When you first enter the beautifully crafted cedar doors to Talus Rock, you’ll probably notice what looks like an eclectic, globally-inspired boutique of bracelets, trinkets, dolls, handmade jewelry, and clothing to your left. At first glance—like me—you might think this is an ordinary kind of gift shop, a collection, perhaps, put together by Heather so that guests might take home a pretty souvenir that documents their stay. You’ll notice the colorful handmade blouses, bejeweled bracelets, silk scarves, silver rings, tiny marble crosses, small elephant statues, hand-painted wooden boxes, and hand-bound leather journals, all arranged carefully and thoughtfully around the table for the guests to see. If Heather Pedersen herself has greeted you at the door, you might tell her how beautiful her selection of ethnically-inspired items are and ask if they are locally made. She will, of course, tell you they are, but not from here.
You might decide to look closer, and when you do, you’ll see a little sign posted there that changes everything you know about this luxurious, Tuscan-inspired mountain home.
The sign, featuring three photographs of children from different villages around Asia, tells the brief story of Talus Rock’s connection to the International Children’s Network through the items on the tables: “Not only are these treasures unique and hand-crafted by Phillipine, East Indian, and African women and children (and especially beautiful because of that fact),” the sign reads, “but your purchases will help orphaned and at-risk kids attend school through the university or trade school level. Pretty cool, huh?” I ask Heather about this, and she tells me that ICN, a primarily volunteer-based organization with a less than 3% overhead budget, seeks to help sponsor at-risk and orphaned children around the globe by helping them secure an education. Profits raised through these small purchases at Talus Rock go directly to ICN and to the children that Heather and her family have met in their extensive travels auditioning children for the Matsiko World Orphan Choir.
When I first inquired about Talus Rock as a possible place for my husband and I to spend our one year wedding anniversary while vacationing in northern Idaho, I’d known nothing of it other than it was a gorgeous and popular destination wedding location just a mile from downtown Sandpoint. Until I met with Heather, though, learned about her extraordinary work with the Matsiko World Orphan Choir as International Director for Asia, and stayed at her majestic home as a guest, I could never have imagined how far guests’ contributions can go when they stay here. For one, the money the Pedersens raise from their guests spreads outward: not only does it help support the ongoing mission of Talus Rock, but it also goes directly to fund the select missions that they support and helps offset the travel expenses associated with Heather’s work with overseas orphans and the Matsiko Choir. Secondly, it also goes to their nonprofit start-up BookCrossing.com, which is essentially the world’s largest free book club and online community of readers from all over the world.
This isn’t to say, though, that the simple experience of coming to the retreat isn’t enough of an experience in itself. It most certainly is. Spread over 18 acres and a one-acre pond, Talus Rock’s six-suite retreat is the collaboration of both Heather and her husband Bruce and the many local artisans, architects, designers, and builders who put their ideas and hands into the construction of the property. And, of course, Talus Rock wouldn’t be what it is without the work of the many artists around the world whose work has come to find a home here. The interior itself—in addition to a number of awesome thrift stores finds—is a collection of tin ceilings, Indian silk paintings, exposed timber and cedar walls and scaffoldings, natural-cut fireplace, numerous bookshelves, Mexican tiles, hand-crafted mosaics, stained glass windows, a stainless steel kitchen in an open-concept living area, and a lot of unusual and eclectic details. Each room, three of which are named after each one of the Pederson’s children—Kipling, Rio, and Selkirk—and two which are named after Idaho’s state flower (Syringa) and their love of trees (Arbor), is distinctly different from the others, its own collection of design, thoughtfulness, and creativity.
As we’re doing a quick tour of Talus Rock, Heather and I talk about everything, from where we’re from to how we decided to pursue our passions to what led us each to northern Idaho. We talk about our international travels, our love for Asian cuisine, and our hopes to make real impacts with our work and our privilege. We look at the paddleboats out on the one-acre pond, the backdrop of many stunning destination weddings. Heather tells me that one of her favorite parts of running Talus Rock is hosting weddings because the house literally fills with joy, excitement, and expectation. We tell her a little bit about our wedding last summer and how far we’ve come in just one year. She tells us, with a glowing smile, that she is surprising us with two tickets to Lake Pend Oreille Cruises’ evening dessert and eagle-watching cruise.
We finally settle in to our room, the Syringa Suite, one of the two gorgeous ground-floor suites, and Heather leaves us to open the bottle of wine my parents sent as a surprise anniversary gift.
We take two hand-blown wine glasses and the bottle out to the private wraparound deck overlooking the pond and the forest and make a toast to the past, the present, and for what’s to come. (Tip: Make sure the sprinklers aren’t on (or close to coming on) when you go sit outside for a romantic moment or you might accidentally get soaked….I only mention this because, well, let’s just say we didn’t leave the patio dry). The Suite feels like an unexpectedly perfect mash-up of romantic Tuscany and rustic log cabin: from a full stainless steel kitchen crafted in elegant cedar to the mosaic-tiled shower (which Heather did herself, I’d later learn), there are details everywhere that will remind you how exceptional this place is.
If I could only choose one word that would describe this eclectically elegant and globally inspired home designed and built by Bruce and Heather Pedersen, the choice would be easy. It would be, purely and simply, love. Love because my husband and I celebrated our first year of marriage here inside these walls. Love because Heather and Bruce poured over two decades of blood, sweat, and tears into creating this majestic place and are raising their three extraordinary children here. Love because the work the Pedersons do with the International Children’s Network and the Matsiko World Orphan Choir is priceless. Love because I have grown so fond of northern Idaho, as Ryan and I come here every summer to reunite with the family and spend a week on the lake. Love because even the entangled trees in the middle of the Great Room literally embody the notion of love, because the family fell in love with it so much during the construction of their home that they could not bear to cut it down.
Love, above all, because no other word describes the feeling you’ll get driving through the forested roads and seeing, for the first time, what Heather calls her “love letter and retreat to serve those who serve others.”
Talus Rock Retreat
291 Syringa Heights Rd, Sandpoint, ID 83864
Prices for Talus Rock vary depending on the type of room: rates start at $185 for the Kipling Room (queen-sized bed, 2-person occupancy) to the Grand Arbor and Syringa Suites, which run $275. To book, you can call Heather directly at 208-255-8458 or book online here. If you go, tell Heather I said hello!
**For more information on the many charities that Talus Rock supports through the money they raise by hosting guests, please take a look at the following sites:
*Kiva* (connecting people through lending to alleviate poverty)
*BookCrossing* (making the world a library by sharing books and promoting literacy in third world countries)
*International Children’s Network* (providing aid to children in third world countries to help educate through the university level to change a country from the inside out)
*The Luke Commission* (offering health care to those in the rural areas of Swaziland and southern Africa to battle AIDS)
Article and all photographs by Kristin Winet.
A special thanks to Heather Pederson at Talus Rock Retreat and Lake Pend Oreille Cruises for hosting my stay.