Boutique Fitness Gym Design Insights

Commercial Fitness

Boutique Fitness Gym Design Insights

As the boutique gym phenomena continues to grow, facility owners are considering ways in which they can design their gym with functional fitness in mind, to accommodate this trend.

Whether it’s a new gym, rebuild or a refurbishment to an existing one, our 3D visualiser at Precor, Pete Bolam advises: “There are lots of questions that need to be asked before any design considerations can happen. Understanding local demographics, target market, types of training that will take place and any future development plans are all key aspects that need to be contemplated. Providing members with a memorable exercise experience and accepting that functional training has changed the way gym space is now used is all part of the process. Knowing the customer base will allow you to determine what equipment is required and where it needs to be positioned.”

Chris Phillips heads up sales in the Sports Intelligence practice at 4global, responsible for the award-winning DataHub. The DataHub, founded in 2013, is a virtual repository for sports and leisure data, holding information from more than 90 operators and their visitors at more than 2,000 sites.  By sharing up-to-date intelligence, those investing within the sector can benchmark and make more informed decisions.  He agrees: “If a facility is going to invest in a refurbishment or even a complete redevelopment, they need to know what equipment and facilities that site should have, what members will be like, where they’re likely to come from and how long they’ll stay.”

Psychology and analysis of gym design

What works for one location may not necessarily work for another site so, what’s important and where do you begin when designing a boutique gym or boutique area within your traditional gym?

Research from the retail sector has proven that the layout of a space can affect the responses and behaviour of its occupants. If the layout is bland or predictable, the occupants will use it with very little emotion or thought. Good design and layout is needed to create an inspirational environment that gives exercisers a great fitness experience.

DataHub’s latent demand service uses data from almost 500 million visits to leisure facilities to provide the sector with standardised, robust information about existing and potential sites.  It provides an unprecedented level of insight, allowing board members to make data-led decisions on the size, location and facility mix of new leisure sites or the redevelopment of existing ones.

The service ranges from ‘off-the-shelf’ latent demand reports to full site, multi-facility analyses, with a selection of outcomes. These include the expected number of unique individuals that will use a facility on a regular basis, as well as the amount of throughput this will generate and the optimal number of stations (or ‘size’ for other facility types) for health and fitness. These parameters define the most efficient allocation of investment, given the local demand.

The analysis can also predict expected social value generated via the investment, quantified in pounds and pence, as well as the expected catchment size of the facility and where participants are likely to travel from. Most importantly, it encourages benchmarking against the rest of the sector, providing insight as to whether operators should focus on member acquisition or retainment.

Precor also understands about behaviour and the importance of designing a space that works for your customers, as well as one that will achieve business objectives and create a facility with the atmosphere you want to represent your brand. Precor’s research-based support service, ActivDesign - Making your space work harder, is based on market trends, IHRSA and ACSM research, alongside insights from worldwide shopping giants.  It takes into consideration all aspects of fitness facility creation including everything from fitness and exercise trends, interior design, flow-through, zoning, colour schemes and lighting to flooring and ceilings, climate control, audio-visual (AV), walls and mirrors, power and the internet.

Download Precor ActivDesign

Dr. Paul Bedford, world renowned retention expert, says the theory used by retail outlets is all about the art of persuasive behaviour.  “The idea is to shape our environments to change our behaviour,” he says.  “It’s used in so many aspects of our everyday lives, from the layout of airport duty free with its smooth flooring so you don’t have to look down and the bright lighting over areas they want to draw you to, to Wagamama’s placemat menu that shows you a combination of things that go together; we buy with our eyes, and even Schiphol airport’s toilet bowl target that I challenge anyone to ignore,” he says.

The leisure, design and build specialists at Createability have been developing fitness environments for 25 years and know a thing or two about creating the ideal customer journey. Their in-house team of technical experts are able to offer a ‘one stop shop’ service, taking initial concepts from the design and planning phases right through to construction and beyond. The team have been operators themselves, working in both public and private facilities, and so fully understand what’s involved in managing a club.

