A member at Gus Orlando's Gold's Gym in East Northport, Long Island, NY, walked up to the owner of the club and had a question not often asked in a fitness facility.

The muscular, 6-foot-3, 225-pound member wanted to know what that new color was on the club's walls. He said he wanted to replicate that color for his kitchen cabinets at home.

Orlando, an old-school gym owner at heart, looked up the color and told him, “Enjoyable Yellow.”

Not Yellow. Not Yellow-Orange. Not Light Yellow. But Enjoyable Yellow.

It may have been an odd scene in a fitness club, especially a Gold's Gym, but the importance of color is not lost on club owners and club designers who have seen an evolution from the whites, blacks and grays found in most gyms back in the early 1980s, to brighter colors in the late 1990s and early 2000s, and to more sophisticated colors today that appeal to a broader membership base.

Orlando opened Gold's Gym in 1989, the first Gold's Gym in the state of New York. The look of the 34,000-square-foot Gold's Gym has gone through many transformations during the past 20 years. The latest remodeling began in June 2008 and ended six months later. The redesign helped Orlando's club win the best remodeled gym award for the Northeast area at the Gold's Gym convention in July. The redesign and new colors also helped increase business, Orlando says.

Some of the colors used in Orlando's redesign include Red Bay, Tangerine, Afterglow, Totally Tan and, of course, the aforementioned Enjoyable Yellow.

“I would never in a million years have picked these colors,” Orlando says. “I'm a gray, black and blue guy. But, man, it works.”

The colors in Orlando's Gold's Gym are earth tones, a popular palette these days. The idea behind more earthy colors correlates with the green movement in many clubs, says Bruce Carter, president of Optimal Fitness Designs Systems International, Weston, FL, and lead designer of Orlando's Gold's Gym renovation.

The green movement does not necessarily have to involve specific shades of green, Carter says. Rather, it involves earth tones, such as browns, yellows, golds and tans, in an attempt to bring the outdoors into the club. Companies in other industries, such as McDonald's and Panera Bread, are using earth tones in their stores, too, Carter adds.

“You can't go wrong with earth colors in a health club environment,” Carter says. “The earth tone colors are very well received by a wide range of the market. They're energetic and soothing at the same time if they're used properly. I'm not saying that earth colors are the only way to go, but it's clearly a trend.”

White Is Bright

The evolution of more color in clubs coincides with the movement of clubs out of basements or warehouses where they often resided three decades ago. Now, clubs are in prime retail space and main office space that have more windows and natural light.

Rudy Fabiano, president and design director of Fabiano Designs, Montclair, NJ, says there's a fresher approach to applying colors in health clubs that involves reaching out more to the emotions and spiritual nature of members. About five years ago, Fabiano says, a typical club had close to 30 colors in it.

“It was a much more complex and layered approach to the space,” Fabiano says.

Club owners, Fabiano says, would sometimes try to build their club on a more restricted budget. They didn't have many materials to work with, so they instead used more colors to make an impact.

These days, the more sophisticated clubs tend to use less color, Fabiano says, and when color is used, it's used with more intensity and plays off of neutral colors. At these clubs, the design also relies more on white as a palette to highlight another color, such as red, green or blue, he says.

“If you can bring in white colors to be a background for the stronger colors, the reward will be much fresher, much cleaner, much brighter,” he says.

Also, natural light is a color in and of itself, Fabiano says.

“The new color is the natural light that we're letting into our clubs,” he says. “Using that wisely and purposefully is a real art.”

Club H Fitness has four high-end clubs in the New York area — two in Manhattan and two in New Jersey. The newest club in Jersey City, NJ, which Fabiano helped design, has more of a modern look, using different tones of white along with a pop of lime green.

The idea behind using more white tones in the Jersey City club connected to the overall theme of the club, Club H owner Craig Lasko says.

“The concept was the future,” Lasko says. “What does the health club of the future look like? We decided that the future is very minimalistic, very modern looking, very clean looking.”

Remodeling at TSI

Town Sports International (TSI), New York, has several clubs in the New York, Boston, Philadelphia and Washington, DC, areas. The primary colors in its My Sports Clubs brand are blue, red, yellow and white. In the past, most of the TSI clubs used these colors in the finishes and materials as a way to enhance the brand, says Anthony DiMaggio, senior director of design and construction for TSI. However, during the past five years, TSI has been more focused on emphasizing the brand through the fitness experience in the clubs, which has led the company to use other colors, DiMaggio says.

“Colors are not necessarily a guideline that we need to follow,” DiMaggio says. “We use color to really highlight areas and change the mood and feeling within the clubs and tie it to the architecture of the clubs. We're not looking for materials that are only produced in blue, yellow, red or white.”

A lot of TSI's newer clubs have similar finishes, but the amount of color TSI uses in its clubs depends on the location of the club, DiMaggio says. If a club has a lot of natural light and has views of surrounding areas, that club will require less color than a club with less natural light and limited views.

“There's really no set standard for use of colors,” DiMaggio says. “We use more neutral colors than we used to, and we use bright or bolder colors as accents.”

Careful with Colors

In addition to paint and light, color can come from materials, such as wall coverings, floor tiles and hardwood floor finishes, Fabiano says.

“The more you get away from paint, obviously, the more expensive it's going to be, but the richer the color experience will also be,” Fabiano says. “To look at the floor and the ceiling and the walls and understand that they are all going to deliver a color experience for the member — and being smart about how you use those opportunities — is really the modern way to think about color in the space.”

Club operators should be careful, however, in selecting colors for more heavily trafficked areas of the club. If walls in those areas are painted with lighter colors, they will likely need to be repainted more often.

“Durability, especially in a fitness club, is the No. 1 priority,” Fabiano says. “I would never use white paint on a wall, but I might use a white wall covering. We use white glass going down a hallway.”

NEXT PAGE: DIFFERENT COLORS, DIFFERENT AREAS

Different Colors, Different Areas

Some areas of the club are more appropriate for certain types of colors. For example, neutral colors, such as beige or tan, are used more in locker rooms and mind-body studios where members want to be more relaxed.

Shades of yellow are good for high-energy parts of the club, such as cardio and strength areas, Carter says.

“Yellow's a great energy color for the workout area because it's conducive to movement and activity,” Carter says.

Soothing colors are also found more these days in the lobby and entryway of clubs to welcome in members. At the Gold's Gym on Long Island, light appears to be coming through the ceiling of the entrance, but it's actually acrylic ceiling tiles that look like the sky.

“It takes you down a peg. That's what some of the members have said,” Orlando says. “The de-stressing starts by walking into the facility.”

Clubs Have Become More Colorful Through the Years

Bruce Carter has seen color trends come and go over the years in the fitness club industry. Carter, president of Optimal Fitness Designs Systems International, Weston, FL, says clubs have definitely increased their color schemes since the mostly white, black and gray days of the early 1980s. A few women-only clubs were flush with pink back then, but that's about as colorful as that era got, Carter says.

In the late 1980s, some reds and blues popped into club color schemes, followed by maroon and gray that dominated the early 1990s. Later in that decade and into the 2000s, clubs began to have variations of colors, including white, turquoise, teal, yellow and raspberry. Clubs also got bolder with the color purple in the 2000s.

“We were now starting to think we needed some energy and fun,” Carter says.

Then in the middle of this decade, clubs introduced an array of earth tones, such as tans, golds, rusts and copper. The earth tone trend is still popular today.

“We're going to stay there for a while,” predicts Carter.