There are so many styles of valances available, they’re almost impossible to list here (lucky for you, there’s a whole blog just about valances). Generally speaking, valances can be categorized based on the pattern design or the type of installation.
In this post, we’ll take a look at all the different pattern styles and the valances they create. Keep in mind that most valances you see here can be adapted to be installed any way you’d like.
Most valances are made with a rod pocket and installed using a standard curtain rod, but they can also be made into board-mounted valances or valances that are installed on curtain rings or holdbacks. Some styles can even be turned into upholstered cornices.
Straight Gathered Valances
The straight gathered valance is the most basic kind of window valance available. The valance is simply sewn into a rectangle with a rod pocket for easy installation. The secret to this type of valance is ample gathering. Take a look at the kitchen valance below. If you were to pan it out on the floor, it would be over inches wide flat.
Lined valances made with home decor fabric typically will be able to cover half of their width or less when gathered. If this is the style you’re looking for, here’s a resource that can help you calculate just how much width you really need. Also, as you’ll learn with most of the examples below, it’s important to hang a valance like this high enough above the window. The #1 mistake we see in our workroom are valances that are hung too low.
If you’re looking to go beyond a rectangular valance with a straight bottom (and are working with a tight budget), the next type of valance you might have come across is the shaped valance.
The M-shaped valance seen in the photo above is a very popular type of shaped valance. It’s gathered only slightly. Many of our clients like it because the valance wraps towards the window on each side. This gives it that boxed-in, cornice-like look. You may notice that valances like these often have a 3-inch rod pocket. This allows it to be installed on a flat curtain rod that’s about 2 1/2 inches wide.
When most people hear the word valance, they think of elaborate swags. Swags are essentially deep pieces of fabric that have been pleated on each side. When finished, this gives the valance an elegant piece that falls down in a half circle. If the valance is installed on a board, the further back the swag is stapled behind the board, the better it will look. This creates a waterfall effect once the swags fall naturally and also makes the pleats more pronounced and spaced out.
A traditional swag valance is still a popular kind of valance. Nowadays, most of our clients request it for their formal dining rooms. It’s also a popular style for a two-story foyer and dramatic entrances. There is no rule, however. Any valance can be placed in any room in your house.
A traditional swag valance above an arched window.
A single swag by itself can be enough to be a valance, but this is typically the best solution for narrow windows only. More often than not you’ll find swags paired with jabots on each side. A jabot is simply a long piece of fabric that frames the window valance on each side.
When the jabots are structured and shaped like the ones in the picture above, they’re known as cascades.cascades on each side. It’s called a cascade because it tapers out in a cascading, zig-zag fashion. Some cascades can be quite long and may even go well past the window sill.
Keep in mind, however, that cascades require a large amount of fabric and that they must be hand-formed by the workroom each time. A few inches of extra length may not seem like a lot, but it can be quite a substantial addition to the cost of fabric and labor.
A simple swag in a champagne gold, with large, extra long cascades.
The victory swag is a variation of a swag valance. You may have seen it being called a patriot swag valance also. Here, a floral fabric was used, along with red and gold tassel fringe and chair ties. This style is a bit more casual than the swags you’ve seen above. Here, the swags are shirred, not pleated.
This makes the folds on the swags more shallow. The jabots on each side of the valance are left to fall freely. If we had to advise against any type of valance to be sold out of a box, it would be this one. It’s just so difficult to make it into a good quality valance without using a generous amount of fabric and a good quality pattern.
The shirring in the back of each swag is very important. It’s the secret that gives this valance its signature form.
When swags are framed by trumpets on each side and the overall valance is framed by simple jabots, the valance is known as an Empire swag valance.
If the valance is made without jabots, the Empire swag becomes a Kingston valance.
Flat, Modern Swags
Valances are keeping up with today’s trends. Just like most other home decor trends, valances have become more simple and modern. One aspect of that is the increasing preference of flat swags over the traditionally pleated swags you’ve seen in the examples above. This is great news. It cuts down on the amount of fabric needed.
In fact, each swag is an opportunity to display a unique fabric pattern.
Bold, modern floral patterns are in style right now when it comes to valances.
