Trying to find the right valances for your living room and need help? Wondering how to select the right style or what color or pattern to choose for the fabric? Should the valance match the living room wall? What color or pattern should it be? How is the valance supposed to look next to your living room furniture? And what styles of valances are out there anyway?
To help answer these questions, let’s take a look at some of the things you might want to consider for your next living room valances. with custom examples included.
This post also includes some examples of fabric shades since they’re so similar to some valance styles.
I like to divide window treatments into three styles – traditional, transitional, or modern. Here is my take on them:
- Traditional window treatments – have you ever seen magazine pictures of governors’ mansions or fancy chateaus and happen to see a huge silk drapery on the windows with an elaborate swag valance? That’s what I’m talking about here. These window treatments use plenty of fabric yardage, gather generously in the form of extra wide draperies, balloon shades, or ultra-pleated swag valances. The fabrics chosen are also traditional in this case, with neutral color combinations being the most common.
- Transitional window treatments – transitional design is a way to mix traditional and modern. It’s very popular for kitchens, but obviously is seen in living rooms, too. For example, a flat, motorized window shade is definitely a modern way to do window treatments. But select a traditional floral or toile fabric for it and it becomes a mix of the two styles. Hence, this is a transitional window treatment. By the way, there are pictures to follow of all these styles, so bear with me here.
- Modern window treatments – these window treatments are minimalist and use modern fabrics as well. For example, the same Roman shade discussed above could become modern if a solid white fabric with a metallic, geometric pattern is chosen. Windows dressed in a modern way tend to be more focused on hard window treatments, and soft window treatments are complementary here rather than being the focal point.
So let’s take a look at how these traditional and transitional styles could be applied to valances and shades for living rooms. I will not be discussing modern valances or shades, but will reference them occasionally.
Valances in Traditional Living Rooms
One great feature of custom valances and draperies is that they can help you make your window appear larger and wider. Take a look at the window below. At first glance, it’s hard to believe that the window is a single 48-inch window.
Because this living room only has one window, it desperately needed to get as much light in the room as it could. And let’s be honest here – it’s a bit strange to have a living room with just one single window, so this room needed to make its single window as big as it could be. By combining a valance and a pair of custom draperies, this illusion of a large window is achieved.
The draperies are a one and a half width each. With standard home decor fabric, that means each drapery is roughly 75 inches wide before any gathering or pleating on its header. The illusion is created by allowing the draperies to cover the wall, not the window. So in essence, a window that’s only 48 inches wide could appear 70 to 80 inches wide just by using this clever installation trick.
The valance does a few things here. First, it brings together the burgundy red and honey gold color palette with its two-toned damask fabric. Second, notice how it wraps around the draperies on the sides. The valance is installed on a lumber board, which has a deep projection. This not only frames the window and gives it depth, but it helps to cover the trick we talked about earlier.
What I’m trying to say here is that the valance hides the fact that the draperies are installed further away from the window in case someone decides to take a look from the side. The valance is flat and isn’t over the top at all. It has a soft arch shape and a few inverted box pleats on each side. But what makes this valance traditional rather than transitional is the classic burgundy and gold color combination and the overall setting in the living room.
Here’s a close-up of the window treatment. We can see that the draperies are made of a sandy gold dupioni silk. Notice the piping details on top of the valance and how the valance is installed all the way to the ceiling. The living room needed some height with its standard eight-foot ceilings, so it was necessary to install the valance as high as possible. The tassel trim at the bottom balances off all the detail that’s going on at the top of the valance.
Finally, the damask from the fabric on the valance is mimicked by the yellow fabric that the accent chairs were upholstered in.
Let’s talk about swags. You can’t talk about traditional living room valances without talking about swags. A swag is a window valance that has horizontal pleats. This allows the fabric to fall in the center to create volume and shape. In this living room, valances are a perfect solution for these extra wide corner windows. White sheers are used for privacy.
The single wide draperies are for decorative purposes only and frame the windows. For this reason, they were made in a single width only (about 50 inches wide before any gathering or pleating).
