National Palace Museum in Taipei, Taiwan.

The rural setting has rubbed off on them in profound ways; they are reclaiming oversight of the apple orchard, which had been outsourced to a local farmer, and turning it organic. “We want to spend more time here to truly understand what agrarian life and culture is about,” Mr. Tsao said.

NBBJ, recalled about the period in which he was under one roof with his wife and three remote-schooled children. What emerged out of desperation (plus an architect-build-it-thyself urge) was a 70-square-foot free-standing office in his backyard in suburban Bellevue, Wash.

The co-lead of NBBJ’s corporate design practice, Mr. Mullenix was like a scientist dosing himself with his own serum. His advice for clients trying to adapt workplaces for the future, he said, is to “test it — don’t try to make it perfect the first time out.” His little office is a model of minimalism just waiting to be tweaked.

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