A little this and a lot of that

Michael and Meryl Joblin and a few of the five standard poodles they have in their home in Birchrunville, PA. ( David Swanson / Staff Photographer )

What's interesting about the things regular folks do with their homes is not so much the end result - though that can often evoke pea-green envy - but the process they follow to get there.

Some people plan. They look at every magazine and website. They plot, down to the last lamp, how their living room will look.

Others dumpster-dive. How their bedrooms look depends on whether it rains on trash night and who won the fight about tossing Aunt Bessie's favorite chair.

And then, there are folks like Michael and Meryl Joblin of Birchrunville, Chester County. Their process?

"Everything for me is synchronicity," says Meryl, 58, who sells real estate but whose real passions, besides her adult children, are fiber art and the couple's five standard French poodles.

An example of this synchronicity? She used the bathroom at a kitchen showroom, and when she came out asked whether the 8-foot-by-8-foot white contemporary Provincial built-in sink unit was for sale. "Everything is for sale," the sales guy said. So she bought it.

Serendipity also has a part in the Joblins' process - that's how they ended up in Birchrunville in the first place. They were taking a ride, got lost, and spotted a house they fell in love with. So they bought it.

They sold that house many years later, says Michael, 61, and moved to Florida with the thought of retiring. (He had worked 30 years in retail as a pharmacist.) But while they were still in Birchrunville, they had bought a 150-plus-year-old, one-bedroom home that they rented out.

After deciding they were too young to retire after all, the Joblins moved back north a few years later.

"We owned this little house . . . we decided to build an addition," Michael says.

That three-story addition, connected by a bridge to the older part of the house, stands 32 feet high - no attempt has been made to span the eras.

The vintage structure has been upgraded with new windows, floors, plumbing, electrical service, and septic system - but not much else.

Meryl uses the upstairs as her fiber-art work area. It's nice, she says, because she can leave a mess with no worries about anyone seeing it. Michael envisions a caretaker living there when they get older.

She acted as general contractor for the addition; during the three months it was being built, Michael stayed in Florida with the dogs.

On the first level is a great room encompassing the kitchen and an eating and living area. It is infused with light - so much so, Meryl says, that they often don't need to turn on the lights.

"We took a lot of our ideas from Florida," says Michael. "We wanted bigger. In Florida, we got used to that."

On the second floor is a loft trimmed with wrought iron, a reading area in which two red leather chairs balance either end. Behind the balcony is a guest room and bathroom.

And on the third level, measuring no larger than 8 feet square, is an observatory, complete with telescope. Each upper level offers a panoramic view of the downstairs and the surrounding outside vistas.

But with this construction, the planning pretty much ended, and the synchronicity took over. Meryl again found herself in the right spot at the right time when she discovered showroom-sample kitchen cabinets and counters.

"We built around the kitchen," she says. "What we like are overstocks."

The kitchen's backsplash, also an overstock, is mosaic tile, cobalt blue flecked in copper. Michael installed it and used what was left over around the doorway leading to the bridge between the old and new buildings.

The Joblins' style preference is "totally eclectic," Meryl says. Red leather furniture with Oriental rugs. Pieces of her art, as well as the work of artists in Florida and elsewhere. Lots of cut flowers.

"We buy what we like," Michael says.

In the bathroom with that white contemporary sink unit, Meryl shows off other examples of the couple's creativity - such as the shower-stall floor, where she created a riverbed of ceramic tile resembling stones.

"I am really happy with that," she says.

And on the wall, a nearly full-length mirror has a frame made from leftover floorboards.

"You can have high-end design on a budget," she says. "We are blessed with imagination."

Their 1,600-square-foot home is still a few months away from completion. A comfortable wrap-around porch leads from the Joblins' bedroom into the backyard - perfect for the pups - but much of the landscaping still needs to be done on the 1.5-acre property.

Michael seems eager to get out of the house. "As soon as it's finished, I'm going back to work," he says.

Meryl readily admits that time is a necessary ingredient in her interior-decorating process. But she also says she seems to have a sixth sense about finding the right item, at the right price.

"I could be riding in the car, and a little voice tells me, 'Make a right.' Honest to God. [And there is a store that] has exactly what I need. . . ."

"I never go the same way twice," she says. "You never know what is going to come up."

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