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!

This thing called Chateau Duffy…

So here’s a question: would you pay £300 for the privilege of being a manual labourer for a week? Would you travel to a foreign country with a bunch of people you don’t know to renovate a house belonging to someone you haven’t met? Would you work hard, stretch muscles, gain bruises, lose sleep all for the possibility of a real holiday some time in the distant future?

And, having done all of that, would you enthusiastically sign up to do it all over again?

As crazy as it might seem, that’s the story of Chateau Duffy, Matryoshka Haus’ oddest project yet. Over the last year a rag-tag bunch of disparate Americans and Brits have trekked off to rural France to work on renovating a 400-year-old French farmhouse and barn; one that has been derelict for the last 150 years!

So far 26 of us have made the trip (27 if you count baby J!), every one of us volunteering our time as a builder and labourer. And most of us paying for that privilege! We have worked and sweated to rig scaffolding, move tiles, point walls, raise beams, cut grass and generally (wo)manned-up to the task. Even though the vast majority of us have had no clue what we were doing…

Yes, Rachel is sweeping the roof.

It might sound crazy to you, but it has been a lot of fun. Having made the trip three times myself, I can say there is a huge sense of achievement when looking at the barn roof, now rebuilt and water-tight (for the 1st time in many a long year). Even if I get nothing more from Chateau Duffy, being able to say “we did that” is pretty-darned-awesome…

Chateau Duffy is ready & waiting for more work

But of course we get a lot more from Chateau Duffy than that.

We get a week in the French sunshine (and rain). We get copious amounts of wine, bread and cheese. We get long days of hard work yes, but days full of laughter and real fellowship. Just read back at some of the stories in this blog if you don’t believe me…

We will all also get the right to stay in the completed Chateau Duffy in the future, as a reward for our labours. Chris Duffy, owner of this romantic pile of old French rock and tile, is promising us all weeks in this future holiday home in return for our weeks of work. And having enjoyed the delights of St Denis des Murs a few times now, I have to say I’m looking forward to that!

Call it madness or method, we are heading back to Chateau Duffy next spring. We have a large gite reserved and a website ready to take bookings. With the barn roof finished, this time we hope will bring a real sense of progress – the beginnings of the transformation from barn to (holiday) home.

Eric, our builder, and Carl, our architect – two crazily-committed Texan professionals, are keen to return. So is Mr Richard, the amazing chef from our adventures last Easter. But that still gives us plenty of space for friends old and new. Will you join us?

Food, friends and France - what's not to like?

Looking back & looking ahead

Summer may have only ended a month ago, but already it feels like a distant memory. What’s also a distant memory is the last post on this blog! Last time we were here, we were recounting our Texan adventures of May and June. Since then, we’ve had an entire summer of fun, including a third trip to Chateau Duffy.

We will aim to fill in some of the blanks, but in the mean time, the most important thing is the dramatic transformation of the Chateau Duffy roof that took place in just a few short days:

How the house looked upon our return.

What it looked like when we left.

And, even more importantly, stay tuned for details of how you could become involved in our next trip. Nothing makes autumn more bearable than planning a spring holiday…

Prayers for a proposal

Since Christmas, the working group has been meeting in a cafe in the heart of the City of London, discussing and devising a proposal to the Church of England for the building that could be Matroyshka Haus’ home.

Hours have been spent writing drafts, concocting spreadsheets and sending emails – this weekend will see the final proof-reading of the document, ready to be sent to the Diocese of London on Monday morning. Please pray for energy, wisdom and agreement amongst the volunteers working on this! We would really like the document to be the best reflection of who we are, why we feel this building could be our home and why the Church of England should support us.

Please also pray for what happens next:

  • For wisdom and understanding on the part of those who will receive the proposal and pass it on to others.
  • For a favourable response to its contents.
  • For a speedy response and an opportunity to meet with the key individuals in the very near future.
  • For the funds we need to make this project possible.
It’s at times like this when our community ties are most evident. Even though we’re not all in the same country, we’re still working hard on this together – today there have been phone calls from Alaska and emails from Boston, as well as communication between those in London. It feels as though this journey towards a home is bringing the community closer together…