You can use the word valance to describe many things, but when it comes to interior design, it describes a type of window treatment. Almost all valance types are short curtains or drapes that only cover the top portion of your window, as well as any window treatment hardware. The latter is the main function of this curtain, and you can use a valance for this purpose by itself or mix and match it with draperies, curtains, or blinds.
Using a valance type is a good way to improve the look of binds, and not only because they work beautifully to hide the hardware, but also because the fabric’s flow will soften up the hard lines the blinds have. It’s also a great way to add a splash of color since blinds are usually more neutral. Another great use is to treat windows that get set at odd angles or those that are smaller or somehow different from other windows in the room.
A valance may also be your only form of window treatment. Some people prefer not to block the view or to allow more natural light to trickle into the room. A simple valance type can also help your small room feel more open and airy than a more elaborate window covering would. It’s a great option if privacy isn’t an issue with that specific set of windows or singular window.
Sometimes, people use valance and cornice interchangeably, but there is a difference between the two. A cornice is generally made using more rigid materials and then covered or painted with coordinating trims or fabric. You use it to hide curtain rods or other hardware above your window. A valance, on the other end of the spectrum, is made out of fabric and usually matches your other window treatments.
The gathered straight valance type is one of the most common options on the market. It simply gets sewn into a rectangle with a rod pocket for easy installation. The secret to this valance type is the gathering. Lined valances made with home decor fabric options are usually used to cover half of their width or less when you gather them. We’ll go over the various popular valance types you can add to your window treatments below.
1. Ascot Valances
Ascot valance types are usually much more formal and tailored, and you use them over drapery. They come designed to work well with drapes or curtains, and ascot valances add a touch of class and elegance to your home. You typically see these valances made out of high-end materials, like velvet and silk, and they may also be adorned with fringe, tassels, or other forms of decoration to make them stand out.
2. Balloon Valances
Balloon valance types come with oversized poufs that tend to protrude. Due to this design, they’ll need a lot of fabric to get this kind of volume. You can use this valance with contemporary rooms, despite what you may think at first glance, and you do this by creating them with inverted box pleats. This gives you a very clean window treatment that is flat, but it still has deep poufs or folds that the style needs.
Instead of using the same fabric throughout the valance design, it’s common to put a different accent fabric on the inverted pleats. The secret to pulling off this valance type is to make sure that the inverted pleats are deep enough. It may not look like it, but the inverted box pleats need the same amount of fabric as the rest of the balloon valance does.
3. Cornice Valances
Cornice valances are very similar to more tailored valances at first glance. They feature a very lightweight material in the design like fiberboard or plastic, and you can install them using braces and brackets. They’re great for helping to hide curtain rods, and you can use them for storage purposes. You can add this valance type to all types of windows because they work to create a versatile look that enhances the overall appearance of the window.
4. Faux Roman Shades
Roman shades fall into a category that is all by itself. There are so many styles available when it comes to this category, and you can make all of them into stationary valances. You can layer them nicely with pleated draperies, and the relaxed Roman shade uses fewer rings in the back. This allows your fabric to naturally fall and stack back up along the center.
5. Faux Shade Valances
You can make your fabric shades into valances. Instead of having the functionality that allows you to raise or lower them like a shade, this valance type is usually a stationary top treatment that you can get to look like shades. There are many common shade styles that you can turn into your valance too, so you’re spoiled for choice.
6. Flat, Modern Swags
In recent years, we’ve seen a trend where your valance types went from decorative and made to stand out to more modern and simple. One aspect you may notice is that there is an increasing preference to have flat swags over the more traditionally pleated options that were popular in previous years. This is great news as it cuts down on the amount of fabric you need, and each swag gives you the opportunity to show off a unique fabric pattern.
7. Flat Valances
Not every flat valance type is a swag. The beauty of flat valances is that the pattern can be made specifically for the fabric you pick out instead of having to adapt your fabric’s pattern to the valence itself. Also, some flat valances will have several layers like the scalloped one. If you take a closer look at this style, you’ll see that it features four layers of fabric. You could have a main toile print fabric in beige or green with an accent layer that is solid green and each of the fabrics get lined with a whtie drapery lining.
The main purpose of this valance type is to make your window look bigger in a small living room. Even though the window itself may not be as wide as a bay window, using a much wider balance with a double wide silk drapery below it can make it look much bigger. It may have an arched middle section with some inverted box pleats inserted into each side for more interest. Flat valance types are nice when you mount them on a board instead of a curtain rod. They tend to be much heavier and have the depth necessary to work with bigger rooms and taller ceilings with heavy furniture pieces. But, the flat design is very clean without overwhelming the overall design.
