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Parades have themes. Parties have themes. So do fashion shows, art exhibits and political campaigns.

Themes are great unifiers. Used correctly in home decorating, they can pull together a room faster than you can say, "No more sunflowers!"

In any decorator show house, creative use of themes prevails. They can be fun and whimsical or sleek and sophisticated. Choose a theme for a dinner gathering -- even a color theme such as black and white -- and guests will marvel at your eye for detail.

Collectors revel in theme decorating. A den can be transformed into a mini-museum for toy trains. A dining room can house a crystal gallery. Garden themes are a natural for sun rooms. Fish and frogs always seem to find their way to the bath. And birds look particularly at home in traditional foyers.

Theme decorating can be fun. Just ask the three local residents featured on the following pages. One woman turned her love for animals into a sophisticated jungle safari. A couple delighted their 3-year-old son by creating a rustic bedroom retreat. And a grandmother designed an enchanting kitchen around one of America's most lovable rag dolls.

Here's one thing to keep in mind: Once you choose a decorating theme, accessories will come out of the woodwork. Mothers-in-law will stop by with salt and pepper shakers shaped like penguins. Guests will arrive with a three-year supply of ivy-shaped soaps for the powder room. And friends will continue to send cookie jars that moooooo long after you've removed the cow border from the soffit in the kitchen.

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