Making a house a home

Now that we have a building, we need to set about making it a home for all that we’re planning to do there. This requires resources – and this is where we would really appreciate your help. Partnering with Start Some Good, we’ve launched a crowd-funder to help us raise what’s needed to furnish and equip St Dunstan’s Wharf for our purposes.

The big problem is that the space isn’t set up for our needs. We need to fit it out with desks, furniture and storage that will enable us to work together and dream big.

This building isn’t just about the people within Matryoshka Haus, it’s about all the people with whom we have built relationships – and all those we’ve yet to meet! Having the space will enable us to do more – from more Learning Labs, to more creative thinking with new people, to a sharing of ideas and resources that will happen simply by working in the same space.

While we’ve been without a place to work together, the stream of ideas, new projects and new people coming on board has slowed. We feel like time is slipping through our fingers.

With our new space set up we know that out of it will come so many more ideas and people who will change the world. The space will be a hub for innovation, where more projects like The Truth Isn’t Sexy, Sweet Notions and The Transformational Index will be created.

Please pledge if you feel able to. As an incentive for supporting us, we’ve lined up a number of rewards that share something of our community. They include classic American and British recipes; the opportunity to share a delicious meal with others; a tour of London; a preview of Shannon’s new book; a limited edition art print; and the chance to stay in the building yourself. All of these will give you a taste of what life with Matryoshka Haus is like!

St Dunstans

A house for Matryoshka Haus

Exciting plans are afoot at Matryoshka Haus! As of the beginning of October, we have the tenancy to a property in London in which we can make a home for both our community and much of the work that we are involved with.

Finding a home has been a dream for several years – since 2011 in fact! On several occasions our hopes have been dashed, but at last we’ve found something that we think will work.

St Dunstans

St Dunstan’s Wharf is a property located on Narrow Street, right by the Thames, in the Limehouse neighbourhood of East London. The skyscrapers of Canary Wharf are just a 10 minute walk away, and the flat in Wapping that’s home for Shannon & Rachel is just over 20 minutes walk along the river. It’s a building with a lot of character (just like us!) and a huge amount of potential…

What’s it going to be used for exactly? Well, there are some concrete ideas and some less concrete. What we do know is:

  • That it will be a hub for all Matryoshka Haus activities – including community meals, meetings, training and resource planning.
  • It will be a space in which we can hold large gatherings (e.g. our regular Learning Labs and groups of visitors).
  • It will provide a workspace for those within the community who are already working on projects together, but will enable them to physically work alongside one another for the first time.
  • It will provide overnight accommodation for guests in a bedroom suite.

That’s just the start – the building has lots of possibilities! In the few weeks since we acquired it, it’s already hosted a baby shower, several overnight guests and a number of large meetings – including several with local social enterprises that we’re helping to resource. Plans are also being made for our first Thanksgiving in our own home in just a few weeks time.

It’s a fantastic space – and don’t just take my word for it – Gav, our very first overnight guest conducted a photographic tour of the building (once Shannon had rescued him from being locked in the garage!).

Gav in da hausGav’s unique take on St Dunstan’s…

We’ve still got a way to go in making the space right for us – there are tables, desks, chairs and numerous other bits and pieces that are needed to mould it to our purposes – but at least we finally have a house for Matryoshka Haus, and that is something to really celebrate!


We have now launched a crowd funder to help resource the fitting out of the building. We’d love it if you felt able to pledge your support!

Shedding snakeskins

For Rachel, Chateau Duffy is a place of retreat and reflection – which can lead to some big decisions…

Last week, I changed my surname on Facebook.

This decision was a long time coming. During the first Chateau Duffy, I was in an abusive marriage. The trip was a perfect retreat for me – surrounded by a caring, non-judgemental community, peaceful, luscious countryside, and very little responsibility. I wrestled with the idea that my marriage was nearly on the verge of killing me. I wanted it to last a lifetime and I was scared that a divorce meant I had failed, and I would be judged by the people I respected most.

