Truman Capote's Homes Did Not Reflect Just How Fabulous He Was

portrait of truman capote
Behold: Truman Capote's NYC and Long Island HomesBettmann - Getty Images


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Truman Capote loved surrounding himself with beauty, from the glamorous group of socialites he befriended to the rich spaces he inhabited. Ahead of the finale of Ryan Murphy's limited series Feud: Capote vs. the Swans, we're revisiting a story by Capote for House Beautiful's April 1969 issue. In it, the acclaimed writer detailed the design of his New York City apartment on the east side of midtown Manhattan and his home in Sagaponack on Long Island. Mostly decorated by himself (with the help of the Macy's heiress who also did the decor at the Plaza Hotel for his infamous 1966 Black and White Ball), the residences were filled with personal treasures—from animal-themed decor to his favorite flowers.

Explore the original story below.


A SPECIAL PORTFOLIO

cat statue in truman capote's home
Marie Cosindas

Truman Capote

describes his well-loved, highly personal surroundings

at the Sea and in the City

I can remember in immaculate detail rooms unseen since I was five years old. I have always been aware of rooms, their atmosphere, the emotions they induce. I can be content only in two kinds: the totally anonymous room (a reasonably clean motel room wouldn't bother me in the least) and the completely subjective—virtually every object under my various roofs is by nature a souvenir. (The Victorian cat above I found in Florence on my first trip to Italy.) I dislike impersonal rooms—and some of the handsomest and most admired rooms are precisely that: "taste" is there, but all evidence of the tenant's own style, his humanity, is absent. Mostly I arrange my own rooms and always have. I don't think I could create a room for another person—anyway, my fantasies are too impractical for most people. Rotating with the seasons, I live in four places: in the city (New York), by the sea (Long Island), in the mountains (Verbier, Switzerland), and in the desert (Palm Springs).

Truman Capote in the City

a vase of flowers on a table
Marie Cosindas

A corner of my library-dining room, a mostly red affair that is rather like sinking into a hot raspberry tart—a sensation you may not relish, but I quite enjoy. The lamp is Tiffany's "The Wisteria Tree"; others of his admirers may quarrel, but I consider it the gentleman's masterpiece. This New York apartment, for which my friend, the gifted Mrs. George Backer, deserves the principal credit, looks out on the United Nations.

a painting of a vase with flowers
Marie Cosindas

My own peaceable kingdom. I'm an animal lover, and I like them alive or as objects virtu. The flower-burdened owl is really an Austrian beer stein. I found him on Second Avenue, where I am a constant browser and sometime buyer.

a clock and some flowers
Marie Cosindas

Muguet is my favorite flower, especially when one finds bouquets of it scattered in a January room. Anemones are a close second with me. I am very partial to red lacquer and finally took the great plunge of acquiring this Chinese Chippendale desk from Accorsi, the incomparable antiquaire in Turin.

Truman Capote at the Sea

a person standing in a living room
Marie Cosindas

My favorite room is this one, in the house by the sea. Actually, the whole house is one large studio room built on different levels. The dominant colors are chosen from the sea itself; blue and green—a very dark blue and a very dark green. The blue-painted floors are lacquered to a mirror finish; most of the furniture is painted the same blue, so that it blends into a sort of floating, optical illusion. The spiral stair leads to an open balcony that serves as a sitting room. The small blue chaise in front of the fireplace belongs to my dog, Charlie. A friend, Winston Guest, shot the lion. At night. With a fire burning and the room lighted with blue and green lamps, the whole place seems to me dreamily adrift, a sea-grotto that moves but is stationary. Whatever—it is a room that works for me and one in which I am able to work.

a vase with flowers and dolls
Marie Cosindas

This window looks out on a grass-thicket sanctuary that stops at the edge of the sea. A friendly community of pheasants and rabbits, wild geese and owls, all live there. Frequently I gaze out to find a fox staring me in the eye.

a table with objects on it
Marie Cosindas

The lamp, another by Tiffany, is compiled of blue and green glass hunks; it started me on the color pattern that dominates the room. As for the photographs: the face in the forefront is my mother, the one beyond is my father.

a living room with a table and chairs
Marie Cosindas

This is the table at which I work. It is wicker, but extraordinarily heavy: nothing trembles except my nervous self. The wall before it rises two floors, is entirely mirrored, and reflects the whole room, doubling its size and making it, at moments, look like the shimmering inside of a Russian Easter egg.

a couple of hats and a vase of flowers on a shelf
Marie Cosindas

Some folks, in the way of a trophy or personal emblem, display the heads of savage beasts, but I prefer a butterfly made of pearl shells and Georgian silver—it seems a more suitable signature. The hats are part of a sizable collection. I love hanging them hither and there, for it makes me think: Well, somebody lives here—in fact, I live here.

hb archive dive
Hearst Owned

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