Sometimes, with valances made in solid colors or small-scale prints, it takes a close-up to truly see their beauty. This valance was made in a light brown fabric. The swags aren’t as pleated as some can be, but they don’t have to be. The window treatment is already topped off with a white crown molding cornice and the valance itself has tassel fringe at the bottom. Swags can often have longer pieces on each side (called jabots), but this valance was kept simple instead.
The draperies pull the light brown fabric from the valance and also add a bit of powder blue into the mix of colors.
The traditional wingback chair in the floral print fabric and the ruffled table skirt on the side table give away the traditional style of this living room reading nook. The space overall is very uniform in color, with even the wall paint matching the color in the fabrics. But what sets this room apart is the introduction of a deep indigo blue as seen on the decorative throw and custom valance.
The valance has flat sections that are broken up by trumpets. The striped fabric is just a shade darker than the wall to set the window treatment apart. The trumpets are tied together in vibrant blue twist cord and small tassel trim adorns the bottom hem in the same color. Notice how the effective wall area was lowered because of the extra wide white molding under the ceiling.
While this is a great feature, it lowers the height of the room and limits the space allowed for window treatments. The problem is solved by selecting a vertical stripe fabric to create the illusion of height and by installing the valance right under the molding. The valance is kept simple and the tassel fringe is intentionally kept short in order to not overwhelm the window.
Valances in Transitional Living Rooms
Remember, transitional window treatments include a combination of modern and traditional elements in one form or another.
This living room has a few traditional elements like the comfy, overstuffed sofas (which are uniquely mismatched) and the brass chandelier with crystal accents. There are a few chinoiserie elements like the blue porcelain planter and the ming coffee table. These are traditional in nature too, so where exactly are the modern elements? Well, they’re hiding on the windows.
First, the floor-to-ceiling aluminum windows themselves are modern and give the room that highrise condo, modern feel.
Second, if we look at the close-up of the window treatment, we see the blending of modern and traditional decorating elements. The gingham check on the drapery and banding on the valance is a traditional, country-style element. The floral, tropical print fabric on the far end of the drapery is both modern and traditional.
The most modern part of the window treatment itself is the wide box pleated valance. This style of window valance is one of the most popularly used valances in professionally designed spaces. The flat sections allow the valance to be made in short lengths and use fabric only sparingly. Inverted box pleats are introduced every once in a while to break up these sections and add interest.
The tufted sofa in a light gray color and the console and coffee tables around it make this room modern. But notice the ornately carved lamps with their eyelash-trimmed shades. This is definitely a big departure from what we see in the rest of the furniture.
The coherence in the room comes from the use of the light blue, beige and gray color scheme. There’s a lot of texture on the walls with a faux finish wall in blue and grasscloth wallpaper in sand. We see this overall color scheme summarized in the functional hobbled window shade. The taffeta silk fabric and tassel fringe pull together the colors that are found in the room.
A wooden window cornice in a dark espresso stain brings attention to the window shade so that it doesn’t get lost in the sea of pastels.
Speaking of pastels, here’s a gorgeous living room that uses a creamy color to create a neutral palette. A few other items in the room are a bit darker to create depth and emphasis, like the sofas and rug. There are also a few zen-inspired elements in the room. Notice how the beautiful lake view is preserved, despite the use of window treatments. Double wide draperies are installed on an oversized picture window and function on a traverse rod.
This way, they can be opened and closed easily with the simple pull of a cord. The drapes are in the same creamy color as the wall to not distract from this amazing, peaceful view. For simplicity’s sake, the patio door and the transom window were left alone.
But on the two corner windows next to the patio door, we see the introduction of window treatments again. In this case, Roman shades are installed as inside mounts. Banding in a brown color is used, which is a common trend in window shades nowadays. Speaking of trends, you might have noticed that one window is covered by draperies and two other windows are covered with window shades.
This too is a common trend – where the larger window has draperies while the smaller windows either have a window valance or shade. It’s commonly done in open concept floor plans to pull together a room by using the same fabric but still keeping each space separate by deliberately choosing different styles of window treatments. More on that later in this post…
This living room is quite bold with its navy and black color combination. There is a bit of white to break up those dark colors. Here, the roman shades you’ve seen so far were simply turned into a valance. In other words, each is a stationary valance or faux shade.