That first trip convinced me that I needed counselling and medication, that I was not a failure and that there were people who might judge me – but those who truly loved me would not. This, through Matryoshka Haus, was the start of my healing.

Fast forward two years. Now divorced and frankly very happy, spending another wonderful Chateau Duffy with my beloved friends.

However, I became a little grumpy that the community still hadn’t learned to distinguish me from the ‘other’ Rachel – or was it me who was the ‘other’ Rachel? This needled me right in the insecurities. I insisted my friends call me not Rachel but my married name, Nunson, to distinguish us. Annoyingly, they all seemed reluctant.

Much later on, away from the community bustle, I considered why this might have been. Part of me thought I wanted to preserve my battle scars – a name I felt proud of. I liked the fact that it was rare.

But on the other hand, perhaps my church knew I was keeping that name as a last defence against facing the fact that I had failed in my ambition to have a lifelong marriage. Perhaps dropping that name was a final admission that I didn’t want to make. A removal of clothing that resulted in shame.

Then I remembered that the lovely Carl Gordon found a discarded snake skin in the farmhouse, and showed it to us all before throwing it away. Why would anybody hold on to an old snakeskin? It’s served its purpose. The snake is happily snaking away somewhere else with a shiny new one.

A snakeskin from the 'snakeskin loft'

 Snakeskins are discovered in the house every time we visit Chateau Duffy…

Easter time is good for resurrecting things. Coming back to life. So here friends, is the old me that I thought had died, and is now alive.

– Rachel Collinson

We’re back

Just checking in to let you know that the Chateau Duffy crew is back from their latest trip and pretty much in one piece. (There were a couple of injuries, but not hugely serious!) Well, the Brits are back – the Americans are still in transit – but the trip is over.

There’s a huge amount to say about it, not just about the construction that took place, but also the community building and relationships made – especially amongst residents of St Denis des Murs itself. This trip was something of a landmark in terms of our relationships with local residents – culminating in a great party on the site on Friday night, complete with a Chateau Duffy movie screening! (More on that later…)

Chateau Duffy April 2013This is how it looked a year ago. 

Chateau Duffy, Monday April trip

 Hard work during our first proper day on site last week. 

Chateau Duffy Thursday, April 2014Thursday morning, after the concrete flooring had gone into the house.

Chateau Duffy, Friday night, April 2014The site getting ready to party on Friday night. 

Several regulars commented that they felt it was one of the best trips we’ve had and we’ve certainly returned very keen to return this summer. Finally, it looks like the dream of making Chateau Duffy habitable might actually be realised!

Over the next couple of weeks we’ll share with you some of the stories and highlights from the trip, so stay tuned…

Gathering at Chateau Duffy again

It’s been a year since our last trip, but tomorrow sees the start of Chateau Duffy #5! In fact, a few of the crew are there already, but most arrive on Saturday for a week of hard work and good fun.

Chateau Duffy April 2013Chateau Duffy the day we left it last year, complete with new, concrete floor.

This trip has been so highly anticipated that it was fully booked last autumn. (Although, in true Matryoshka Haus fashion, some have dropped out and others have seized their places.)

What’s brilliant about Chateau Duffy is the way in which the team reflects the way in which the community has changed and grown since the last trip. So this year we have people who have only been part of the community for a few months; new partners; a Texan from the Learning Lab (lovely Brendan); and Californians met during Matryoshka Haus’ trips there last year.

The Texan crewEric, Carl & Regina en route from Texas to Paris.

While we’re there, we’ll be celebrating Easter together, which is always a very special experience – it’s up there with Thanksgiving as an important occasion to be together as a community.

There is a plan – there will be more pointing (much more pointing) and work may begin on the house next to the barn – and we’ll let you know how we get on.

In the mean time, if this makes you keen to join in the fun, you can register your interest for the summer trip here.