Remember the old days of going to the gym? Rubber flooring? Streaky mirrors everywhere and stinky locker rooms that remind you of high school gym class? In a place like Los Angeles, where aesthetics is everything, design has become paramount to the experience. “Big box gyms, as we know them, are dying out, and boutique gyms are absolutely at the forefront. After Covid, it became apparent that people are looking to spend their time in smaller, more intimate spaces where you’re not sharing the room with hundreds of people simultaneously and where you know things are well kept,” says Chiheb Soumer CPT and owner and founder of Fairfax Training Club.
In order to attract members, it’s essential to make fitness and wellness facilities places where people look forward to going. “You want to create an environment where your clients want to spend their time. There is so much competition in the fitness and wellness space, especially in Los Angeles. It’s essential to differentiate yourself from other facilities, which can be achieved by the interior design and the aura you create,” he says.
“It’s also about branding and experience,” according to Priyanka Khanna, co-founder of Artha, which is a private fitness and wellness club in West Hollywood with a location in Studio City coming soon. Artha recently expanded its flagship from 5080 to 6805 square feet. “Good design is not standard in most wellness facilities, especially at our price point. Actually, it typically is pretty bad. We made sure good design is standard at Artha. We feel that the right space provides the right energy. The right energy becomes conducive for the mind to break away from the outside world and focus inwards, relax and gear up for the activity in hand,” she says.
Everything Is About Feeling
Artha commissioned architecture and interior firm Nelson Worldwide to carry out its vision. As a high-end members club (although day passes are currently available for purchase), their goal is to curate an environment conducive to wellness and provide a pause away from the chaos of the city. While Artha’s original yoga studio had room for just 24 members, classes were so popular that it became almost too intimate a space. Part of the renovation was expanding the room to fit 40 people.
However, a major concern Artha’s executive team had with the expansion was how facilitating more people at the studio could change the vibe of the space. Fortunately, they were able to address this issue through design. “During the new construction, the entire perimeter of the sanctuary was walled by anti-noise panels. This makes sure that as soon as you walk in, you feel you have actually stepped inside the sanctuary because it blocks off the noise from Sunset Boulevard.”
This also meant altering the original floor plan. “The yoga room and the locker rooms were pulled to the front, right behind the lobby. This eliminates 20 to 30 yogis walking past the float, sauna, and treatment rooms thereby disturbing members and guests undergoing therapies and treatments,” Khanna. “Protecting the experience was a priority for us.”
Another reason for this is that privacy and exclusivity are essential to creating the right mood for members and guests alike. “Because the entire sanctuary is by invitation only, it feels very private. Unless you want to, you will not run into many people. It is an elevated experience at Artha and we want our members to feel they are in a special, spiritual place. A Sanctuary. The colors are intentionally dark and soothing to promote balance and serenity,” she explains.
An additional part of the renovation was adding seven more infrared light saunas, almost tripling the capacity. These relaxation spaces are some of the most popular offerings at Artha. Artha also offers massages, an intimately lit float tank with large en suites featuring private showers and dressing areas, as well as cryotherapy chambers and facials.
While good design is part of the experience at Artha— design isn’t the experience. “There are many instances when you are in a space and you feel good, but you are not able to pinpoint it to any particular reason. That is good design,” says Khanna. “Many different, small design elements come together in harmony to make that space feel good. Different colors, textures, and shapes come together to enhance [our offerings]. It is important the client feels welcome, feels comfortable, and desires to be in our space. Design plays into all of these factors.”
Modern Clubhouse Vibes
With a design concept inspired by the Fairfax District in West Hollywood, Fairfax Training Club spans over 2500 square feet over two floors in the Westwood neighborhood. While he didn’t hire an interior designer, Soumer and his team brilliantly carried out his vision.
“It was a long creative process to turn the concept into a reality. We used concrete and wood to keep the tones neutral, giving the space a minimalist vibe while remaining unique. We opted for sleek, clean, and modern finishes before installing top-of-the-line fitness equipment upstairs and downstairs,” he says. “As a former retail space, it was quite challenging to implement the changes we needed for a cohesive fitness environment. Still, we achieved the desired result through careful planning and attention to detail.”
Most of the furniture in the entrance and back lounge of the space was custom-built. However, additional items were sourced from CB2, West Elm, and antique stores. “Decorative items came from boxing stores, House of Spoils, and some custom objects,” says Soumer.
With a cool, clubhouse vibe, it feels more like a place to find community than a typical gym.
“Design is an underrated but vital aspect of fitness and wellness. It contributes to the success of your clients. Gyms can intimidate people, so it’s essential to create a space where your clients want to spend their time and feel good about spending their time. I wanted Fairfax Training Club to feel like a luxurious living room.”