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The "man cave" for the Mulkeys' son used reclaimed wood to add a rustic feel to the room. The wall-to-wall closet doors are made of the aged pine. The "man cave" for the Mulkeys' son used reclaimed wood to add a rustic feel to the room. The wall-to-wall closet doors are made of the aged pine.

Last year before the holidays, Kennedale homeowners Stephanie and Greg Mulkey were enjoying their son's passage through high school.  

"We thought that one of the best tangible gifts we could give him would be a 'man's cave' where he could experience some daily 'down time' after high school," said the Mulkeys.  

They enlisted the help of Plano-based interior designer Susie Samuels and Grand Prairie-based home remodeler Bruce Graf.  Both professionals worked together to showcase the Mulkeys' collected treasures and weave those into a renovated upstairs suite infused with a casual country design.  Susie reminded the Mulkeys that these four years of high school will fly by fast and that college years would zip by at lightning speed.  

"Bruce and I envisioned a sustainable design that would go beyond high school and college years.  We wanted the suite to be fun for their teenage son now and transition into a weekend destination as he bridged over to adulthood.  We also included elements of aging-in-place, such as walk-in showers and low lit counter space which brings added value to their investment should the Mulkeys want to enjoy the upstairs suite in their later years, said Susie.  

"Good design is an organic process that starts with listening to every detail the client mentions," says designer Susie Samuels.  When speaking with the Mulkeys, it was evident that they liked old things and cherished the family relationships inherent in those artifacts.  The principal heirloom that was repurposed into three different rooms was reclaimed wood with an interesting history.  Stephanie was given a dilapidated barn made of yellow pine.  The wood from the barn at one time graced the original schoolhouse in Mineral Wells, making it a gift that was approximately 100 years old.  

"What most people don't realize is that old barns require lots of sweat equity to dig, dismantle and salvage as much wood as possible," said Bruce.  

As a trio, Susie, Stephanie, and Bruce invested a day's work to make that happen.  The results speak for themselves.  Stephanie Mulkey looks back on this experience with all smiles.  

"The day we salvaged the wood from the barn was one of the best memories of my life, and I have it in my home to forever remember.  You know, people may invest in any contractor or remodeler, but what will that investment give them?" Stephanie asked.  "I know it gave us more than just an awesome outcome." 

Speaking of history, it's worth noting that Susie and Bruce are an interior designer and home remodeler duo that have been working together for five years, but have known each other for 30 years. 

"We've developed a chemistry where we talk in shorthand to each other which ultimately translates into high efficiency and lower costs for the customer," said Susie. 

Bruce was quick to point out that besides converting old wood into good-looking timber, they both pride themselves in fitting LED lighting within their remodeling projects. "The mix of LED lighting with reclaimed wood, together with aging-in-place upgrades, equals an environmentally friendly and sustainable home," said Bruce.  

As a sidenote, I recently caught up with Susie and Bruce.  They had just returned from visiting the Mulkeys.  It seems that extra wood from the dilapidated barn was set aside so that the designer and remodeler can begin their next project: a kitchen makeover for the Mulkeys.  

"This is and has been as exciting to me as it is rare," Susie said.  "This is what it is like working with clients as creatively brave as Stephanie and Greg."

Want to embark on a project with reclaimed wood?  Want to repurpose a room into a more usable space?  Reach out to Bruce Graf at  and Susie Samuels at 


Note: Reprinted with permission.  This article originally appeared in Candy's Dirt on 10/29/14 .