Decorating With Books

Books Do Furnish A Room is a novel by Anthony Powell. It is the tenth novel of a 12-book series, A Dance to the Music of Time, depicting life in post WWII Britain. The title has become recognised in interior design circles and as a quotation worldwide. When I enter a room, I gravitate towards the bookshelves. Providing insight into the owner of the home, books create a centre of attention and a talking point for conversation. I can’t imagine a home without them. Decorating with books is a way to make your home unique.

Marie Stevens (MS) of Prometheus Bound Books and Books by Metre and Emily Campbell (EC) for Ultimate Library answer our questions about Decorating With Books.

How do you begin to curate a library?  (EC)

Curation starts by asking a lot of questions. We look at where the collection will be in the house, the size of the bookshelves and the interests of our client. We provide books by the metre at Ultimate Library, and so getting a rough idea of the number of books is important. For the client, the most important part is letting us know what subjects they are interested in, whether that be sports or art or smart thinking. We also ask what overall look they want from their collection; this has a lot to do with where it will be situated in the house. A classic shelved library might look good with vintage books mixed in with the contemporary, whereas a collection in an entryway might look better with mainly large format illustrated titles. The more questions asked, the more bespoke the library is.

Image: Ultimate Library. An image of a private London residence lounge. Photography by Paul Massey.

Who are your clients? (MS)

At Prometheus Bound Books and Books by Metre we aim to provide books which enhance a home, office, development and any other location in which books form a key, decorative, accessory. We have worked with private individuals, commercial and residential developers, hotels, restaurants and numerous interior designers; we not only sell the products which are shown on our websites but are always happy to talk to customers about differing approaches, whether that be in relation to bindings, new dust jackets, specified titling or colours.

Image: A selection of Books by Metre Couture Covers – titled and untitled books.

Is there an art to arranging bookshelves? (EC)

Arranging bookshelves is definitely an art. There are so many different ways to go about it, you know, aside from using the Dewey decimal system. The first big question you have to overcome is whether or not you want your bookshelves to be solely full of books, or if you have ornaments, lamps and mementoes you want to display alongside the collection. After that, you could choose to arrange by colour or genre or just by what looks nice together. Bookshelves are great for this as you can arrange and rearrange as many times as you like.

Image: Ultimate Library’s suite collection from the Diamond Suite Michaels at Eden Rock St Barths.

What do books tell you about the person who owns them? (MS)

Book schemes are a living representation of individual personality and we fully understand that. We work with our customers to provide books and titles which match not only the physical appearance of the rooms in which books will be displayed, but also their interests – whether that be cookery, classic literature, biography or children’s interests. We frequently suggest titles in specific genres (whether that be, for example, architecture, foreign language classics, art, music and the natural world).

Image: Designer’s Mix, Books by Metre.

How do you care for a book collection? (EC)

There are a few big no nos when it comes to looking after a book collection. I would say what is most important, is keeping your books away from moisture. I know having a good book to read in the bath or next to the loo is great, but moisture in the air damages the paper, making it discoloured and can even make a book “swell”. Too much heat also isn’t good for books; turns out they are quite picky about their conditions. Another way to care for a book collection is to keep it up to date. That’s the brilliant thing about owning a collection; there are always new books being written on your favourite subject.

Image: Library collection at K West in Shepherds Bush, London – Ultimate Library.

How can book bindings enhance a library? (MS)

At the top end of our offering is the hand-bound book; this is a more expensive option but, even interspersed with other, less expensive ranges can provide a focal and talking point which many of our customers have found enticing. The cream of a library is often a shelf of fully hand-bound books and we are able to offer a range of different approaches, whether contemporary or with full, raised spines. In all of our ranges we use either first grade heavy weight paper or bookbinding materials so you can be certain that the quality of both our work and the materials employed will be of the highest quality.

Image: Books by Metre Grey Collection mix.

How do you help the interior design community create a well-stocked library? (MS)

We have seen a growing trend, particularly amongst interior designers and those tasked with the responsibility for accessories, to include books in their designs. Working so closely with so many of these individuals and organizations we have seen, at first hand, the tremendous impact a carefully chosen library or library display can make, creating a warmth and interest which cannot be matched by the mere inclusion of other, more typical, accessories. We appreciate the need to display books in an attractive way and we have a wealth of ideas for layout and suggestions for use of books in non-traditional ways – including as display vehicles themselves (a high street retailer used our books to display shoes in multiple locations to tremendous acclaim).

Image: Printed, decorative jackets Books by Metre.

Do books furnish a room? (EC)

Books can furnish a room in a very special way. Different to art or personal mementoes, books can say a lot about a person or a building. You have the titles of the subjects you’re interested in laid out for everyone to see. Books are a way to share your interests and can provide entertainment for yourself and your guests. Large format illustrated titles also can act as art; their covers are beautiful and displaying them can add pops of colour to a room.


Image: Collection from Café Nero Charing Cross – Ultimate Library.

Prometheus Bound Books offer a hand-binding service for any book obtainable. Most books can be personalised with embossed messages. Books by Metre supply in half metre lengths printed and hand-finished book covers, complete with hard bound books, in a wide range of colours, textures, themes and designs. The Designer Mix is a popular choice – a selection of both titled and untitled bindings. Prometheus Bound and Books by Metre bring a fresh new approach to the provision of books (sometimes in substantial numbers) where formerly, all that was readily available were various versions of fake books. All the books they provide are real, which means that displays will always be authentic. Happy to consider orders for specific genres and sizes of books, they recognize the importance of reflecting not only customers’ taste but also any limitations on available space.

With a world-wide reach, they aim to meet individual requirements, offering a creative approach to providing large numbers of books which make a difference in short time frames.


Ultimate Library provide bespoke book collections for private residences, hotels, and resorts. Libraries have strong connotations as quiet, cosy, and safe spaces, but as well as being safe havens to cosy up in, they are also spaces of discovery and inspiration. Ultimate Library has a small, dedicated team of passionate bibliophiles who understand that reading is an integral part of enhancing our daily lives. Whether it’s fiction, biographies, or coffee table books, their experts have all of your literary needs covered. They sell by the metre but select by the title. In short, they want to tick all the boxes, but the great beauty of books is they allow us to come at things from unusual angles. That’s what people pick up on when they’re presented with a curated book collection – it adds something unique, creative and often playful. Ultimate Library are book experts, so you don’t have to be.

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