8. Jabot Valances
Jabot valances have three pieces of fabric that get tapered and draped together to create a decorative, beautiful valance type. One piece of this valance style will adjust in the center to cover the window, and the other two will hang on each side of the window to create a very full look and feel. This valance type complements the Victorian style very well, and it adds depth to your window treatment.
9. London Valances
London valance types offer big poufs on them that are very similar to balloon valances. But, what sets the London valances apart from the two are the two tails located on each side of the valance.
10. Scarf Valances
Scarf valance types have been slowly falling out of popularity a bit in recent years, but they’re a great way to dress up a window. They’re very convenient as all they require is a single piece of fabric to dress up the top of your window with a scarf. You can have it drape nicely down the sides too.
11. Shaped Valances
If you want to go beyond the normal rectangular valance types that have a straight bottom and you have a tighter budget, this is one option you may want to consider. The M-shaped valances are a very popular option from this category, and it features only a slight gathering in the design. A lot of people choose this option because it tends to wrap toward the window on each side to lend a cornice-like, boxed-in look. Generally speaking, valances in this category come with a three-inch rod pocket. This allows you to install them on a flat curtain rod that is roughly 2 ½-inches wide.
12. Single Swag Valance
A single swag valance type by itself can be more than enough window treatment, but it’s generally used for more narrow storm windows only. More often than not, you’ll find this valance paired with jabots on each side, and all a jabot is is a long piece of fabric that will frame the valance on each side. When you have shaped and structured jabots on your window, they’re known as cascades. It gets this name because it tapers out in a zig-zag, cascading fashion. Some cascades can be longer and even go well past your window sill. However, you should keep in mind that cascades need a big amount of fabric, and they have to be hand-formed. A few inches of length may not seem like a lot at first glance, but it can be a big addition in labor and fabric prices.
The victory swag is another option to consider, and you may have seen it referred to as the patriot swag valance type too. You can use any pattern or color you like and finish it with chair ties and tassel fringe. This is a bit more casual style than some of the other valance types on the list. You’ll get shirred swags instead of pleated ones, and this makes the folds much more shallow. You leave the jabots on either side to hang freely.
The shirring on the back of your swag is essential. It’s the secret part that gives this valance type the signature form. When you frame your swag valance by trumpets on each side and have simple jabots hanging down, you’ll end up with an Empire swag valance.
13. Stagecoach Valances
Some people call stagecoach valance types roll-up valances. This style is a very simple flat section that has contrasting fabrics on each side of the valance itself. This way, the back fabric gets revealed when you roll the fabric up. There is no limit to how long the stagecoach valance can be, and this makes it a very popular type of window treatment. If your windows get a lot of natural sunlight, this could be a great way to keep the room cooler in the summer and warmer in the winter months.
14. Swag Valances
When people hear you mention a valance, they think of very elaborate swags. Swags are deep pieces of fabric that have pleats on each side. When they’re finished, these pleats give this valance style an elegant look that falls into a half circle. If you install your valance on a board, the further back you staple the swag to the board, the better it’ll look when you finish. This gives you a pretty waterfall effect once the swag falls naturally, and it makes the pleats more spaced out and pronounced.
15. Traditional Swags
A traditional swag valance type is still very popular. Today, a lot of people decide to add them to their formal dining rooms. It’s also a very popular style to put on a two-story foyer or for dramatic entrances. There are no hard rules, and you can put any valance type into any room in your home.
Methods for Fitting a Valance
If you want to install a valance type, there are several things you need to consider, including the height. The typical rule of thumb is that your valance will be 15 inches deep, but you can make minor adjustments to fit your window. A tall, large picture window, for example, may go best with a valance that is 17 inches deep. A smaller bedroom window may fit a 10 or 12-inch valance better.
The color or pattern of your chosen valance can also impact your decision, and very aggressive patterns or loud colors are better to pair with more depth because they can easily overwhelm a smaller canvas. Another rule to keep in mind is that your window depth should be ¼-inch of the overall window’s height, plus an inch. So, if you have a 60-inch window, you’d need a valance that is 16 inches deep. A 48-inch window requires a 13 inch deep valance. You want to measure the distance from the top of the window valance to the floor.