By the way, selecting this style is great on your budget – faux shades cost less than fully functioning shades but have the same appearance.
Each fold was brought out by using white piping to delineate it. This faux shade is typically installed as a rod pocket valance, but in this case, it was installed by tabs to expose the matte brushed nickel hardware.
Dressing Different Types of Windows
Now that you generally know what the different styles of valances and shades that you can use for your living room are, we need to address the fact that there are different windows. “Tell me something I don’t already know,” you might say, so I will.
A single window is typically between about 32 and 48 inches wide. Single windows are the easiest to dress. Let’s be honest here – there are simply more options out there for single windows. This partly has to do with physics (some window treatments lose their shape once a certain width is reached).
It also partly has to do with what can be done with home decor fabric that manufacturers have decided is only about 54 inches wide when it comes out of the fabric factory on a roll. Here are a few examples of many, many options that are available for this type of window treatment.
This eclectic living room has an exotic feel to it. There are a few traditional country elements like the furniture and the gingham check fabrics. But there are also the zebra rug and the appliques of elephant caravans on the fabric that make it look oriental.
In case you’re wondering, this is the relaxed Roman shade valance. This particular style is the faux shade (or stationary valance). Keep in mind that it can be made as a fully functional window shade that can be pulled up or down, as needed. Clearly, in this living room it wasn’t needed at all, and so we see a window valance. The valance features a small center pleat and short brush trim on its bottom hem. It is mounted directly on the window frame.
Balloon shades are typically used in traditional living room settings. Here, we see a neutral color palette in a luxurious living room with a corner fireplace.
The single windows each have a fully functioning balloon shade. In other words, it can be pulled up or down. Notice the generous amount of fabric on the bottom of the shade. This is a signature feature of balloon shades. In addition, each single pouf is separated out by inverted box pleats. This adds more fabric (read, volume) to a balloon shade, giving it the proper shape and form that it needs.
Double and Triple Windows
As I said, single windows are easy to dress, but what about those wide windows that go on and on? Let’s take a look at some possible solutions.
It makes sense that this combination of three windows is matched up with three valances. But what makes these valances interesting is how their design seems to be so coherent, as if it were just one window treatment. These three windows are a prime example of what it means to have a custom window valance made. This is definitely not possible going the store-bought route.
On closer inspection, you’ll notice that that the three valances were joined at the point of installation, despite being three separate pieces.
We’ve seen this balloon valance before on a single window, but the possibilities don’t end there. By installing three balloon valances back-to-back, a triple wide window is covered properly. Another benefit of selecting three shades instead of just one extra wide shade is that each window section can be raised or lowered, as needed. This gives you better control for light and privacy.
Oh, that pesky bay window. I always joke that it’s a selling point on both sides of the transaction. It can be great at first glance, but I have encountered many homeowners who have left their bay windows bare because they simply couldn’t find a window treatment that they liked for it.
So, what is one to do?
Remember that living room with the zebra rug we saw before? It happens to have a bay window, so the same relaxed Roman shade valance is continued on its bay window. This faux shade doesn’t take up a lot of room and it’s meant to just barely cover a window. That’s why it works on these three windows that only have a few inches of space between them.
Here, a bay window on a curved wall is dressed traditionally. The floral fabric in ivory and pink creates a valance with rich swags, trumpets and long jabots. Each window is separated out by draperies that puddle on the floor.
So, how exactly could a valance like this be installed when the wall is clearly curved? There are two solutions. First, the valance may be installed on a wooden board that is custom-cut. Or, the valance could be installed by a rod pocket as an alternative. For this option, a custom drapery pole would need to be created first. I recommend the board-mount option in this case.
If you have a curved wall like this but want a window valance that is better on your budget, I recommend valances that are installed on drapery medallions (holdbacks). A tab top or rod pocket valance that can be installed on drapery poles that are joined by elbow connectors will work, too.
