Kentaro Poteliakhoff has learned to forewarn guests about what to expect of his Hackney home, ‘otherwise people do seem to be a little overwhelmed’, he smiles wryly. That’s understandable, because the four floors of this Victorian terrace are something of a sensory revelation.
Kentaro has playfully combined decorative rococo pieces with imposing Victorian furniture and colourful and quirky accessories, all set against a backdrop of vivid pastels and bold pattern.
‘I’m comforted by being surrounded by so many objects, each with its own story,’ he explains. ‘And I love creating an interesting, unexpected mix. I’m always adding, rearranging and editing for the sheer fun of it.’
Kentaro has been honing his eclectic eye all his life. He was raised in London but his architect father used to take the family off inspecting country houses during the holidays, while visits with his Japanese mother to his tea shop-owning grandparents in Tokyo inspired his collections of pretty pastel Japanese ceramics and vintage plastic packaging. ‘Japanese design is so refined and carefully considered, with such subtle use of colour,’ he enthuses.
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Kentaro’s biggest influence, though, has been his English grandmother and her Hampstead home, which opened his eyes to the possibilities of mixing styles.
‘It’s a Sixties house that successfully combines beautiful Georgian and Regency antiques with mid-century Scandi designs. When I started buying old furniture in my teens she was always keen to discuss my purchases.’
It was as a teenager that Kentaro also got his first taste of retail, helping out in an antiques shop, where he was ‘sort of fired for painting the furniture in too-bright shades’, he recalls.
After studying at the London College of Fashion, Kentaro became assistant to legendary fashion editor Isabella Blow. ‘She spurred me on and encouraged me to be outrageous,’ he explains. Eventually he came to share Blow’s disillusion with the fashion world and moved on to work for interior designer Camilla Guinness.
This reignited his passion for homes and led him to set up his own Clapton shop in 2014, Rooms. Here he sells vintage and antique pieces, as well as home accessories that he has designed.
‘People always find something, because we sell such a wide range of styles and eras and cover all budgets. We bridge the gap between more traditional antiques shops and purist mid-century design specialists. Customers seem to love our colour-grouped displays and the social atmosphere.’
Meanwhile, Kentaro has been living in this tall Victorian house since his late teens – initially sharing with his sister (she and her family now live next door), and now with his boyfriend, Neil, and flatmate Lili. At first he lacked the budget, time and conviction to really tackle the house and the whole place was painted white.
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But, as his confidence has grown, the house has gradually become an exercise in excess. The walls have been painted and papered in a cheery palette of vivid pastels – shades that he has christened ‘coconut ice-pink’ and ‘Bakelite-green’. ‘Colour can be so mood enhancing, these fondant shades make me feel really uplifted.’
He finds it easy to settle on the colour for each room, ‘although with colours like the living room’s citron yellow, there can be a settling in period’, he laughs.
Wallpaper has always been a passion – the Laura Ashley design in the hall was one of his earliest decorating decisions, while the floral design in the snug is a recent addition. Kentaro’s style is all about the mix: heavy Victorian furniture with ebonised, Chinese-style pieces and ornate, gilded objects with more rustic wooden furniture – often painted by Kentaro himself.
‘I love to contrast styles and in the dining room the imposing ornate mirror was the starting point. I adore gold with black, so I added the exotic Chinese-style cockpen chairs, while the small oval tilt-top table makes a lovely intimate dining experience.’
The kitchen is more restrained; here Kentaro has gone for statement, fully tiled walls with black cabinets. ‘I appreciate simpler looks too,’ he says, ‘and this felt right for a kitchen. I didn’t want it to be too chintzy.’
In the bathroom he made use of affordable tiles in a Thirties-inspired shade of mint, but specified the smallest of grouting gaps and mitred edging on the corners for a high-quality, period-effect finish.
Things are at their most riotous in the yellow sitting room, with its art-packed walls, cushion-crammed sofa and colourful ‘wilted’ candles. ‘Above all it’s about being playful, I do love to have fun with a room.