Staying active over the past couple years has required some extra flexibility, with many former gym rats forced to pause their memberships and embrace at-home fitness instead. This pivot came with its own share of aches and pains — chief among them being the fact that exercise equipment doesn’t always make for the most natural complement to domestic interiors.
Stationary bikes require a decent amount of floor space, but even smaller gear tends to favour an austere, utilitarian aesthetic that’s at odds with cozy furnishings. Enter Bala — a stylish exercise brand that recently opened its first retail store, a pastel-hued New York City pop-up designed by Ringo Studio.
Offering funky workout equipment that’s designed to look right at home in modern living spaces, Bala launched to early success on Kickstarter in 2017 before developing a large following throughout the pandemic.
To build on this early momentum, Bala’s founders recently set out to expand into bricks-and-mortar, enlisting Madelynn Ringo to envision an appropriately design-forward setting in SoHo. After getting her start as Glossier’s creative lead of retail experiences, Ringo founded her eponymous studio in 2020 and has quickly come to specialize in designing physical storefronts for other digital-first brands like Studs and Modern Age.
Her firm’s retail concept for Bala revolves around oversized versions of the company’s products, created by fabrication partner Konduit to highlight the soft finishes and curvy forms that set Bala’s offerings apart from the competition.
By highlighting the visual appeal of Bala’s products, Ringo underscores the clever logic behind Bala’s overall design strategy. Clunky weights and other unattractive workout gear that tend to be hidden away in a drawer or closet when not in use end up being all too easy to forget about. As a counterpoint, by lending itself to prominent display, Bala’s workout gear functions as a reminder that exercise should be a regular — and fun — part of everyday life.
Take the company’s best-selling Bala Bangles, for instance. Made from silicone-wrapped steel, these weighted bracelets take cues from jewelry design to reimagine dumbbells as something more akin to a fun fashion accessory. For Bala’s SoHo store, Ringo Studio has introduced an inviting leather lounge chair that resembles a scaled-up version of their signature product.
By supersizing another one of the brand’s popular offerings, the Bala Beam — a squiggle-shaped tool designed to help with strength training movements like presses, curls and squats — Studio Ringo draws extra focus to the product’s sculptural silhouette. (Memphis fanatics, eat your heart out.)
Other interior elements play off of Bala’s identity more generally. Arched doorways and wavy walls echo the collection’s penchant for playful curves, while the store’s palette matches the fresh pastel colourways of Bala’s product catalogue. The fitting rooms are especially impactful, splashed in a soft pink that continues right from the furry shag carpeting up to the plush velvet curtains.
While it could easily pass for a modern sculpture gallery, the store is also a functional gym, creating space for shoppers to test-drive Bala’s equipment in group “Balacize” fitness classes. After finding initial success during the era of at-home pandemic workouts, Bala is now eager to play a role in more social exercise. After all, while design can be a great source of workout motivation, so can inspiring group settings.
Ringo Studio designs a pastel-hued playground that emphasizes the sculptural forms of the fitness company’s unique workout equipment.