Post-flood thunderheads

Dianne Ross photo


As my post from last week looked at the partnership of beauty and chaos, and as the flood waters recede, the people of Iowa find ourselves seeing more and more of these exact images.  2000 homes have been condemed. 20,000 volunteers have been diligent in their efforts.                 

                     Devastation and recovery.  Darkness and light. Yin and Yang.

The clouds put on quite a performance as I was driving back into Cedar Rapids last Friday.   As sunset approached I shot the schizophrenic thunderheads in their confused glory. One side was sugar white, fluffy, fairytale clouds full of hope and the other was as black as a betrayed heart, fearful, saturated with doom and gloom.  Once again nature was showing all sides of the argument simultaneously like a couple of innocent children in the backseat punching each other. And if the enormous size of the visual battle wasn’t enough, Mother Earth wasn’t quite satsified with her bedazzled sunset. She added a Bobby Flay Throw-down sunbeam! 

            What does any of this have to do with interior design, you ask?

Well . . .  nothing.  Almost nothing.  But, whenever something grabs your attention because of the seeming paradox, pay attention. It’s all there: color, proportion, texture, continuity, beauty, catastrophe, drama, awe, contrast and balance. Odd bedfellows indeed, but a visual and emotional Throw-down, a real feast. You might even shoot a photo out the car window while driving down Interstate 380!

To be continued . . .


Dianne Ross / Interior Designer

Phelan’s Interiors






Brian Ray Photo


Hello everybody! Wow – what a week.


 While eyes from all over the country were following our weather pattern and devastation via the news, I got caught up on viewing the story through photographs. The reason for that is because I left town Thursday afternoon. I got outta Dodge.

My week away from Cedar Rapids was , in fact, planned and on the schedule. I have a nephew moving from St. Louis to Austin.  So my sister and I had planned a road trip in her packed, stuffed-to-the max car to get some of his belongings to Texas.

Then the rains began. I got out before 380 was closed. We had great weather on the road, but visually, I was out of contact with Cedar Rapids. People from all over the country were calling my cell phone and checking in on Cedar Rapids and my family. To all of you – thanks for your thoughts and prayers.

 I selected this photo taken in Coralville for the beauty found in chaos and crisis. The juxtaposition of beauty and nightmare are captured perfectly – and that’s how the week played out for many Iowans. They stood shoulder to shoulder and helped each other through it – and are working still.

 All of you are in my thoughts and prayers.


Dianne Ross / Interior Designer

Phelan’s Interiors


WHAT THE HECK IS WENGE?! Furniture trends continued


 This WENGE is an old post, but beause it gets so many hits I’m sending it over the waves one more time!




According to Wikipedia, the word wenge, (pronounced ‘whenj’) when referring to color means a rich brown color with copper undertones.


According to most Iowans, however it is a word pronounce ‘when-gay’ and refers to a piece of furniture or a wood finish color.


Now it gets even more confusing because wenge is a wood color and it is an actual wood species. First things first: The furniture industry has identified the color as nearly black, in other words, ‘espresso’. So, now you need to know your coffee colors in order to describe the object of your desire. Remember it is the color of espresso, not latte, not cappuccino.


 Ready for more international brain teasing? Guess where it comes from.  Sounds rather French, but if you guessed that you’d be wrong. (Well, not all wrong if you are remembering the Republique d Zaire`. But you probably aren’t thinking that.)  It is indigenous to small African countries, such as Zaire. Even the name of Zaire adds to the global mystic of wenge when you consider it derives from the Portuguese. And by the way, the correct Latin name for wood species is Leguminosae.


Meanwhile, back in Cedar Rapids, Iowa, we carry a handsome furniture line from Italy. Calligaris. This fine company has all the wenge you could ever want! Calligaris specializes in clean, uninterrupted lines. Very fresh, sleek, and modern.


So, to continue with one more furniture trend for 2008, I give you a Calligaris contemporary bedroom setting (above photo). Best of all, I give you WENGE! 


Now, I’m off to sign up for a geography class and get my passport re-newed.

 I’m thinking I should hit Starbucks on the way.





Dianne Ross / Interior Designer

Phelan’s Interiors