Valances are simply the top decoration to windows, made of fabric which glide across the upper part of a window. Most valances are made of a soft fabric that is draped, gathered or folded, covering the upper third of the window glass and in many cases, just barely swoop across the window. I like to think of valances as the whipped cream that gently spills over a luscious ice cream sundae or a chocolate soufflé cake, filling in any messes effortlessly and adding an extra layer of discriminating taste. Valances usually add a purely decorative touch. Valances do not offer any privacy but can hide any unattractive hardware or unfilled holes or blighted window trim. What valances do best is add softness, color and pattern, and when paired with other window treatments, can balance and create interest. But don’t be afraid to just add a valance all by itself in a starring role, for a window that seems plain and lonely and needs be embellished.
Valances can be casual and simple and made from just about anything or can be a formal, elaborate decor statement with folds, pleats and ruffles for extra ornamentation. Many designers lump valances into other top window treatments. A cornice is a wooden valance made from plywood and is often painted or stained or covered with fabric or wallpaper. Cornices add architectural detail to plain windows and rooms and are a more permanent window fixture. A swag is a loose piece of material that seems to be haphazardly thrown across a window over a rod or wound around a pole, showing off a romantic or cottage or shabby chic vibe. But, true valances are the object of my obsession, here, as I will share some tips and techniques if you are intrigued about an easy way to change the look and feel of your room.
Think proportion when designing your window with a valance. Don’t be overzealous and make your valance too long that you cover 1/2 of the window, blocking all the lovely light or that is too short and you become a scrooge with the fabric. Valances should be 10 to 16 inches long which includes the top heading and any bottom trim. If you have an overabundance of material that is voluminous, you can go with a longer length. If you are installing an outside mount, the valance can be a little longer and for an inside mount, a shorter valance will be more pleasing. If your windows have panes of glass or mullions, don’t let the bottom edge strike above the horizontal bar or you will have an unappealing design effect. If you are installing a valance above floor length draperies, be sure the valance is wide enough to account for the long, lean look you are trying to achieve. A valance should follow Goldilocks’ motto: Not too big, not too little, just right!
Valances are full of surprises waiting for you to top off your windows like a favorite, fanciful frosting on a special cake! Valances offer just a confection of taste to your home!