humming with life

An El Paso adobe brings the outdoors inside

For Janiece Ward, an elementary school teacher in El Paso's upper valley, her house has always been much more than a place to live. Every wall, every corner, every piece of art in her adobe home is a reflection of Janiece's personality, especially her love of the outdoors.

"Decorating this adobe home was a return to childhood," says Janiece. "When Lisa Ramirez moved into the neighborhood in fourth grade, she quickly became my best friend and architectural partner. We built numerous forts in the Chihuahuan desert behind our homes, hand picked and carried fossils locked in limestone to outline the perimeters of our dwellings and decorated the inner landscape with latticed cholla wood, desert wildflowers and feathers. Over forty years ago we must have innately known a dwelling is not just about visual aesthetics, but one that appeals to all of the senses."

Janiece likes to think of her home as an extension of the outdoors and strives to bring as much of it inside as possible through the use of plants, natural objects, and artwork, much of which she and her life partner, Eddie Abraham, have painted. Abraham is a painter and sculptor whose works portray animals and the outdoors through the brilliant use of vibrant color. Janiece's own paintings depict Native American women and usually incorporate her favorite outdoor creature, the hummingbird.

In 2004, when a female black-chinned hummingbird built her nest outside of Janiece's front door, a love for the species blossomed. Since then, Janiece has been passionate about hummingbirds and has created a beautiful garden that attracts the tiny creatures with feeders and a variety of native plants. Watching and photographing the birds (a gallery of favorite hummingbird images that Janiece has photographed decorates the home) now occupies a lot of her free time, as there is no place she would rather be than out in her garden. But with a generous spirit, Janiece is always eager and willing to share the birds’ beauty as she opens her home to guests.

When she is not in her garden, Janiece's other favorite outdoor spot is the Gila Wilderness. Her love for the Gila began at age 19, when she spent two-and-a-half months living there in a tent by herself. Janiece's view of the natural world can be summed up in the words of well-known environmentalist Baba Dioum: "In the end we will conserve only what we love. We will love only what we understand. We will understand only what we are taught."

Janiece’s love for the outdoors also shaped her personal style, which is reflected throughout her home. In the very center of the home is a courtyard aviary, so full of light and plants that it feels like you’re outdoors. A spiral staircase in the courtyard leads to a balcony overlooking the master bedroom, which features a beautiful rustic log bed that, once again, brings the outdoors inside. Above the bed hangs an antique Navajo blanket that was her grandmother’s, and in the corner of her room stands a kiva fireplace which adds warmth to the room, even when there is no fire in it.

Janiece's affinity for Mexican decor is showcased in her kitchen which is ornately decorated with colorful tile, picturesque retables, and tiny Milagros—religious folk charms—that cover the fronts of her drawers. "I just love the style of Mexican religious art," says Janiece.

Moroccan art also graces Janiece's home; an intricately painted Moroccan ceiling panel features prominently in her living room. Other uniquely Moroccan pieces that find a harmonious place in Janiece's home are chandeliers, hand-painted wood panels, henna lamps, kilim rugs, tagines, vases, and carved mirrors.

Every corner of her home has something interesting to look at: a rustic piece of furniture or unique door, beautiful wrought iron, and pots, statues, or artwork by Rudy Montoya, one of Janiece's favorite El Paso artists. Brick floors, red walls, candles galore, and an abundance of wood throughout the home give it a rich, warm, inviting feeling of welcome.

Janiece says that the children's book The Salamander Room by Anne Mazer is the perfect illustration of how she likes to envision her home. In the book, a little boy invites all sorts of plants, animals, and outdoor elements into his room in order to make his pet salamander feel at home, until it is really no longer his room, but an outdoor space with his bed in its midst. For Janiece, that would be paradise.

Janiece's Hummingbird Feeder Recipe

One part sugar (white cane sugar only)
Four parts water
Change the water every 2-3 days during hot weather.
Do not use honey, brown sugar, molasses, artificial substitutes, or red food coloring.


Artwork and Accessories
El Paso Import Co.

Galeria San Ysidro

Just Morocco

Tazi Designs

Forja Artesanal

West Studio

El Paso Saddleblanket

Casa Mexicana Tile


For more local resources, please visit the Su Casa Resource Guide here.