“you’re buying a warehouse?” this is what one of our friends said when my partner chris showed him the picture below of the place we plan to make our home. chris just laughed.

Photo Feb 25, 2 50 54 PM

our friend’s confusion was understandable. most Sonoran row houses—which is what our house is—don’t look like much of anything from the outside. what many people see when they look at our house is rectangle of crumbling mud adobe bricks. and that’s about it.

but a row house is not a French chateau. a chateau is meant to arrest, to beguile, to show off. a row house, on the other hand, is plain, it’s unassuming. it’s like the difference between a woman in a ball gown and a woman in a simple, white linen shift.

all of which makes it very easy to dismiss the Sonoran row house out of hand. that would be a mistake.

to know the row house–to love it, you must be discerning. you must love the brute force of its shape, the raw power of its geometry. a row house is about subtlety, it’s folk architecture that becomes high architecture through its very beingness, through the dignity of its walls, its earth. you have to love that it’s made of mud—you have to understand the heft and gravity of such a material, the hands of the laborers that dug its walls from the ground over a century earlier.

and, like a geode or a pomegranate, you must understand that a Sonoran row house keeps its true self hidden. the tall walls which look so inscrutable from the outside are completely different on the inside. those fortunate enough to pass through the doorway of a Sonoran row house instantly understand those walls in ways others do not. the walls envelope, they shield, they provide privacy, intimacy. they provide sanctuary.

not only that, but they also provide space for some totally cool interior design. a case in point is the house of our friends gary & darren, also known as the design team patch & clark. from the outside, their barrio house looks a lot like ours, only it’s a brown rectangle instead of white one. but check out this page on their website (under “historic territorial adobe”) for photos of the interior. u.k. based magazine the world of interiors did a story on them a few years back (another of our friends, novelist stacey richter wrote the article that accompanies the full spread). not too bad for a warehouse, right?