This striped valance features trumpets just like an Empire or Kingston valance, but notice that the swags in between are completely flat.
Scarf valances have been losing their popularity a bit as of late, but are still a great way to dress a window. They’re very convenient – all it takes is a single piece of fabric to dress the top of a window with a scarf.
Not all flat valances are swags only. Let’s take a look at some other types of flat valances that are currently available.
Here, a simple rod pocket valance was installed on a narrow window. As a reference point, the window was 25 inches wide and the valance was 27 inches wide. The valance was completely flat in order to display the fabric toile print.
The beauty of flat valances is that the pattern can be made specifically for the fabric instead of having to adapt the fabric to the pattern of the valance. In this example, our workroom simply cut around the medallion print of the fabric to create a truly unique scalloped valance.
Up-close of a scalloped valance.
Some flat valances can have several layers like this scalloped valance.
Upon closer inspection, we see that the fabric has four total layers of fabric. A main toile print fabric in green and beige, an accent layer in a solid green below, with each of the fabrics then being lined with white drapery lining.
The purpose of this valance was to make a window appear larger in a small living room. Even though the window itself was not very wide, it was made to look wider by using a much wider valance and double wide dupioni silk draperies below. The valance featured an arched middle section, with a few inverted box pleats inserted on each side for added interest.
Flat valances are great when mounted on a board instead of a curtain rod, like this shaped valance. Valances like this are heavy and have the depth necessary to work in large rooms with tall ceilings and heavy furniture. Yet, their flat design is clean and doesn’t overwhelm the overall design in the room.
Faux Shade Valances
Did you know that fabric shades can be made into valances? Instead of having the functionality of being raised or lowered like a shade, these valances are simply stationary top treatments that are made to look like shades. Let’s take a look at some common fabric shade styles that can be turned into a valance.
Balloon valances are known for their oversized poufs that protrude out. These valances require a lot of fabric to achieve this kind of volume.
Balloon valances can be used in contemporary rooms, contrary to popular belief. This is done by creating them with inverted box pleats. This creates a clean window treatment that’s flat but still has the deep folds and poufs that the style requires.
Instead of using the same fabric for the entire valance, a different accent fabric can be used for the inverted pleats. Take a look at this balloon valance made for a girl’s bedroom – the main fabric was a green taffeta silk, yet the accent fabric used was a leopard print cotton.
The secret to this window treatment is to make sure the inverted box pleats are deep enough. It may not look like it, but the inverted box pleats require the same amount of fabric as the rest of the balloon valance does.
London valances have large poufs just like the balloon valance does. But what distinguishes the London valance are the two tails on each side of the valance.
Up-close of a London valance, showing the number of folds necessary to create the proper volume for the valance.
You might have seen stagecoach valances also being called a roll-up valance. This style is simply a flat section that features contrasting fabrics on each side of the valance. That way, the back fabric is revealed once the fabric is rolled up. There is no limit to the length of a stagecoach valance, which makes it quite a popular style of window treatment.
We highly recommend interlining for this style of valance, especially if your window gets a lot of natural sunlight.
A roll-up valance in blue and yellow fabrics.
Faux Roman Shades
Flat and Hobbled Faux Shades
Roman shades are a category that can stand on its own. There are just so many styles of Roman shades and they all can be made into a stationary valance. Let’s take a look at some examples.
This faux Roman shade mimics the look of a flat Roman shade. It conveniently has a 3-inch rod pocket, allowing you to install it on a standard curtain rod.
Don’t forget, faux shade valances can be layered with pleated draperies, as shown here. Here, the faux shade was inside-mounted, then flanked by single width Euro pleat drapes that puddle on the floor on each side. A thick 1-5/8-inch diameter wooden rod hands right underneath the crown molding, giving this 8-foot room much-needed height.
In this example, three valances were made to recreate the style of a hobbled Roman shade. This style has a scalloped hem, even fitting perfectly above a patio door in a 9-foot tall kitchen area.
Relaxed Roman Faux Shades
The relaxed Roman uses fewer rings in the back, allowing the fabric of the valance to naturally fall and stack up in the center.