experience. Clerestory windows on four sides of the lofty 13-foot ceiling catch the light and frame views of the sky. Bluestone slabs used in the front garden cross the gym's threshold, blurring the line between indoors and out, and a stone bench dappled with light from giant timber bamboo is an attractive place to sit and rest. "The garden provides a place for their minds to go and relax when they're working away on the treadmill," Rios says.

Trainer Stephen Curtis selected the equipment for the space. It's a mix of cardio- and cross-training machines: a treadmill, an elliptical trainer and a rowing machine. The latter swooshes real water to simulate the feel and sound of rowing outdoors. "Great," Curtis says, "for resistance training."

His clients' ages, their fitness goals and the constraints of the physical space prompted Curtis to select a free-standing Vectra system that weighs nearly a ton. "The multistation gym is a good choice for smaller areas," the trainer says. "It allows you to do 100 different strengthen- ing, toning and defining exercises without taking the same room that individual machines would."

In addition to the state-of-the-art equipment and meditative gardens, the owners added artwork to enliven the tranquil, monochromatic room. Louise Lawler's 1998 balloon photographs, "Something About Time and Space but I'm Not Sure What It Is," hang from the ceiling at varying heights, emulating the floating balloons they portray. "They're playful images to peruse while strengthening those abs," Rios says. As an alternative to CNN, a DVD of artist Emilie Halpern's "For No One (2005)" plays on a plasma-screen TV hung above the treadmill. The three-minute loop features the face of a woman, who begins to cry (perhaps an empathetic response to the grueling workout in front of her). And just in case the couple need auditory motivation, a sound system with built-in speakers plays their favorite music: electro-techno tunes from Paris' chic Buddha-bar.

"Today, a gym is more than just equipment," Rios says. "The challenge is to create a space for both a physical and mental workout--a place that nurtures body and soul." *

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