Exercise environments don’t always have to look sporty and contemporary to draw people in, as proven by Jovien Atelier’s latest work for Hot Yoga 36.

A dilapidated apartment – even one in a historical mansion – isn’t the first setting that comes to mind when you think of ideal spaces for a fitness studio. But Jovien Atelier, based in Saint Petersburg, used the alternative location to their advantage, with the ambition to contrast the stereotypical look of today’s exercise environments.  The team of designers and architects came to a conclusion with the client that the hot-yoga-and-ballet space shouldn't be reminiscent of a gym – they wanted an environment that would stand out among their competitors’. They unquestionably succeeded.

‘The interior is the quintessential mix of Russian mysticism, Eastern philosophy and Saint Petersburg drama,’ says a spokesperson. Built in 1836, the site – originally the home of a merchant by the name of Kovrigin – had previously been used for communal residences, and neglected over the years. Nonetheless, in the 207-m2 space that Jovien Atelier entered upon receiving the brief, they saw the potential. Instead of replacing artefacts of the building’s original glory – stucco ceilings and pre-revolutionary brick walls being two examples – the studio restored and preserved them. These historically respectful touches, balanced with atmospheric light installations and bespoke furnishings, give Hot Yoga 36 its unique spatial character.

A forest scene is projected on the lobby wall, greeting yogis and ballet dancers as they enter the interior. For this area, the designers collaborated with Nikita Somov to construct a custom cabinet system with wardrobe and reception desk from plywood. A black gradient is painted onto the façade so as to make the large pieces feel less imposing in the space; the furniture folds into an ensemble and creates a sense of depth in unison with the surrounding mirrors. As people progress to the hallway, they find a modular sofa and mirrored cabinets. Unexpected pairings – like a 19th-century mirror, 1980s IKEA floor lamp and Bruno Munari’s Falkland chandeliers – live together in harmony.

Rejuvenation being the name of the game, the designers emphasized the physiological importance of light in the project. ‘Our goal was to create a new dimension for rebooting, so we paid special attention to lighting – in every room there are at least five scenarios.’ In the ballet room, they built a glowing circle into one of the mirrors to symbolize the ‘sun at dawn’. Here hang antique brass chandeliers, and for the flooring, cork was arranged in a pattern evoking the image of a Christmas tree. Doors, a storage system and the machines for hot ballet classes are obscured by mirrors, the windows covered in white veil-like fabric.

Eastern aesthetics were the inspiration for the locker and shower rooms. A colour scheme referencing the hue of the robes worn by Buddhist monks, fixtures restored using the Japanese kintsugi technique and images based on Japanese drawings of bathers are a few of the highlights.