Inspiration abounds over at lovely Joslyn's blog where she has been doing a great series of bloggers' favorite things. When participant Nichole shared a couple of beautiful old books with intriguing covers (image two above), I immediately flashed back to architect Piero Castellini Baldissera's bound vintage issues of Country Life (shown at top and below).
If budget isn't an issue, you can have most anything custom bound at Thornwillow Press. They do wonderful work.
The other option -- something that's been debated a lot in the blogosphere -- is to cover your own with decorative (or purposely plain) paper.
In general, I prefer not to make a design statement by covering a mass of books. I usually love them just as they are, jumbled and uncontrived. Still, it's hard to resist covering a few for the perfect hit of color and pattern that can really punctuate a bookshelf or desk. As you can see, I haven't found the right labels yet. If you need a tutorial for making book jackets, click here.
India Hicks and David Flint Wood do like to use rows of unified books as a foil for their volumes with the most striking covers. Inspired by India's dad, David Hicks, and his collection of red leather-bound editions, the couple wanted to create a sepia backdrop for their own objects. They went with utilitarian and affordable manila paper from a hardware store.
Back when photographer Laura Resen shot her own living room/office, the shelves were mainly unified but still natural.
[Images one and three are from Caroline Clifton-Mogg's Decorating with Antiques. Pictures of India Hicks' books are from Island Life. The last photograph is by Arthur Elgort as seen in Vogue, 1998.]