How to Match Window Valance to Your Curtains
You don’t necessarily have to match your valance type to your curtains. They add color, depth, and a pop of pattern and fun to your windows. You won’t even need a curtain over your vertical blinds to add more depth when you have this valance. The following tips will help you get the perfect match.
A Pop of Color
You can choose a shade that is similar so your valance blends in, or you can pick out one that is bright and bold with colors that contrast nicely to your walls. If you want a great pop of color, a contrasting window valance type will do nicely. So, if you have yellow walls, a shade of blue will stand out. Or, you can match your valance to your paint type in a lighter shade to get it to blend nicely.
Pick a solid color or print in a more neutral palette that is versatile enough to work with several different wall colors. Think of ivory, white, beige, or something that doesn’t pop out while giving your room a nice warm tone. Neutral tones don’t only match everything, but they’re also becoming very welcoming and the colors can add depth.
There are several styles you can go for when it comes to your valance types, and you want one that is going to match your decor style. So, based on your decor style, the following can look chic:
- Bohemian – Boho valances have come a long way from the original beaded, swingy curtains from the 60s and 70s. Today, bohemian valances come with delicate hand-beaded trim, and they can have imagery inspired by very rich symbolism like the lotus flower. They can also depict faraway, dreamy places.
- Coastal – You don’t have to live right at the water’s edge to decorate your home with this style. From navy blue valances with sheer white panels, having elegant coastal valances can help you get this dreamy design in no time.
- Dark Gray or Brown – When you want your room to function as a cozy space for sipping wine, reading, or unwinding, go for earthy, rich neutrals. Dark gray or brown tend to be calming, and they promote feelings of comfort and security. A brown or dark charcoal gray valance will help you create this peaceful feel.
- Farmhouse – Traditional farmhouse looks require white valance types or a solid white one with a gentle pattern. For a more modern farmhouse twist, incorporate gray and white tones. For a farmhouse with a more classic country cottage look, colors like Ivy Lace and Royal Mansour work well.
- Fiery Hues – Maybe you’re someone who finds warm shades just as cozy as more traditional earth tones or as peaceful as cool blue ones. Warm colors will energize your space, and it’s a nice way to liven up a neutral room by hanging an orange or red valance from the windows.
- Floral – Many of the floral print valance types bring you a very lush look. From tropical locals, English wildflower gardens, or sweet flower beds full of perennials, these patterns are very popular. Floral patterns will help you get a happy, fresh look in your home.
- French Country – If you have a love for antiques, botanical floral prints, or a sophisticated look and feel, French Country valance types will fit perfectly.
- White and Blue – Just like your favorite pair of worn jeans, a white and blue valance type can work to dress up a room or tone it down. The final look and feel will all depend on your decor style and the feelings you’d like the space to evoke. Pick Moroccan patterns, indigo batiks, or white and blue floral patterns.
- Yellow – Did you know that many interior designers recommend hanging yellow curtains in any room that could use more natural light? Doing so is arguably one of the quickest and easiest ways to warm up a room and mimic the effects of natural sunlight.
Tips for Choosing Valance Types
When you choose your valence type, consider your widow size first. Do you have smaller windows in general, or do they tend to run long? Also, figure out how much privacy you need in this particular room. This will help you decide how to hang your valances. Hanging them “wide and high” outside of your window trim makes for the most modern look and feel, and it makes the most of the view your window offers. However, you can also mount your valance inside of the trim if you’re trying to minimize your view outside of the window, or if you’d like to showcase a pretty window frame.
You’ll also want to figure out how much privacy you need in this room. For example, if your room is in the front of your home, you may prefer the versatility and functionality of pairing your valance type with a shade or blind. Another option would be to layer a full-length sheer curtain under a valance if you have longer windows.
Another option you have is to pair your valance with a cafe curtain to get a pretty window treatment that’s very elegant without feeling extremely formal. This is very appropriate in a cottage-style room, a casual family room, or in a lake house. For shorter windows where you don’t have many privacy concerns, you can hang your valance by itself.
Now you know what the most popular valance types are and how to pick out the perfect one to match your room. You can mix and match styles to make them stand out or blend in, and it’s easy to update your style by incorporating them.
Jen is a master gardener, interior designer and home improvement expert. She has completed many home improvement, decor and remodeling projects with her family over the past 10 years on their 4,500 sf Victorian house. She is also a passionate farmer who keeps goats, chickens, turkeys cows and pigs on her farm, and an instructor for her community’s Organic and Sustainable Farming project.