The Star Tribune and US Federal Credit Union have teamed up to sponsor a $500 room makeover contest. (Two runners up will win $100 each.) To enter, all you have to do is submit a photo of the makeover-ready room. Photos are due by 9 a.m. on April 2. Online voting, which starts April 5, will narrow the pack to the top 25. Voting for the top 25 begins on April 15, and the grand prize winner and the runners up will be selected in this round. The rules are simple: One photo per entry, one entry person. You don't need to buy anything or even write anything. Just send us a picture -- in good taste, of course -- that shows the one bad-taste room in your house.


Clean living

On the market one week and targeted at consumers whose families eat on the couch as much as in the dining room: "Slobproof! With Crypton" furniture. The 10-piece line of a sectional, couch, chaise, chairs and ottoman are sheathed in Crypton, which keeps moisture, mold and mildew from getting below the surface. Its manufacturer has other lines of furniture, but Slobproof! is its first designed by Debbie Wiener, whose "Slob Proof! Real-Life Design Solutions" was published in 2008. Good news for extra-messy eaters: The company said the stain-resistant pieces also eliminate household germs when used with its disinfectand/deoderizer. The line, with customizable patterns and solids, was introduced at the Architectural Digest Home Design Show to the trade in New York. Pieces range in price from $165 for the round "Howard's End" Table to $2,799 for a sectional; chars start at $579, but shipping is extra; at this point they are available online only at


Designers disunite Two of the Twin Cities' best-known names in interior design will sever their partnership April 1. Andrew Flesher, the heir apparent at GunkelmanFlesher Interior Design, will leave the venerable firm April 1 to launch his own company, Andrew Flesher Interior Design. He'll continue to divide his time between New York City and Minneapolis, he said, and is looking for office space in downtown Minneapolis.

Why is he leaving his local launching pad? "I wanted to create something for myself," he said. "I was feeling too settled in and wanted to challenge myself to run a company."

The move, which set the Twin Cities design world buzzing, leaves Tom Gunkelman, 80, without an obvious successor. Five years ago, when he named Flesher vice president and added his name to the firm, Gunkelman said he'd been looking for a partner for several years but that "Andrew was the first one who met my criteria." Flesher was named one of the country's top 25 designers by House Beautiful, and has appeared on several HGTV shows.

Yet Gunkelman, who's considered the dean of design locally, said he wasn't surprised by Flesher's decision. "I've known all along he wanted to have his own company. It was just a matter of time."

Losing Flesher doesn't affect his own plans, Gunkelman said. "We're still going full force. We're not looking to replace him. We don't need to. We have four other designers." (Not counting Gunkelman himself.) The firm will go back to using its original name, Gunkelmans Interior Design, he said.

And while Flesher will now be his competitor rather than his protege, Gunkelman said, "We're still friends."

The divorce was amicable, Flesher agreed. "Tom and I have had such a great run. He's been such a great mentor to me. We will continue to be the best of friends."