Embracing Work-Life Balance at the Dining Room Table

The key to staying sane while sheltering in place for the fashion designer Thakoon Panichgul and the creative director Russell Spina is connection. The couple, who have been together for 20 years, have spent the last three months quarantined in their two-bedroom loft in Manhattan’s TriBeCa neighborhood. This has allowed them to continue to support their favorite local businesses like Chamber Street Wines and the neighborhood pizza joint, Tre Sorelle on Reade Street.

“There is a deep sense of community and love for the city when you go through tough times like this together,” said Mr. Panichgul, 45, noting that they also stayed in New York during 9/11 and Hurricane Sandy. “It never occurred to us to get out of the city.”

But adjusting to quarantine life has had its challenges, like trying to make work and personal life all happen in a confined space.

The couple has settled into a comfortable rhythm at home. They typically wake up around 7 a.m. for a cup of coffee and to walk their 12-year-old Chihuahua-Yorkie mix, Stevie. Then they get to business. Before the coronavirus outbreak, they would each head to their offices, but for the first time, they are working from home at the same time.

Mr. Spina, 54, takes the desk in the second bedroom and spends most of the day on Zoom calls for his work as a senior vice president and creative director at ViacomCBS. For Mr. Panichgul, that leaves the dining room table, which he quickly covers with mood boards, fabric swatches and sketches for his clothing line, Thakoon, and his editorial work with HommeGirls, a magazine and style platform. By 5 p.m., it’s time to pack it up.

“We put work things away — everything,” Mr. Panichgul said. “It’s important, otherwise, you don’t have separation of work and home lives, or even distinguish days.”

Part of that boundary includes an early evening workout together. It’s a new routine for the couple, who previously worked out on their own. Mr. Spina says it feels silly at times, “two men jumping around their living room” with the Nike Training Club app workouts, but it also turned into a creative pursuit. Since the pair couldn’t find dumbbells online, they filled their art and fashion books in tote bags for makeshift weights to walk up and down their building’s stairs.

In a quintessential apartment-living vignette, each gym time involves moving furniture, namely, the dining chairs.

The couple is thankful for the amount of space they have, but do admit that their current situation has been a “mental marathon.” They have learned a lot, though, about making all aspects of life function efficiently in an apartment and with each other. Here are their tips for quarantining in the city.

Separate Your Space

Mr. Panichgul and Mr. Spina are big on designating space for specific tasks at different parts of the day. They like to work in separate rooms to give each other privacy for calls as well as ample space for creative projects. During the workday, Mr. Panichgul uses the dining room table for fashion design, but come evening, he makes sure it’s “neat and tidy” for evening activities like dinner and a movie. That includes visual changes. Mr. Spina likes to dim the lights, put on music and light candles to create an evening mood that feels calm and relaxing. They break out a happy-hour drink, usually a glass of wine. It all feels like they met at a bar after work to discuss the day.

Support Each Other’s Hobbies

Mr. Spina had been taking French classes at Coucou in SoHo for a year and a half, and while quarantined, he has transitioned to taking classes online. Mr. Panichgul gives him space to continue these classes in the evenings via Zoom, but also supports his lessons by screening French films with him. It’s a new experience watching one particular genre of cinema, Mr. Panichgul said, but he loves the look of French new-wave films, so it felt natural. That extends to new hobbies, too. They have been experimenting with natural wines from various regions of the world, including the sparkling wine pétillant naturel (commonly referred to as pét-nat) and unfiltered white wines..

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Be Each Other’s Cheerleader

Both Mr. Panichgul and Mr. Spina admit that their energy levels and moods have been down at times during quarantine. Luckily, they have found that they can be the ultimate motivators for one another. It’s something they took for granted before, when they were busy traveling, working, and rushing around in life. It’s been a blessing, Mr. Spina said, to realize they have the type of relationship where they can lift each other up. It’s as simple, he said, as saying “let’s do this” when one person can’t get started on the day or offering advice for frustrating situations. “You think it’s not going to help but it does,” Mr. Spina added.

Stay Connected to Your Community

Supporting the small business and creative outlets in their community like Amish Market, Chambers Street Wines to Coucou French Classes has helped improve their moods and keep each other’s mental health in check. They both feel a strong sense of loyalty to New York and want greatly to help the city thrive when it’s down. Taking on that calling means staying active: chatting with their doormen, taking a walk with masks, and continuing to shop from their neighborhood go-to retailers. They even look back fondly on the time that a fellow pedestrian snapped at Mr. Panichgul for taking off his mask for a second while walking their dog — a reminder that someone in New York is always watching. “It’s kind of a circus community experience, but it makes us feel like New Yorkers,” Mr. Spina said. “I’d feel guilty to leave.”

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