Several weeks ago Charles and Jennifer Murito entertained the B. Bold team at their home over a Saturday morning favourite of scrambled eggs and salmon on toast with sparkling wine. In this informal, light setting with one of Nairobi’s most vibrant couples, we got to learn what brought them together, their love of the finer things in life and what drives their passions.
Knowing their professional and personal backgrounds it would be easy to characterize the Muritos as an ambitious, over-achieving couple at the head of their class—Charles heads the Kenya operations for Google and leads an art consortium linked to monthly auctions at the couple’s Kileleshwa-based condominium in conjunction with Dusitd2 Hotel; Jen is a former London-based model and currently the brains and beauty behind Lua Lua treats, a bespoke cake business specializing in chocolate.
But over a meal and a couple of laughs, one quickly realizes just how affable, genuinely enthusiastic and down to earth they truly are, and on a social level, how they are just the kind of neighbors you would want living next to you.
It would appear that art and creativity is what really drives Charles, perhaps equal to, or more, than the advancements in Kenya’s technological development. This is evident from the numerous paintings and works of art found throughout the home, which in turn creates the center point of Jen’s interior design palette.
So driven by this passion for art are Charles and Jen that they started hosting private art shows at their home even before their house was finished late June of last year. The shows became so successful they needed a bigger space and Dusitd2 joined as a hosting site for what is now a monthly exhibition for dozens of artists, who would otherwise not get the promotion they deserve.
“I want to give the artists a platform to showcase their work without having to pay the hefty commissions that they currently do to galleries,” says Charles. “Eventually the idea is to create a (online) platform, which will be owned by the artists. I have a basic principle of saying that we all have a responsibility to impact the communities we live in, and for me, right now, I’m using arts as that platform which helps impact people’s lives but at the same time it also showcases the talent that’s here,” says Charles.
Referencing mentors he has had in life that have helped him look beyond money for passion, Charles says, “It’s important to look at things beyond the now, because if you don’t, you never know the impact of what you’ll do later.”
Charles characterizes the good fortune of his professional life (having worked at Warner Brothers, MTV Base and Turner Broadcasting before joining Google as Country Manager two years ago) as luck, backed by unrelenting dedication.
“My life is driven by one thing…having incredible ambition and utilizing that ambition as my guiding star to get to where I want to be. My view of life is that it’s eighty percent luck and twenty percent taking advantage of those opportunities. Because, let’s be blunt, I’m not the smartest, most hardworking person I know in my life, but I’ve been very blessed, been very lucky, opportunities have come my way. But fundamentally you have to prepare yourself and that’s what separates you (from the pack).
Charles’s life story is also a romantic one, having met his lovely wife Jen in a restaurant in London and persuading her through trips to Lamu and flying to exotic friends’ weddings to move to Nairobi.
Together they love entertaining, Jen the picturesque host and Charles at home in the kitchen. “I love cooking…that’s why we spent so much time fixing the kitchen. It’s my favourite room. By far, from these barstools that way is absolutely my favourite thing hands down.”
Not to be outdone by Charles’s ambitions, Jen is clearly driven by her own goals running a cake business on the side: “I thought there was a niche in the market to be filled and I love working with chocolate, it is kind of my specialty. I’m also turning my hand to interior decorating as everyone seems to love what we’re doing with the house…I’ve been blessed, I can turn my hand to anything.”
When asked how a true-blue Londoner conceives of the move to Nairobi, Jen says she always knew it would be a part of her relationship with Charles, as even in his London days he knew he wanted to come home. To Jen, “the idea of coming to Kenya wasn’t difficult because I knew I could reinvent myself, this country is amazing for that. The market isn’t saturated as probably the UK or the West so your dreams can become a reality here which I think is fantastic.”
Seeing Jen and Charles in their home is like watching their life unfold, as Jen says, “every little piece in here has a story,” and there is a definite narrative quality about their interior space, peppered with memorabilia from their travels. Just as Charles has made his space in the kitchen, Jen has put her mark on the film room, “I grew up loving cinema and I have been an avid collector for years.” The bookshelves are filled with literary classics, historical novels and reference books, as Jen has a strong attraction to the Tudor period, particularly the women of the time who, she says “were so manipulative but also so strong, willing to die for their beliefs.”
When asked to describe the inspiration, the emotion, behind their interior style in three words, Jen says “vibrancy, passion and beauty,” words that, we now know, also describe Charles and Jen inside and out.”