When I finished the hallway and stairwell makeover last month, I mentioned that our basement gym was next on the home improvement to-do list. We ended up getting a bit distracted by our yard (planting a hedge and new flower beds), but I’m happy to report that the gym is coming along quite nicely. The other parts of the basement are totally out of control, but the gym is our little haven amidst the madness.
Getting the gym set up was one of our first big projects in the house last fall — we didn’t join a new gym when we moved because we knew we wanted to set up our own (it was on our short list of things we absolutely wanted to have in a new house), and that meant the pressure was on since we didn’t want to go too long without access to a gym. We picked this corner of the basement:
Within our first month in the house, we stocked it up with a bench and rack off of craigslist (which can be used for both benching and squatting), a weight set, a roman chair (affiliate link — read our policies) for back strengthening, a treadmill (affiliate link — read our policies), and some mats.
We also bought a small flatscreen TV to mount on the back wall, which was a lifesaver this winter since I was spending a lot of time on the treadmill and it’s just the most boring activity ever. (Running outside is awesome and the whole reason I run, but running on a treadmill was necessary this winter because the roads and sidewalks were too snowy and icy out in the ‘burbs and I’m a bit skittish about falling having injured myself a few times falling while running in the past.)
Altogether we spent about $1500 on equipment, which certainly isn’t cheap (the treadmill was $700 of that, and is one of the most inexpensive but well-reviewed models I could find). However, when you think about this replacing the cost of gym memberships for two people, it’s not so bad — it actually pays itself off in less than a year, since even the no-frills gyms in Boston are absurdly expensive.
In any case, by late fall our gym was functionally in pretty good shape (pun!), but left a lot to be desired aesthetically:
It’s not that our gym needs to be all that attractive — we’re not looking for a spa experience, or something where I feel like my sweaty, uncoordinated self is unworthy. But we just wanted something a little less dark, and we wanted to add wall mirrors since those are so important for working on form and posture while lifting.
Speaking of not that attractive, this post doesn’t not have the most beautiful “after” pictures you’ve ever seen. Taking photos in the basement is hard (low light!), and taking photos with lots of mirrors is equally hard since they reflect back all the not-pretty things still lurking in sprawling across our basement. But hopefully you still enjoy seeing the progress down here! We still have a few things to do, but here’s how it’s looking now: We’re pretty pleased! Here’s how it all went down:
The first step was painting, which Sam decided to do one weekend when I was tied up with other things. I think about 2-hours into cutting in along the ceiling and windows he was wishing he’d waited for me (since I’m usually the one who cuts in while he rolls), but he soldiered on. He did a coat of primer and then two coats of Chantilly Lace (Benjamin Moore) on the wood paneled walls, and then semi-gloss trim paint on the radiator and stone baseboard.
For the mirrors, I did a bunch of measuring and math and figured out that we could get some standard mirrors from Home Depot that would work fairly well in the space. The window on the back wall makes the dimensions tricky, but I determined that we could get two 60″x36″ mirrors for the left wall and then two 48″x36″ mirrors for the back wall, with one vertical and then one horizontal to fit under the window.
Altogether the mirrors came to $200 (and involved trekking to two different Home Depots because they messed up our online order), but for that amount of mirror that seems like a pretty good deal. We mounted them using the clips included, and it was pretty straightforward (though definitely required two people given their size and unwieldiness).
Another quick project was putting up a curtain across the opening next to the treadmill (which you can see reflected in the photo above). We’ve been using a bookshelf that the seller left behind to block off the space an created more of an enclosed feel, but it looked pretty cluttered.
I want to use the shelf from the other side to store paint and tools when I set up my basement workshop over there, but the shelf doesn’t need to be accessible from the gym side. We don’t want to put up a permanent barrier, though, since it might be nice to have the wide access through from the exterior basement door if needed at any point. Instead, I decided to just put up a curtain rod that I had on hand (from our apartment living room, and without a new home in our house), and then some curtains I also had (from our apartment bedroom).
I originally planned to use the white curtains we’d had hanging in our apartment living room, but they were so wrinkled after being washed that I couldn’t even iron them smooth. I need to get them steamed I think.
But in the meantime these work okay and tie in with the other turquoise accents I have, like the floating shelves I made for displaying photos. In our apartment we had a bunch of photos from various races up in a the short passage between kitchen and study that we nicknamed “Triumph Alley.”
I liked the idea of doing the same here, since the gym seems like the perfect space for such self-congratulatory photos. Rather than a gallery wall, though, I decided to make some floating shelves so that it’s easy to add and swap out photos as we do more races (because apparently we can’t help ourselves). It feels a little narcissistic to have all those photos of us proudly displaying medals and such, but it’s a really helpful encouragement when getting on the treadmill is the last thing on earth you want to do after a long day. Or after a short day. Let’s be honest, the treadmill is awful all the time. Fortunately now we have this to inspire us:
I made these using scrap wood that I already had on hand from a futon frame we no longer use. I used the full length of the original slats for two of them, and then cut one shorter (on the table saw) to go next to the window. Then I painted them using turquoise paint I already had (“woodsy scent” by Ace). I didn’t use the most sophisticated technique to mount them — I just used small L brackets on top of each shelf, which I knew wouldn’t show once I filled the shelves up with photos.
To mount the brackets on the shelves at the right depth so that the shelves would sit flush with the wall at 90 degrees, I used a piece of plywood to simulate the wall while marking the holes for the brackets on the shelves.
Then to make the brackets even less noticeable, I painted the bottoms of them turquoise to blend in with the shelves, using painters tape to get a clean line.
If I hadn’t been trying to rely on leftover wood and was putting them somewhere other than the basement, I would have figured out something fancier for mounting them. But the brackets worked just fine for my purposes. I couldn’t attach to studs, since the wall is just a .5″ piece of wood paneling on top of the foundation (and I didn’t want to drill into the foundation if I could help it) — but they don’t need to hold anything that heavy, so I’m not worried. I just screwed them right into the paneling, and then arranged some of my favorite photos. Here I pulled out one of the photos so you can see the bracket hidden behind:
I did add a few new photos that we didn’t previously have in our apartment, so I busted out my trusty mat-cutting kit to whip up some custom-sized photo mats for them. It may be a basement gym, but we’re no heathens!
We still have a few projects to do and I think I do want to replace the curtains next to the treadmill, but for now we feel good about where the gym stands. It’s never going to be the prettiest room in the house, but at least now it’s a little less cave-like! Of course we did this right as spring hit and I’m no longer spending so much time down there because I can run outside, but this is Boston — winter will be here again before we know it!
(Sharing at All Things Thursday, Weekend Retreat Link Party, DIY Showoff, Two Uses Tuesday, Tip Me Tuesday, One Project at a Time, Whimsy Wednesday, June Before and After, Remodelaholic, and Think and Make Thursday)