Friday, August 5, 2011

Truman Capote's Green Roof

In early June, Alive Structures collaborated with the sustainable Hamptons-based architecture firm Modern Green Home to install a green roof in Southampton. We used ultra light-weight green roof soil by The Gaia Institute and pre-grown sedum mats intermixed with native dune grass and prickly pear on this 500 square foot green roof in Sagaponack.

Technicolor sedum mat.

The house's current owner told us that while clearing the invasive honeysuckle and japanese knotweed plants that had taken hold of the property he had unearthed a number of aged Veuve Clicquot bottles nestled in the undergrowth. We can only wonder how they got there, but to fuel your imagination, the beach house originally belonged to Truman Capote. It was an honor to do a green roof on the house that Mr. Capote occupied from 1961, when he commissioned it, until his death in 1984. We just got these photos of the roof in bloom.

In a 1976 profile of the house, Architectural Digest described the surrounding landscape as "a stretch of rolling potato fields and lush farmlands married to the nearby Atlantic Ocean." In the same article, Capote described it as “Kansas with a sea breeze.”

Capote at home. Photo via Architectural Digest, kind of.

Both the dune grass and the prickly pear (seen peeking out from the blooming sedum in the photo at the top) we planted on the roof are native to the area. We used dune grass as a nod to both the location and the spirit of the beach house. Many people find it hard to believe that eastern prickly pear (Opuntia humifusa), a cactus, is native to the Northeast, but in fact it grows as far north as southern Ontario.

Some photos from the installation, below.
Marni and Orlando with a prickly pear.


  1. It's enlightening to see green roofs. People are becoming more aware that our environment needs our help, and putting green roofs on houses just might be the best first step as we try to solve our environmental issues.

  2. There’s a great possibility that the late Mr. Capote felt honored too to have a green roof installed on his house. :) Even I was pleased to see it. The nice combination of plants makes the view from the window very uplifting. No worry would nestle for more than 3 seconds in your mind while looking at it. I’m sure the new owners were delighted as well! :D

    Nelson Mcglaughlin