Shelf life: Home library design ideas

Kit Kemp explains how shelves of carefully chosen books can transform a room.

For this generously proportioned apartment near Piccadilly, Kit Kemp, the creative force behind some of London’s most stylish hotels, including Ham Yard, The Soho and Covent Garden, lent mood and personality with a small, but perfectly formed library.

‘My favourite rooms are always libraries – books look so comforting,’ she says. ‘They make a room feel like a home.’ Here, a wall of books surrounds the double-doored entrance to the bedroom, which draws the eye towards its dramatic upholstered headboard. ‘It doesn’t matter if the space is traditional or super-modern, a floor-to-ceiling bookshelf adds depth.’

Nor are the volumes bought by the yard. Instead, they’ve been selected by Ultimate Library and are inspired by the location, Soho’s history and even a dash of its racy past. Combined with novels set in the area and books on the city’s culture, they enhance the sense of warmth and personality in the apartment.
Classic furniture is upholstered in woven fabrics in a gentle green-and-white palette and piled with cushions to create an inviting area.

The soft, light mood continues in the colour scheme of the bedroom, where definition comes from the black piping used to highlight the curvaceous shape of the headboard, its black detailing echoed in the choice of lantern above.

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Elsewhere in the suite, Mrs Kemp demonstrates her inventive approach with a wall of books finished with a painting in front of the shelves. ‘We often take the covers off books to reveal their bare spines. It’s more decorative.’

Firmdale Hotels (020–3411 9200;
The Ultimate Library (