Play house: inside Kentaro Poteliakhoff’s joyful Victorian home

The east London home of Kentaro Poteliakhoff, owner of Rooms of Clapton, is a joyful mix of Victorian and rococo antiques and quirky objets d’art set against vibrant, candy-coloured walls

The east London home of Kentaro Poteliakhoff

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.’ 

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in the dining room, painted in Farrow & Ball’s Nancy’s Blushes, the gilt mirror is from a large house in Essex via eBay. ‘I always want to discover the back stories of my pieces,’ he says. Kentaro ‘restored’ the damaged clock with objects including an old Britvic pineapple ice bucket and a Minton shell bowl.
In the dining room, painted in Farrow & Ball’s Nancy’s Blushes, the gilt mirror is from a large house in Essex via eBay. ‘I always want to discover the back stories of my pieces,’ he says. Kentaro ‘restored’ the damaged clock with objects including an old Britvic pineapple ice bucket and a Minton shell bowl.
The Victorian sofa in the sitting room, re-covered in a Sanderson fabric, came from Kentaro’s grandmother’s home. It is flanked by a pair of Seventies chairs inspired by the high Victorian style. Kentaro jokingly calls them the ‘Ugly Sisters’ because of their resemblance to pantomime dames.
The Victorian sofa in the sitting room, re-covered in a Sanderson fabric, came from Kentaro’s grandmother’s home. It is flanked by a pair of Seventies chairs inspired by the high Victorian style. Kentaro jokingly calls them the ‘Ugly Sisters’ because of their resemblance to pantomime dames.

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. 

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.

‘Often I come to sit in the dining room with a cup of tea. I enjoy relaxing here – the pink is so joyous,’ says Kentaro. In stark contrast to the candy-pink walls is the formal Victorian ebonised table, sourced on eBay at a bargain price, and early 20th-century cockpen chairs bought at Criterion Auctioneers.
‘Often I come to sit in the dining room with a cup of tea. I enjoy relaxing here – the pink is so joyous,’ says Kentaro. In stark contrast to the candy-pink walls is the formal Victorian ebonised table, sourced on eBay at a bargain price, and early 20th-century cockpen chairs bought at Criterion Auctioneers.
The sitting room features an overmantel mirror that the couple bought at an auction in Plymouth. The inherited club chair has a throw from the Biggest Blanket Company. An Edwardian brass coal box and fender complements the unusual Regency fire guard

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.’

The kitchen, with its black cabinets and white tiles, feels almost utilitarian compared to the rest of the house. However, with the primrose-yellow floorboards and French enamel canisters, it’s still unmistakably Kentaro’s.
The kitchen, with its black cabinets and white tiles, feels almost utilitarian compared to the rest of the house. However, with the primrose-yellow floorboards and French enamel canisters, it’s still unmistakably Kentaro’s.

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. 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.’ 

‘I wanted my bedroom to look like a room that I’d taken over, having once belonged to someone older,’ explains Kentaro. The white Louis XV-style furniture stands out. ‘I like the lightness of these pieces combined with the ornate detailing.’ Top Left The elegant staircase first drew Kentaro’s father to the house, which is over four storeys, providing lots of hall wall space for Kentaro’s vast collection of junk shop paintings.
‘I wanted my bedroom to look like a room that I’d taken over, having once belonged to someone older,’ explains Kentaro. The white Louis XV-style furniture stands out. ‘I like the lightness of these pieces combined with the ornate detailing.’ Top Left The elegant staircase first drew Kentaro’s father to the house, which is over four storeys, providing lots of hall wall space for Kentaro’s vast collection of junk shop paintings.
Ticking stripe curtains from Ikea frame a collection of curios on an ebonised mahogany card table picked up at Criterion Auctioneers. The French gesso mirror, found on eBay, rests against the wall painted in Farrow & Ball’s Folly Green.
Ticking stripe curtains from Ikea frame a collection of curios on an ebonised mahogany card table picked up at Criterion Auctioneers. The French gesso mirror, found on eBay, rests against the wall painted in Farrow & Ball’s Folly Green.

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. roomsofclapton.com

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Feature: Kate Jacobs
Photographs: Rachael Smith

Kentaro’s morning routine is made more interesting by sitting on a pink plastic Tam Tam stool from Habitat at a French-style Victorian dressing table. He found the Victorian cabinetry in the street, where builders had thrown it out. Sweet jars display assemblages of toys, including plastic balls and broken doll parts.
Kentaro’s morning routine is made more interesting by sitting on a pink plastic Tam Tam stool from Habitat at a French-style Victorian dressing table. He found the Victorian cabinetry in the street, where builders had thrown it out. Sweet jars display assemblages of toys, including plastic
balls and broken doll parts.
The bathroom is unusually spacious by London standards, and the vivid mint-green tiles with grey grouting give the room a strong 1930s look.
The bathroom is unusually spacious by London standards, and the vivid mint-green tiles with grey grouting give the room a strong 1930s look.