by Kirsten Nelson
The very personal pursuit of fitness has become increasingly communal in a new wave of specialized exercise studios that connect health with hospitality. In these finely designed, energetic spaces, communities are built along with strength and endurance.
Bringing fitness and fashion together in an environment designed to inspire and empower, SculptHouse brand studio and boutiques are growing in number and devotion among happily transformed clientele. Beginning with its first location in Atlanta and expanding to new locations at a quick clip, SculptHouse was built as an invigorating and welcoming space that reflects the gregarious and accommodating nature of its founder and CEO, Katherine Mason.
Naturally inclined toward making fitness less intimidating while also delivering supremely specialized instruction, Mason had a vision for the total SculptHouse experience. Clients are welcomed with a serene multi-sensory vibe (complete with carefully curated aromatic candles) at check-in and throughout the lobby’s aesthetically crisp boutique area. Then classmates gather among the benches in thoughtfully designed “social sweat” areas outfitted with lockers (equipped with mobile phone chargers) and filtered water machines. Next, it’s time for class to start. Once inside the vibrant exercise studio, clients are treated to a fully programmed sound and light spectacle that boosts energy and maintains momentum.
“That’s when the real experience starts,” Mason says. While instructors greet each individual joining the class and prep first-timers on the high-tech equipment, the scene is set by music and light. “A top-tier sound system fills the room, and doesn't create definitive pockets of sound — everyone is hearing music the same,” she describes. And then there are the 16 different custom light-show options “that can be ignited with a touch of a button to mimic speeds, emotions and tempo of the workout.”
To be truly engaging, an experience of this level has to be carefully designed to reflect a brand and deliver a seamless sensory spectacle. To help realize the total experience, SculptHouse worked with the retail designers and technologists at HighStreet Collective.
The first step was about distilling the SculptHouse brand and how that will relate to the technology used to realize an experience in the space, explains HighStreet Co-Founder Laura Davis-Taylor. “We look at a brand’s role in the customer's life, how they differ from the competition, how they want people to feel, all of those elements. It starts with understanding this as their ‘True North,’ so that everything marries up to it, including the role of technology.”
The process was thorough and thoughtful, but from the start, one aspect of the SculptHouse brand was clear, according to Davis-Taylor: “When we started working with Katherine Mason and SculptHouse, what struck us most was her warmth,” she recalls. “She is an incredibly inspiring and gracious person, and we wanted to capture that in how the experience was orchestrated. Much of their technology was already in play, but we worked together to ensure that it was all ‘five-star' and carefully balanced with high-touch human engagement.”
To that end, the technology at SculptHouse was implemented with varying degrees of visibility. It’s discreetly blended into the human-centric, personalized experience of check-in, but the scene-setting, adrenaline-boosting technical elements are highly visible in the fitness studio, where the scene is set with theatrical lighting and curated music for the workouts. The technology design “syncs with the inspiration and engagement they cultivate, and is all centered around making every client feel special, comfortable and welcomed,” Davis-Taylor notes.
The light shows truly are theatrical, with a sense of drama created from the moment the studio is entered, Mason describes. Before a class begins, “the room is washed in a neon green that makes you feel like you are in another environment, maybe even another world! The machines look intimidating and like some type of futuristic fitness equipment, but the instructor makes sure to put all worries at easy with a welcoming and exciting start to the class. The music fills the room and the custom light shows begin, adding to the endorphins through sensory engagement. Camaraderie pumps through the room as 22 people work hard to achieve their goals, the instructor cheers them on, and the lighting and sound pushes them a little further than they would normally be able to go.”
After successfully creating an experience that boosts endorphins and camaraderie with fellow fitness buffs, SculptHouse began expanding outward from its original Atlanta location, adding locations in new neighborhoods and cities across the southeastern United States. In each new studio location, SculptHouse turned to the “Experience Playbook” that was created in collaboration with HighStreet Collective.
The playbook is as much about the human element as it is about the technology that is used to realize the full experience, Davis-Taylor explains. “It’s a structure we use to help all team members embrace who the brand is, how we deliver an incredible customer experience at all points of interaction and the 'Unique Experience Signatures' that they alone can own. We do this within each zone of experience, all of them having a key thematic headline — and the technology's role and proper use is within. This is key, as one of our core beliefs is that technology should always make an experience far more human, not replace the human.”
Included in the playbook are details to help studio managers and trainers select from the various lighting and music programs to suit different types of classes, and even different times of day. The morning program “imparts more of a ‘get-up and get-it’ vibe, while the evening seems more like a nightclub atmosphere,” Davis-Taylor describes.
No matter when a client visits SculptHouse, the brand’s True North can be found in all the elements of the experience. And with the seamless integration of technology, the most noticeable sensation is overwhelmingly human, bringing the warmth and energizing social connection of your very own fitness crew.