Ask many a cultivated person what they most want and it turns out not to be a “thing” at all but a service. My husband, for example, would like his vast collection of books sorted. Ultimate Library, the brainchild of Philip Blackwell of the famous Oxford bookshop family, does not offer this service yet (although it will one day, it promises), but it will create a bespoke library. It has done so for some pretty famous hotels, including The Savoy in London and Carlisle Bay in Antigua, as well as some smaller ones such as Cheltenham’s Montpellier Chapter (pictured).
“Libraries put soul into a hotel,” says Blackwell, who also works for private individuals (from about £1,000). Take the case of entrepreneurs John and Annoushka Ayton, who bought a chalet in the French Alps and wanted to make it perfect, not just for themselves but also for those they aimed to let it to. Ultimate Library found thrillers set in snowy locations, interior-design books on Alpine style, Russian stories (to reflect Annoushka’s ancestry), great climbing tales and so on.
Blackwell himself is formidably well read – I tested him on tomes about some quite obscure countries (Mozambique, for one) and he didn’t falter. His company also owns two bookshops: the charming South Kensington Books, which sends regular customers personally chosen volumes, and Mayfair’s Shapero Rare Books, which can create a rare-book collection (from £5,000).