Layering Valances with Draperies
As I mentioned before, the trend nowadays is to layer valances and draperies in unusual ways. Strangely, choosing how you will layer these two types of window treatments can take you to the far spectrum of traditional or modern design. You’d be surprised how the same fabric that you’ve had hanging on your windows for years can be modernized just by changing out how it’s layered on your window.
In this small living room, we encounter the problem of a single window again. And yet again, the solution is to make the window appear larger by pushing the draperies as far out as possible.
The heavy linen euro pleated draperies are each made in a double wide width, but each is gathered as much as possible to create the most weight and emphasis possible. A faux Roman shade in a coordinating fabric is installed underneath.
Even though these valances and draperies are sewn together, they still fit the idea of layering the two styles. The living room features earthy tones that are brought out the most in the two-story stone fireplace, so it was imperative to continue this color palette on the window treatments, too.
Who says all your window treatments need to be made from the same fabric? The bottom layer for the draperies is made from a traditional plaid fabric, while the single balloon valances that sit on top are made from a geometric arabesque-patterned fabric. Clearly, this fabric has nothing in common with the plaid fabric except for the color scheme.
This traditional living room space is part of a galley-style layout with a series of single windows. Naturally, one might assume that each window will be dressed the same. Not so! Even though each window has the same style of valance, one of the windows is adorned with a double wide drapery that’s pulled to one side by a curtain tieback.
Notice the crispness of the beautiful silk fabric and the warm cinnamon gold color. The drapery features tassel trim along the entire length of its leading edge. The matching valance above is made in the same silk fabric and uses the same tassel trim. The valance construction, in essence, is simple, with cascading half pleats. It is mounted on a board.
Bringing Your Living Room Design Together in Open Concept Floor Plans
If you have an open floor plan, you might consider continuing the style of window treatment you’d like to use for the living room in the rest of the space as well.
This open space is especially interesting when viewed from the kitchen. The kitchen is somewhat traditional with its glazed cabinetry, but the living room pulls the design more to the modern side with the gray and charcoal tones, as well as the chevron and geometric print furniture pieces and rug. The solution is a modern Roman shade with a chunky black and gray striped fabric.
The sliding glass door is also dressed with white plantation shutters that are used for decorative purposes only.
Here’s a close-up of the striped fabric and the shade it’s used for.
It might not be the best camera shot angle to show an open concept plan. The ceiling-mounted overhead cabinets make it a bit difficult to show the space overall. But the idea is that the color scheme in the space is maintained, even though the elements aren’t copied over exactly. What do I mean by this? Well, the space is traditional and has an English country feel with the use of forest green and burgundy red.
If you pay close attention, you’ll notice that this is where the coherence stops. The living room uses the green color for the striped wallpaper walls, while in the breakfast area, the green only appears in the fabric print on the valances.
On the other hand, the burgundy red is boldly spattered on the breakfast area walls, while in the living room it’s only used in the valance and a few other upholstery pieces.
The valances aren’t the same, either. In the kitchen area, box pleated valances repeat on each of the single windows. Each valance has a skirt that repeats the pattern of the top of the treatment, essentially adding more layers to the valance.
The living room uses a soft cornice made in upholstery weight fabric. Each section is finished with piping, giving the valance even more structure and cornice-style weight.
In this living room, we see an open concept that’s all too familiar across many homes. As soon as you enter through the front door, you’re greeted with a small foyer. What is one to do here? Not only does this make buying a console table or chest that’s small enough to fit the space challenging, but the small sidelight window next to the front door doesn’t make things easier, either.
A faux shade in a contrasting black and tan fabric comes to the rescue. The beauty of this type of window treatment is that there simply are no limitations when it comes to the size. It worked on the sidelight, corner window and single wide window in the living room as well.
And if we had more pictures of this space, I wouldn’t bed surprised to see this window treatment continue on a kitchen bay window or dining room double window as well.
The valance is a great decorative piece on the sidelight next to the entry. It takes up relatively little space, and so it was possible to use it on the neighboring corner window, too.
And here is the single window in the living room. Did I mention the use of black chair tassel ties as a brilliant finishing touch? I hope these pictures have inspired you to find a style that works for your own home. There is just so much to talk about when it comes to window treatments for your living room!