I love my stockists! An interview with Kentaro of Rooms

Hadley is a very small business (at the moment!) and one of the perks of this is that I know a lot of my stockists personally and really love the shops they run. I thought this blog would be a nice opportunity to talk to them and also to show off about some of the gorgeous shops you can find my cards in.

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First up is Rooms of E5. I know Kentaro from my antiques days: I would always see him around the boots and fairs with a granny trolley for his treasure. He really gets stuck in to the finding the best bits and it shows; the shop is just gorgeous. I thought I'd start off with really the hard hitting questions . . . 

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What’s your favourite colour? And why?

It would have to be green. I have amassed a large collection of green objects mostly from the thirties to fifties. When I first opened Rooms the shop became known for its green cabinet. There are so many shades of green which suit every interior and period and so is always a certain talking point when a customer comes in! My mother is Japanese and I associate the colour so much with the earthy limes of matcha tea or the emerald green of melon soda. In fact you really should look that up, it's the most shocking shade you've ever seen. I love bakelite green items as well as colourful plastic objects which I collect every time I visit relatives.

It’s obvious you really love curating and arranging Rooms are you ever entirely happy with how it looks? Or are you a forever-tweaking and changing kind of person?

There have definitely been times when I've been completely happy with the way the shop has been curated but objects pass through Rooms so frequently that tweaking and rearranging will always be something I do every day. With my background in styling for photo shoots I'm constantly playing with the placement of objects and how shapes and colours play off each other and for that reason I'll always spot something that can change or be moved to a new home in the shop!

What’s your best display tip?

From a retail point of view it absolutely has to be about accessibility and visibility but this ethos can sometimes be at odds with the vibe of the shop. Rooms should be abundant and shopping in it should be an experience. I love sourcing from different places be it the auctions and antique shops in Clare, Suffolk to a dilapidated house I recently stumbled upon whilst visiting family in Japan. I want my customers to have a glimpse of this process and feel somewhat close to the thrill I get when I find the perfect object.

What is it about antiques?

I love the stories each piece holds, the history and the connections to the person and their possession. 

For example, I  purchased a large Victorian desk with bookcase that had been formed by marrying a mid Victorian piano and parts of an earlier library bookcase together, the result is a lovely but rather out if proportion  item! It's all about context and I love the fact that when inherit an object it suddenly takes on a new history and by placing it with other objects the stories become endless.

Do you get disappointed if someone buys something that really tied the shop together?

The shop is all about the bigger picture and although I grow attached to certain items I can't be precious about what I let go, especially when it goes to someone who's picked it out and obviously loves it! If the success of my shop relied on one object it'd be a cause for concern. Luckily there will always be another beautiful piece that will fit right in.

Have you made any really exciting purchases recently?

I recently purchased a beautiful large highly ornate 1890s gilt overmantel mirror. I'd had my dining room renovated and had been searching for the perfect piece to tie everything together. The mirror has become the crowning glory of the room and guests frequently comment on it whilst we're having supper!

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Are there any secrets to running a successful shop? Tell us please!

Passion for your product and the ability to speak to different customers and work out what they want. Starting your own shop is hard work and the long hours both in an out of opening times can seem thankless but a grand idea will keep you focussed on the end goal.

What are your customers like?

I have broad mix of customers including artists, prop & food stylists, art directors and designers looking for interesting and unusual objects and furniture as well as families looking for practical storage. The kettle is never far from being boiled for one of my impromptu chats with a regular. It's been a great way to meet and make new friends from all walks of life. 

Which Hadley cards sells best for you? 

The little house delights and sells well but I think the smiling face with its crisp green envelope is my best seller of yours. 

What did you do before becoming a shop keeper extraordinaire? What was your journey to Rooms?

On leaving school I went to Middlesex University where I did their foundation art course, after which I went to LCF where I studied fashion styling and photography for two years which led to me working with fashion stylists and photographers. I was then lucky enough to meet the late Isabella Blow whom I assisted for eight wonderful turbulent months after that I had a year's break and decided to change direction and went into interior design assisting Camilla Guinness for four years. 

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Does your aesthetic reflect your politics/world-view/personality?

I can't stand waste and believe this is something that has an impact on everyone and will become more and more apparent as time goes on. I'm known amongst friends for being almost aggressive in my drive to recycle and prevent waste. Perhaps without me knowing the shop in some way reflects this. A lot of the items I sell represent beautiful craft from times gone by and are still strong and functioning and have so much to offer still in our modern lives.

Would you put an ugly chair in your house if it was really, really, really comfy?

Absolutely not.

Do you have a tactic for those times when you get gifted something truly hideous for your house?

Sell them carefully and secretly! 

Thank you Kentaro you lovely bean!

jo waterhouse