Brian Thompson, Createability’s Commercial Director says: “Simply because they don’t understand the steps involved to get a project to site, operators often ask for the costs next week and to start work in three weeks. That’s why we’ve designed a flowchart to help operators visualise the processes involved and give them a realistic idea of timeframes.

“It’s managing the processes in this structural manner that enables us to come in on time and on budget with every project.  Once the design is agreed, we work up exact finishes and costs well ahead of going to site. That way the budget or timeframe will only change if the client makes variations or additions once work is underway. Yes, it can mean we take slightly longer to get to site, but we get there with all the right information, which ultimately means we can guarantee to deliver the project quicker and within the agreed budget.”

After the initial enquiry has been received, Createability moves to GIFA stage (Gross Internal Floor Area). This is where the team visit the site for a free scoping consultation to give a rough project costing based simply on the square metres involved.

“If that floats the operator’s boat we move to cost confidence stage, where we bring in our surveyors to fully understand how we can move from what they have now to what they want to achieve,” says Thompson. “This is where we look at whether the floor can take the load, whether there is enough power to support the new facilities etc. It enables us to draw up much tighter costs.”

Cost certainty stage is where the budget is fixed. It covers anything that hasn’t been considered before. Finishes are agreed and a full and final programme of work is drawn up, including start and end dates.

Work cannot begin until a purchase order has been received, but as soon as this is in hand the Createability team move to pre-construction phase, when the clock starts ticking and the internal team get to work to ensure everything is in place ready for construction to start. This 4-8 week window is vital for ordering materials, staffing up the project, installing the site cabin and office, as well as boarding off the works areas on site.

“There’s so much work that goes on behind the scenes to get a project to site,” concludes Thompson.  “It’s not just about materials and construction plant machinery. We have to take into account the welfare and safety of our staff, the facility staff and the customers, as our redevelopments always take place in a live environment, alongside customers using the facilities.”

Once you’ve decided what you want to do with the space, it’s then over to a design team to analyse the information and determine the best use of that area and range of equipment for inclusion.


Versatility is fundamental in order to maximise a boutique space.  Alongside the vast range of cardiovascular and strength equipment, a functional training system such as Precor’s modular Queenax™ units can help operators create a functional training space without losing floor space.  With lots of configurations to choose from, along with additional training apps and a wide range of tools and accessories for different exercises, Queenax™ allows you to bespoke your training space and, when it's not in use, utilise the same space for other classes. For instance, Spinner® bikes can be wheeled in for a dedicated Spinning® class. Whether you’re a small boutique gym or a larger facility wanting to offer members a boutique experience, these personalised solutions can help increase revenue without reducing floor space.

What’s unique about group training using the Queenaxis that time can be dedicated to an individual’s goals whilst still training in a group environment, using a variety of training apps and stations. This enables ultimate use of gym space, providing a driven, exciting and profitable group training offer, based on progressive systems and categories of movement.

With a variety of configurations to choose from, along with additional training apps and a wide range of tools and accessories for different exercises, Queenax™ allows you to bespoke your training space.


Let’s not forget that technology plays several important roles on the gym floor too. From showcasing your brand on the console screens and enabling members to receive in-workout messages promoting new classes and offers, to tapping into exercisers’ needs to ‘be connected’ and track their workouts. Along with entertainment that will encourage them to come back for more, such as RunTV, Netflix and Spotify, it’s available on Precor networked fitness P82 and P62 consoles.

The real-time equipment usage data insights provide valuable feedback on the gym layout too, enabling operators to monitor and manage the use of their kit via the Precor networked fitness Preva operating system through Preva Business Suite. Real-time status updates on the CV equipment tell the operator if the machines are in use or idle, if a service is required or if an inspection is needed because the machine has not been used for more than 30 mins in any 72-hour period. 

Operators are encouraged to check the equipment status every morning, and the system also provides essential information about the individual products, such as serial numbers and lifetime usage data.

Preva networked fitness can be accessed from any internet-connected computer and allows operators to run reports showing daily use of equipment, cumulative use and trends by time. They can also see what equipment is and isn’t being used, enabling them to move kit to optimise the layout, if they see the configuration isn’t working or even swap overused treadmills for underused ones to regulate usage for extended wear and tear.

