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Charu Murti and her daughter Rhea Murti play checkers in their living room on Aug. 20, 2018.JENNIFER ROBERTS/Globe and Mail

“They say a person is just stories. Stories that have brought you up. Stories that have impressed [upon] you. Friends and their stories that have impacted you,” says Charu Murti, whose home in Toronto’s Lytton Park is a record of her journey across space and time. She’s lived in five cities and four countries in her 52 years. That journey, shared with husband, Medhav, and their daughter, Rhea, continues this fall. Murti is set to pursue graduate work at the University of Victoria in British Columbia, Rhea will matriculate at McMaster University in Hamilton and Medhav will stay in Toronto. “It’ll be the first time the three of us will be in three different cities,” Murti says.

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Fabric giraffes made by Charu Murti and her daughter Rhea adorn a wall.JENNIFER ROBERTS/Globe and Mail

Murti and family came to Canada 19 years ago from Cape Town, South Africa. Before that, she and Medhav lived in Johannesburg and Nairobi, more than a stone’s throw from Bhilai, the small steel city in India where she grew up. Upon arriving in Toronto, Murti had wild imaginations of what their eventual domicile could look and feel like. “I used to dream that each room should carry some of our memories of living in different places,” she says. When they settled in their current home, in a neighbourhood with big willow trees and a small community feel, six1/2 years ago, Murti had her chance. “So, one room became an India room, one room became a Canada room. The living room is the Africa room,” she says.

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Teal ottomans are used alternately as seats and a central table.JENNIFER ROBERTS/Globe and Mail

“I feel a very keen awareness, in this stage and age in life, of being mindful,” Murti says. “So, I would say, if there’s one word that would describe the personality reflected in the house, it’s being mindful.” Sometimes that means “completely bucking the trend in style,” she laughs. The sofa was purchased 15 years ago from local design store Commute and was recently reupholstered a golden hue. The two teal ottomans used alternately as seats or a central table were custom made by Casalife Furniture. The chest was purchased from Inde-Art and plays host to the hand-carved wood chessboard and pieces, which, along with the cowhide drum and clay and wood figurines, was purchased decades ago from markets in Nairobi, Johannesburg and Cape Town.

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A chess set purchased from a market in South Africa sits on a vintage chest.JENNIFER ROBERTS/Globe and Mail

“I’m hardly a shopper,” says Murti, and that’s evidenced through her loyalty to pieces that continue to work hard and inspire (though they might require a mend here and there). She’s more a fan of art markets. A watercolour of an oryx, a type of antelope native to parts of Africa, by artist Wendy Waldeck, who also immigrated to Canada from South Africa, sits atop the mantle. Another watercolour is by Nairobi artist David Ndambuki. “We buy what we can afford,” Murti says. “And if we love it, but it’s too pricey, [we think] how can we just get a bit of it through making it ourselves?”

Indeed, Murti and family have dabbled in the arts. The giraffe cut-outs on the wall (made of leftover couch upholstery material) were created to accompany “Jimmy” the four-foot tall wooden giraffe, purchased at a market in Cape Town the week Rhea was born. “Maybe because she knew that this giraffe came the same time as her, she has loved it like it’s been real,” Murti says. The cut-outs came later to represent the three family members. Over the years, they measured Rhea’s height against her wooden companion, marking growth milestones in giraffe leg and neck increments. Once daughter Rhea surpassed Jimmy, they started the process anew, measuring and marking the heights of kids in the neighbourhood. “Every family does some quirky things,” Murti says. “This is just an ordinary story of an ordinary family.”

Get the look

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Vitra Polder sofa, $9,458 at Gabriel Ross.

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Vintage Tibetan chest/storage cabinet, $800 at Inde-Art Furniture & Custom Cabinets.

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Zebra Peruvian flat-weave rug, US$1,195 at Jonathan Adler.

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Grey suede pouf, $199.97 at CB2.

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Custom image dyed hand drum, $55-$275 at Tribal Spirit Music.

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