Blake Shephard is a full-service fitness design group. The group focuses on transforming training facilities and gyms, often the domain of clunky, unsightly machinery, into spaces that are as aesthetically pleasing as they are functional. Co-founder and Brick & Wonder member, Kirkland Shephard, recalls how he landed on this overlooked niche of the design industry.
“I started on a path to law school, but couldn’t wait to get into the gym before or after work. Eventually, I figured I might as well make my ‘happy place’ my work place also. Personal training was a pretty natural fit.”
As a personal trainer, Kirkland often found himself working out of gyms in the homes of private clients. These homes, whether city apartments or holiday houses, were well-designed throughout. However, their gyms, though outfitted with the latest and greatest equipment, had not received the same care in design, if any at all.
After living in Australia and New Zealand for a period, Kirkland, a Long Island native, returned to New York and met his business partner Frank Blake. The two were aligned in their vision: “We realized many of the spaces our teams were working in weren’t well thought-out. It was obvious clients and developers were paying the price (literally) for a lack of knowledge in the industry.”
Getting clients to see beyond Kirkland and Frank’s reputations as fitness trainers was one of the first hurdles the pair had to face. “When you’ve been known for one thing, being recognized for anything else can be difficult,” Kirkland says. “To some people it doesn’t matter if you are the best fitness instructor they’ve ever had. Designing a facility is too far a jump for them to accept.”
Once they do make the conceptual leap, clients understand what a valuable and necessary service the company provides, one that is characterized by partnership and joint effort. “A unique design concept comes from a collaborative process that allows our clients to see a multitude of options most never imagined existed,” Kirkland says of working closely with clients. “We take pride in cultivating meaningful relationships, as well as sharing the credit.”
When it comes to the working dynamic within his own team, he applies the same collaborative ethos. “You constantly want to impress your colleagues because you hold them in high regard. We respectfully challenge each other, and learn from one another. In the end, it’s more just more fun this way.”
In any space by Blake Shephard, the myriad benefits of exercise—physical and mental—are coupled with the power of design to enhance experience. This is the company's winning combination. Kirkland and his team are helping clients build healthy habits through design, by crafting spaces that clients will want to return to again and again.