John and Maria Jacobs’ Birchrunville Home Is a Natural Paradise

A nature-inspired color palette and related decor at the Jacobs’ Birchrunville home features pops of quirk and personality around each corner.

A vast accent wall in the master bedroom displays various tokens from the Jacobs’ international travels. (Photo by John Lewis)
Ten years later, Maria Jacobs clearly recalls how the listing spoke to her. Her husband, however, wasn’t so sure. “The house is on a dirt road,” says Jacobs. “That made John not even want to see it.”

It took one visit to the Birchrunville property—with its partially wooded five acres and pond—to sell these nature enthusiasts and co-owners of Somerset Nursery, a garden center with locations in Glenmoore and Zionsville. “My husband grew up in the business, and he has a wealth of knowledge,” says Jacobs.

At home, the couple grows many of the same plants they sell. “It’s one thing to see the plant in the nursery in a pot,” says Jacobs. “I literally can walk through my yard and know how big the plant gets and be able to tell our customers. They appreciate that.”

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The Jacobs tend to shy away from fussy gardens, sticking with unique specimen plantings. Jacobs is also a competitive floral designer and an artist who works with organic material. Her pieces are featured annually at the Philadelphia Flower Show. To fit this year’s British theme, she designed a high-heel shoe for Princess Kate made from botanical ingredients. “I walk the woods and find things that could be used for something else,” she says. “Once you start this, you never look at nature quite the same.”

So, naturally, the fact that the grounds of the Jacobs’ new home had existing mature plantings was another bonus. “Our business keeps us very busy, so we didn’t want to have to start from scratch,” Jacobs says.

Inside the house, the previous owners favored impressive finishes like crown molding and Brazilian cherry wood floors. The Jacobs’ love of nature is apparent in the various artwork and accessories throughout the home—like a side table made from a Chinese tree root and a meticulously detailed carving of a team of horses.

The two-story great room, with its impressive floor-to-ceiling fieldstone fireplace, made the Jacobs want to move on the spot. Tons of natural sunlight comes by way of an unexpected window in the fireplace, plus French doors on either side. “As soon as we saw that room, we knew this was the right house for us,” says Jacobs.

The couple also loves the idyllic, historic village of Birchrunville. Home to the acclaimed Birchrunville Store Café, the hamlet has retained the undisturbed charm of past eras. The one-lane dirt road once considered a possible deterrent has become a welcomed feature. “It’s an opportunity to pull over and talk to your neighbors,” says Jacobs.

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Having to pick up the mail at the post office leads to plenty of chance meetings. Horses and horse-drawn carriages are also common modes of transportation. “It’s so picturesque here,”  Jacobs says.

The morning after a snowfall last year, Jacobs took a picture of her property and posted it on Facebook. Someone from California messaged her for permission to paint the image. An artist herself, Jacobs couldn’t refuse.

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The Jacobs moved to Birchrunville from Glenmoore almost 10 years ago, and they’ve had to do little more than paint since then. Still, they had to compromise when it came to interior design. While Jacobs likes early-American furniture and accessories, her spouse leans toward the contemporary. That explains the home’s eclectic feel. “I like old things, and my husband likes more modern things,” she says. “We meet in Asia.”

When traveling to Asia and other overseas destinations, the couple typically picks up a few things—like the gold-leaf bust of a Buddha from Thailand that sits on the staircase landing. “We call him ‘Bobblehead Buddha,’” says Jacobs. “Seriously though, I thought it was so peaceful when I saw it.”

Most imposing is the life-size teak Trojan horse on the landing leading into the great room. “We were in Asia with my father-in-law, and we saw this horse and three others being made,” Jacobs recalls. “We bought them all with the intention of selling them, but I decided to keep one for our home.”

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Fortunately, the great room is vast enough to accommodate the horse, as well as a pool table, leather sectional and chair, and a coffee table. “My nieces and nephews tease us because we don’t have a big-screen television in this room,” says Jacobs. “We didn’t think it was necessary. We primarily use this room when we entertain.”

Also large is the first-floor master suite, with a seating area around the fireplace and ample built-ins to display more Asian treasures. French doors lead to a private patio with perfect views. “I love that the house has more than 100 windows, and that it’s so open and light,” says Jacobs. “We’re married to this area. We have no desire to be anywhere else.”

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