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!

“It was hot and it was dangerous…”

Chateau Duffy 2015 took place over Easter, but before we share our stories from that trip, Texan Wes Lane had chance to share what Chateau Duffy has meant to him when he visited London in February earlier this year. 

When did you first visit France?

I’ve been twice, in 2012 and 2013. In February 2012, I’d met Shannon in Kerville, Texas. She brought up the opportunity and said it was going to be over Easter. I said, “Absolutely! I need that. I need to go on a sabbatical.” My wife and family were very supportive because they knew I needed time away as I’d just gone through some pretty rough times. I got to Saint Denis des Murs and was transformed immediately.

Happy workers

Happy workers at Chateau Duffy (it must be champagne o’clock!). Spot Wes in a fetching blue hard hat. April 2013.

What were your first impressions?

It was the first time I’d been there. I arrived at the gites, and Chris [Duffy] and Carl [Gordon] and I drove to the house and it was in shambles. All the tiles had been taken off the roof. Our job was to clean out what was the barn, which was packed full of rotten hay and wooden burn. And it was falling down, and it was dangerous. I was like, this is great. So we built scaffolding. We proceeded to take off the old the wood rafters and beams. During the week we took all the old stuff out and put all new stuff in. Then put new plywood down and out rain proofing on top of the plywood and really started to make something take shape.

Can you talk a little more about your time there?

It was so refreshing for me. It renewed me in a way that I didn’t know I needed to be renewed. Being able to be out of an office working with my hands, cutting lumber, building scaffolding… It was hot, it was dangerous, it was a lot of heavy lifting and a lot of climbing. When I got back, I hurt every day. I ached but it was a good pain – like I’d accomplished something. Bodily I hurt but mentally I felt better than ever.

I thought it was once in a lifetime chance. But every time I am mentally renewed, physically drained, but, again, I couldn’t have a better experience.

Shifting dirt, again.

Digging the dirt. Again. And again. And again.

What did you make of those long communal meals?

It was rebuilding time. Spiritually, mentally, physically. I lost 15 pounds during the trip although I ate more than I’d ever eaten. There was fresh bread for breakfast and fresh sandwiches for lunch. Amazing dinners.

Did your family join you?

[They joined me] on the second journey. On that trip the children turned 4 and 9. Austin, who is now 10, had his birthday meal at the base of the Eiffel Tower. I said, from now on we have a very high standard to meet for birthday presents. How does it get better than that?!

Happy 4th birthday Max!

Celebrating Max’s 4th birthday at ‘Shadow Duffy’.

Max turned 4 that trip. He had this birthday at the gites. It was wonderful! He still talks about it. One of the presents from the group was a French Spider Man comic book written completely in French. He cherishes it. It sits next to his bed. He keeps trying to have it translated but I don’t read French… He talks about Shadow Duffy because he does not understand ‘chateau’. It was a great experience.

That year we had a full-time au pair that took care of the children every day. There were four or five children there and they got on amazingly well. It was British kids and American kids. Austin and Max still talk about their friends who live in London.

The crew

The crew. Spot Wes in the back row, second from the left.

Interview by Svetlana Graudt

Photos by Liz Clutterbuck

Cameron’s Chateau Duffy Experience

So, What was been happening.

A lot, is the short answer.

In this post, I am going to write about my time at Chateau Duffy.

One of the highlights, PUPPIES!

One of the highlights, PUPPIES!

Any time you are offered the opportunity to go to France, say yes, at least that’s what I do, not that the opportunity does come along that often. My journey to Chateau Duffy was a long one. I took the bus overnight to Paris and then a train to Limoges, both were surprisingly nice. I especially enjoyed getting to watch the sun rise on the ferry crossing.

Admittedly, by the time I got to the gite even my young college age body was exhausted (hey, I had been awake for almost 36 hours). But, only a fool would not take the opportunity to run around and play some Frisbee and football (proper football, not this ridiculous American thing where your feet don’t do anything). The week frankly, was an opportunity for me to run around and enjoy physical labor.

As humans, we for some reason, benefit by being active. Obviously, there are health benefits, but I think our souls are refreshed by a good days labor. Having a week of mixing concrete, assembling scaffolding, and all the other things I got to do was a wonderful reset.

I even got to see a 2CV!

I even got to see a 2CV!

Greenbelt – 2014

This last weekend, I went to a festival called Greenbelt. It was awesome.

That’s all.

Greenbelt Pano


Okay, I do have some more about it.

First, let me start with the weather. It was a peculiar mix of cold, warm, and wet. Frankly it was mostly cold and wet. Being that it is England in the summer, inevitably, it rained. The first couple days were nice and dry, but then it got cloudy, then cloudy turned to misty, then misty just never went away. Literally, it just never stopped misting. I don’t want to sound like I am just whinging about this, because I really enjoyed the rain, right up until I fell in the mud, coating my side in very clingy mud. From then on, I simply survived the cold.

The location was truly amazing. I hadn’t been to a home like this since I was a small child. Now, as a point of reference, this estate had 100 acres of landscaped lawn (pause and let that sink in), and then there is all the non-landscaped land. And most of all to this Californian, the grass was this strange color that I have heard of, but never witnessed, it was green, fields of green grass!

Greenbelt House

Now to the festival itself. I really enjoyed the mix of people. Greenbelt does a good job of bringing together people from different views or sects, but in general the common theme is that people are not interested in why they are different to each other, but instead focus on what unites them. I really enjoyed getting to see the community and conversations which were brought about.

The talks also covered an astonishing range of topics. I got to hear talks about steps for university students to talk to influence their universities, the Israel-Palastine conflict, and stain glass in old churches. Many of the talks took on a somewhat lecture-like structure (given if my professors were this throughout provoking, my grades would likely be better) and many others were panels often filled with people of differing opinions.

Since many of the people involved, and especially the vendors, seemed to be what in America would be classed as reformed-hippies the things you would buy were stellar. I loved the creativity that some of the vendors used to avoid using plastic bags (sewing their own cheap cloth bags or making them out of newspaper).

Most of all what stuck with me was the last point. Greenbelt brings together a group of people that dream, and then take the steps necessary to move towards that. The results aren’t perfect, but the focus on improving is palpable.