Reports can be utilised to assist management with staff resourcing levels based on busy or quiet times, and can help proactive operators encourage new user groups into their gym when it’s quiet and/or develop new classes and activities to persuade people away from the CV area during extremely busy periods.

Character and style

Character and style also play a part in the overall look and feel of the design. Choosing colours that reflect the brand image and create a cohesive appearance across the gym floor can help attract members as can the style of equipment installed. 

Responding to customer demand Precor has updated the colourways of its cardiovascular products. For operators that prefer a more traditional look, Gloss Metallic Silver provides the perfect option, whereas those looking for a modern bold image, Black Pearl provides the answer. This also enables a cohesive look on the gym floor with matching frame colours across the cardiovascular and strength range. Precor’s strength range has also benefitted from new upholstery colours - New Purple, Hunter Green and Blue Jay.

Doug Durnford, Senior Product Manager responsible for Commercial Cardio for Precor, comments: “The key driving force behind the frame colour changes is our customers. Over the last five years, 80% that requested a custom-made piece chose either silver or black. We listened to what they are asking for and responded with stylish changes. The new frames are bolder, and the neutrality of the colourways means they will blend into any gym environment.”

According to Peter Borchert, Senior Product Manager at Precor, customisation is extremely popular right now, leading to Precor’s new upholstery colour introductions. He says: “While educational institutions generally require custom colours, we are now also seeing more enquiries from budget gyms and in particular boutique operators, who are looking for specific colours to coordinate with their brand.”  

Pete Bolam, Precor 3D visualiser concludes: “There’s been a huge shift away from the core cardio and pin selectorised strength offerings and we are now seeing a lot more dedicated functional training space. There’s so much more to designing the space than cramming as much equipment in as possible! In fact, the maximum amount of kit installed should not exceed 80% of the space and if it’s a boutique offering then this could well be even less. Ultimately the gym space determines the layout, but the membership base defines the story.”

Top Tips from Precor

  • Don’t start with choosing equipment, start with the zones or areas you want to have in your gym and the percentage of space you wish to allocate to each zone. Then think about the types of equipment you wish to put into each zone.
  • Washing walls with an even layer of light seems to push them outwards, expanding the space. And if the wall is light-coloured, the effect is greater.
  • Consider integrating light panels and runway lights into your flooring scheme for decorative and guidance purposes.
  • Avoid placing mirrors on opposite walls as this will cause a disorientating ‘infinity’ effect.
  • When choosing colours for walls, flooring and furnishings, keep the goal of the space in mind. If a space is planned for energetic exercise, consider using warm, exhilarating tones, whilst cool tones may be more appropriate in the areas where relaxation and calm is needed.
  • Consider adopting a heat recovery system. It’s not only energy saving but will help to reduce running costs because it recycles the heat produced by the facility and introduces it back into the building as clean, warm air.

Did you know?

  • Cool harsh white lights make muscles appear more defined.
  • Offering specialised classes can cut attrition rates and increase revenue because you are creating social networks within your gym.1
  • Research shows that to avoid a decrease in athletic performance dynamic stretching is better when warming up. So, ensure you leave enough space for movement whilst members stretch.2
  • The real evolution is the non- exercise space. Lounges, cafes and juice bars provide non-exercise spaces where users can interact, socialise and have fun.  When this happens, members are more likely to want to renew their subscriptions.3
  • Preva™ is Precor’s networked fitness solution and it gives you tools to manage your facility efficiently. It also allows your exercisers to enjoy exciting new workout experiences


Contact our team to discuss your design requirements




  1. Benefits of Group Exercise by Shawn Dolan, American College of Sports Medicine  (ACSM) – Jan 2012.
  2. Current concepts in muscle stretching for exercise and rehabilitation by Phil Page,  International Journal Of Sports Physical Therapy - 7th February 2012 
  3. Social Environments Help Health Clubs with Member Retention by Paul Steinbach,  Athletic Business – April 2011