When Shirl Ireland and John Stacy invited us to tour their art studio and guest lodge in Gardiner, Montana, I was intrigued. Both working artists, the couple has built a studio space, gallery and guest lodge on the banks of the Yellowstone River. I envisioned a rustic, cabin-type of feel, something simple. I was not at all prepared for the stunning views of Electric Peak, the sound of the roaring river below, and the overwhelming feeling of relaxation the property provides.


Photo, Jean Modesette


The lodge has a beautiful open floorplan with big comfy couches and a well-appointment kitchen. We started the afternoon with a delightful lunch around the large dining room table as sunlight poured in, warming every bone in my body.


Photo, Jean Modesette


The lodge is mainly enjoyed by families. However, our conversation quickly turned to a brainstorming session about various retreats, conferences, or events that could be held in the space. With 5 private bedroom/bathroom suites, the lodge easily accommodates 12 guests, with room for an additional infant or toddler. Downstairs, you’ll find a comfortable game room with a pool table and bar. And for those lovely warm days, the view from the deck is none other than Yellowstone National Park where the wildlife and bird sightings are vast.



Shirl and John put careful thought into their planning and design, ensuring stunning views from every window; the landscape literally draws you in. Materials such as recycled beams and barn wood from around Montana give it a rustic, yet comfortable feel. The home feels stately, without being stuffy. The interior colors were deliberately matched to the palette of Yellowstone, and the oil paintings, bronze works, and lighting fixtures created by the couple adorn the walls.



Following lunch, we moved on to the Gallery and Studio space, which also has a guest wing with three more bedrooms and a full kitchen, dining, and living area. Like the lodge, this building is also designed using passive energy techniques. In the winter, sunlight floods each room, but in the summer, the sun doesn’t hit until late in the day, keeping the space cool.



The gorgeous gallery room is perfect for events or gatherings. We retreated for dessert, and to learn more about how the couple had brought these dreams to life. Like many people who live in Montana, it was love at first visit. Eventually, they were able to make Gardiner their permanent home.

If you haven’t spent time in this quaint mountain town, add it to your bucket list. Located at the North entrance to Yellowstone National Park, the famous Roosevelt Arch is the cornerstone of the town. Gardiner is an eclectic mix of outdoor enthusiasts, artists, and entrepreneurs—in other words, you’ll find lively conversation at the restaurants and taverns around town. Summer months bring whitewater rafting, hiking, fishing, and exploring. The road from Gardiner to Cooke City is the only road in the park open to vehicular travel year-round when the park is wearing its winter white. There are 3 hot springs in the area, and wildlife can be spotted any time of year.



This brings us back to Elk River Art, Studio and Lodge. Certain places usher in the sense of calm; this is one of those spaces. From the grand views to the cozy furniture, I found myself wanting to curl up on one of the overstuffed couches to read, nap, dream, and reminisce. I wanted to cook a big meal and surround myself with people I love. And, if I were in the market for a retreat space, this one would be well worth exploring.

To learn more, go to elkriverart.com.