From the desk of Highsnobiety Editor-in-Chief Thom Bettridge, The Materialist is an editor’s letter in the form of a treasure hunt for the objects that change the way we perceive our world. This week, Thom makes the case for replacing your coffee table with a spin bike.
Fact: Quarantine has forever changed the way we view our homes.
Fact: Quarantine has forever changed the way we view our bodies.
Fact: When you combine two good ideas, you usually get an even better idea.
The urban reality of many young people is that we live in apartments the size of large terrariums. And, when the public gyms where we normally break a sweat became biohazards, many of us were forced to grapple with the idea of what a live-work-workout home design scheme can look like. If done wrong, this tight rope walk can have one living in a protein powder-stained Bowflex dungeon. But if executed with ingenuity and bravery, it can be the best thing that ever happened.
My first a-ha moment about the design value of workout gear came when I began weight lifting in the gym-slash-studio of artist and fitness expert Nik Kosmas. Located in a converted industrial space in Berlin-Kreuzberg, and littered with cross fit gear, 3D-printed sculptural models, DJ equipment, and colorful mats, Nik’s old workspace looked a bit like a kindergarten gymnastics party mixed with a secret sub-basement of Berghain. Without question, it was accidentally one of the most stylish rooms I’ve seen.
The beauty of exercise gear is that it actually mirrors the hyper-functional aesthetic of the best modernist design. If you squint at Marcel Breuer’s famous Wassily Chair, what really sets it apart from being a mutated workout bench? And what expresses the ergonometric ideals of gym life better than a molded Eames chair?
Not convinced yet? Allow me to take you on a journey.
The Beginner Model
For those who still want to have stuff designed by real furniture designers in their home, the functional Ballo chair is the best place to start. You might not know him by name, but the Ballo’s designer Don Chadwick is the man behind the Aeron, perhaps one of the world’s most groundbreaking desk chair designs and a permanent symbol of Silicon Valley C-Suite realness. The Ballo was Chadwick’s attempt at designing an office chair for a post-sitting world, and has a delightful form that can easily exist on its own as a design object. If a normal yoga ball is more your speed, the ones TechnoGym makes, which look like a normal yoga ball wearing a bullet-proof vest, are pretty fabulous as well.
The Statement Piece
So why do you need a training machine for cross-country skiing in your apartment? Because it’s a great work out. Because it has a very small footprint when mounted to a wall. And because it looks like a high-design totem straight out of an Ettore Sottsass auction catalog.
The New Carpet
Believe it or not, I’ve actually just ordered an even larger, nearly wall-to-wall, version of this kind of gymnastics tumbling mat for my home. Having places to lie down in your space — and stretch and roll rather than slouch on a sofa — is great for one’s health. And to make matters even more interesting, these kinds of mats fold in a way that allows them to double as a weird kind of bench and/or coffee table when guests come over.
The Blue-Chip Essential
With many cardio-seekers cooped in the great indoors, interactive spin bikes have become the grail of grails. Bikes from Peloton have become so hot that they actually have a waitlist, but I prefer the inspirational, arena-rock energy of the content that comes with Variis’ Soul Cycle bike. Some might struggle with how large it is, but I believe in leaning in and treating it as a Futurist-style monument to speed in a visible location.
A Small, and Very Heavy, Sculpture
Weight lifting is one of those activities that has tons of benefits, but lots of barriers to entry: it looks dangerous, it feels aggro, and the stuff one does it with is so ugly. Enter the kettlebell, the all-in-one strength training object that also has strange, Memphis Design charm. I find competition-grade kettlebells, with their shiny finishes, rotund shape, and color-coded brightness to be particularly handsome.