Original Article Published by Domino
Mar 26, 2022
It’s 400 square feet of fitness bliss.
It was going to take more than a Peloton nook to satisfy the home gym needs of Remi Ishizuka, a Los Angeles–based wellness influencer and founder of the HomeBodies fitness program. When the pandemic ensued, Ishizuka spent months teaching quarantine workouts with her boyfriend, now business partner, Nate Pontious, before ditching her 9-to-5 for a full-time career as a health coach. “Nate and I decided we would never go back to the gym again,” says Ishizuka. Not only did the creator desire a safe place to keep moving, she wanted a beautiful atmosphere she could film those movements in.
Several half-baked DIY home gyms have come and gone since Ishizuka bought the 1930s home in 2018. Their first attempt to gym-ify the area started with a $2,000 budget and ended up still feeling very utilitarian. “At one point, we were like, let’s do a stripe and make it a Gucci gym, but that’s as far as we could take it,” she says laughing. Finally, in 2021, Ishizuka enlisted a pro to properly revamp the dusty garage into a sophisticated fitness studio.
Finding a designer was easy—Ishizuka’s best friend, Amanda Gunawan, is an architect and the founding partner of design firm OWIU. Ishizuka jokes that prior to Gunawan’s touch, it was “a hoarder’s garage, completely full of stuff.” After Gunawan spent time working out there herself, she stepped in to transform the area “once and for all.” Over the next six weeks, the 400-square-foot garage began to take its final form as a boutique home gym—with a few growing pains along the way.
Don’t Hire Just Anyone
Prior to bringing her bestie on board, Ishizuka attempted a kitchen remodel with contractors she sourced from Yelp. On her YouTube channel, she recounts the horrors, from being ghosted by vendors to seeing one-month timelines stretch into three-quarters of a year. “I was playing general contractor and I had no idea what I was doing,” she admits. “Needless to say, I was traumatized.” This time, working with her trusted friend (who had a reserve of reliable subcontractors on deck), Ishizuka was relieved by how smooth the process was even when they encountered supply chain delays. “I learned that there’s an art to the way the right people put the puzzle pieces together,” she adds.
Give It Some (Uni)sex Appeal
Gunawan was well versed in Ishizuka’s style, but she needed to understand and integrate Pontious’s preferences, too. After all, Pontious is the one who first started clearing things out and collecting equipment from Craigslist. The unfinished garage “was kind of his man cave, a storage unit, and a home gym. I’m very cutesy and bubbly, and Nate’s… the extreme opposite,” Ishizuka says with a giggle.
Their $50,000 budget culminated in merging Ishizuka’s love of neutrals with Pontious’s rugged aesthetic. The focal point is a sleek wall of walnut cabinetry that lends understated elegance to the room, while Venetian plastered walls with hand-textured feathering soften the industrial feel of polished concrete floors. “It’s a happy medium between a functional place to work out and a beautiful space to be in,” says Ishizuka.
Make Room to Grow
“Getting everything to look cohesive was the biggest challenge,” Gunawan remembers. To house the odd shapes and hefty weight of the couple’s gear, the OWIU team used $12,000 of the budget to craft the custom storage that combines open shelving for everyday items (think: hand weights and resistance bands) with enclosed compartments to hide less frequently used pieces, such as tools, Christmas lights, and a mini fridge. Although everything fits in the wall unit, they also added a storage bench under the mirror, topped with a hand-selected stone with gray and brown tones, because “you never know what else you’ll want to put away.”
Prepare for Wear and Tear
The design team first considered wood flooring but ultimately decided against it in favor of a polished concrete foundation. “You want to feel like you can drop things if you want to,” Gunawan explains. And although the walnut finish of the shelving was primarily an aesthetic choice, the designer noted there was some strategy behind deciding on that species. “You expect accidents to happen, like equipment hitting the walls,” she says. “Dark wood ages and maintains better over time.”
Embrace Your Surroundings
Prior to the remodel, a courtyard wedged between the garage and the neighbor’s property was overgrown with a thicket of bamboo and unruly vines of ivy. Once OWIU removed the greenery, they ended up with 4 extra feet of patio to play with. “When you’re working out, there are things you want to do indoors and things you want to do outdoors,” Gunawan notes.
Refining the exterior included knocking down one of the garage walls to create a transitional opening with bifold panels, pouring concrete to match the house’s foundation, and installing a black-stained privacy fence. Where the original garage door was, they opted for glass sliders. To Ishizuka’s surprise, the $24,000 thresholds ate up almost half of the budget, but she couldn’t be happier with how the area turned out. “Every time someone comes over, it’s definitely a wow factor,” she says. Sounds like the perfect one-two punch to us.