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A lifelong collector makes the most of a small cottage

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For as long as she can remember, Grace Napoleon has been surrounding herself with things that make her smile. Since age ten, when artsy parents indulged her wishes of a groovy bedroom of chartreuse walls accented with pink and purple, and through various homes in her adult life, she’s maintained an M.O. of make wherever you live the happiest you can.

Today that home is the guest house of a large Colonial (in which her grown daughter and family reside) just over the city line in the Fruit Hill section of North Providence. In true cottage fashion, most rooms are small, so Napoleon has decorated them strategically with neutral walls and window treatments, reserving whimsy for patterned textiles, punches of graphic art, and interesting objects collected over time. “Every inch counts when you have a small house and lots of stuff,” she says.

A longtime IKEA shopper, Napoleon mixes streamline pieces with flea market finds, new acquisitions from retailers like Wayfair, and the work of artist friends. A maker herself, Napoleon has been fashioning clothing for “women who dare” under her Folk Couture brand for the past ten years. Citing life, color, Mexican folk art, and vintage and modern styles as inspiration, she also gravitates toward anything crafted. “I love being able to see ‘the hand’ in handmade,” she says.