The Test

By Amy Knight

Print Friendly, PDF & Email

The House We Live In: A Series on Building the Sustainable Home in Tucson, Arizona


Matthew arrived at my house late Saturday night with a complete set of drawings and a list of questions. We slept in a bit—it was after midnight when we got to bed—and then we got to work. There were questions about light switches and landscaping, shelf height and shades of gray for the casework and the trim. There were things we had discussed more than once where Matthew’s notes conflicted.

I had some questions, too. I had moved to another temporary rental, and it had raised a few new questions. Were we sure we had a good place in the kitchen for a trash can? Had we done a good job of deciding which outlets should be switched? Had we planned enough towel bars?

We accomplished most of his questions in the early morning, and set off for brunch at a busy Tucson restaurant where waits can be half an hour or longer for a table. We put in our names, and then walked to the other end of the shopping center, where there was a hardware store selling the kind of paint we wanted. We pulled paint chips for colors we’d discussed, and others we still needed to choose, and when we got back to the restaurant, we only waited a few more minutes until we were seated, and we spread our colors all over the table with our mimosas. By the time our food came, I’d realized I wanted magenta instead of orange for the painted glass backsplash, and we’d settled on the right colors for the accent walls and the front door.

It was after we got home from brunch that the real hard work started: We went through the 50-page drawing set, one page at a time, with me explaining to Matthew what was in each drawing, and him teaching me, where needed, how to read them. The idea was to be sure I understood what they all meant, in enough detail to be able to tell, during construction, if something was terribly wrong. And now, even though there were moments where he had to encourage me to seek the answers in the drawings that were before me, I understand. I know the answers I’m supposed to know. I own this. If there turns out to be something I don’t like, it will be because I misjudged it, not because I failed to understand what was coming.

And it will be my house, not just a house for me, but mine.



Amy KnightAmy Knight is the fiction editor for In this weekly series, she chronicles the process of designing and building an eco-friendly house in Tucson, Arizona. The series will explore both how it’s done and what it means, from the perspective of someone who wants to do the right thing but knows almost nothing about sustainable building. Look for new posts every Monday. You can email Amy at or leave a comment here. Visit her website, or follow her on twitter @amypknight.

Photo of clouds courtesy Pixabay. Photo of Amy Knight by Richard Whitmer. is the world’s first online journal of place, publishing a rich mix of literature, art, commentary, and design since 1998.