Temporarily turning our homes into small-scale exercise studios was happening well before 2020 hit us. But, for obvious reasons, we’re all now a little more experienced with it.
But why does our exercise tools and sport equipment look like they’re still stuck in the '80s? When did radioactive colour palettes, synthetic materials (and smells), and ugly, amorphous shapes become the norm? Their design screams, when really you just need to concentrate.
Thankfully, though, this is changing. With a new year, a new aesthetic is needed and these brands are helping to define it. Through a product approach that emphasises minimal lines, the use of quality industrial and natural materials, and placing craftsmanship at the core, the results are a new luxurious level to home fitness you didn’t know was even possible. Art for your home; art for your body. After all… you’re making yourself beautiful, so why aren’t your fitness tools?
Berlin’s Kenkō makes beautiful fitness products from their workshop on the leafy border between Berlin and Brandenburg in the south of the city, before showcasing and selling their creations in their brand new, minimalist design studio in Berlin’s art gallery quarter. The brand champions a return to the natural form, using materials such as walnut or maple wood alongside cork and polished stainless steel in geometrical shapes. From individual sport equipment to larger sets, our favourite has to be the ‘Set B' in Walnut. The Set B includes their 1kg dumbbell set, their range of expanders, their maple push-up devices, and the Kenkō cork and steel massage balls (which can be filled with warm water for extra soothing post-work out recovery) — all housed in stylish maple wood exteriors that go well in any room.
Perhaps the most futuristic of our selection, the VAHA Fitness Mirror is a first: a near-life size virtual trainer that incorporates artificial intelligence to improve your workout. Containing over 200 exercises — from HIIT to yoga, designed by high-end personal trainers like Nikeata Thompson, Natalie Ismail, or Michael Byrne — the virtual trainer beams into your work out space via the mirror like a hologram and gives immediate feedback and encouragement on your movements as you work out in front of it. However, if you prefer the personal from the virtual, VAHA has you covered, with their option of booking live 1-hour personal classes with coaches to train 1-on-1. Naturally, you can also integrate your apps and services — from YouTube to Spotify — to supplement your workout or transform the VAHA itself. The future is here everyone, and it’s looking right back at you.
The house of Giorgio Armani needs no introduction, yet the brand’s foray into the world of home fitness and luxurious sports equipment is worth mentioning. As part of the Armani/Casa 2020 collection, their made-in-Italy luxe PUMP selection is composed of a pair of 1kg dumbbells, a jump rope with adjustable length housed in a GA logo dust bag, and finally a 190cm yoga matt made from black antislip rubbered fabric and leatherette with belt and metal buckles for transport. Meanwhile, PLAGE are Armani/Casa’s items for outside (and maybe the warmer months), composed of a ping pong paddle crafted from wood, ball and eco-leather case, and a pair of beach tennis rackets with a net case.
Another German brand specialising in sports equipment made from natural materials is NOHrD. Based in northern Germany (which inspired the company’s name), as you might expect, NOHrD’s products are eco-minded, from the sustainably sourced German and American wood right down to the leather that’s sourced locally and tanned using natural, vegetable tanning techniques. With products spanning strength, cardio, coordination, as well as an elegant all-in-one wall solution, our personal highlight is the curved manual treadmill — the Sprintbok. The latest product in their arsenal, the Sprintbok is unique not only with its materials — wooden slats and metal ball bearings housed in an elegant wooden frame of your choice — running level is completely self-determined by the runner. No programmes, no wires, no electricity. The energy you put in directly correlates to the response you get back, which results in a 30% higher calorie burn. Additionally, the simplicity and elegance of the design means NOHrD’s Sprintbok is a maintenance free machine — no oiling, greasing, or belt-tightening needed.
Ulysse Martel is a creative consultancy based in Switzerland headed by its eponymous designer, who also, along with architect Candice Joyce Blanc, created these futuristic, pearlescent pieces of home sports equipment. This dumbbell forms a trio of dumbbells, along with a set of push up bars and a two-handed dumbbell, in Martel and Blanc’s Olympia collection. The equipment’s design process drew inspiration from the pursuit of bodily perfection against a backdrop of scientific progression and genetics which, according to the designers, will soon leave the pursuit of bodily perfection “superfluous”. Architectural in their lines and crafted from pearlescent lacquered steel reminiscent of early millennial car tuning, “left to rest, these dumbbells become genuine sculptures,” says Martel. Winner of the 2020 German Design Awards, the entire project was carried out in Switzerland and available at Nov Gallery in Geneva. Here’s hoping they enter more larger scale production soon…
The French may have made cycling into a sport, but the Italians made the sport beautiful. At least that’s a view held by those who know their Tour from their Giro. So it’s not surprising to see an Italian company doing exactly the same when it comes to indoor cycling. Ciclotte’s Bike Teckell (in fact, Ciclotte’s entire product range) may be the most beautiful set of indoor cycling machines ever made by humans. Inspired by the Ciclò Monocycle held in the Italian Design Museum in Milan, their signature design features a large core circle for the body and twin carbon handlebar pins. The Teckell, however, takes it further, using transparent strengthened crystal for the body. Their transmission incorporates magnetism for a more faithful reproduction of the road racing feel, while a dedicated app provides speed and distance info, and allows for full integration with your phone and tablet.
The clue is in the name: a classic wall mounted gym designed with both beauty and practicality as way points. “I have used my knowledge as a designer and personal trainer in the development of the maxwall,” says Max Kant, CEO and designer of the maxwall, from his base in Berlin’s Prenzlauer Berg. The core product is crafted from beech wood, light or dark oiled with polished steel or brass fittings, however you can also add a bench, dipbars and grip sets to really optimise your workout. An essential, understated yet elegant addition to your work out space and your home.
Words: Jack Drummond