To be honest with you, I never liked the term soft window treatments. Somehow, it implies a flimsy, poor quality product. But the idea is very simple.

A soft window treatment is made of fabrics, while a hard window treatment is typically made of wood, plastic, or some other hard material.

Soft window treatments are great on their own, but they can also be a must to break up the stark, cold lines of hard window treatments. So, what options do you have when it comes to these soft window treatments? The short answer is – a lot! Let’s take a look at what tends to make your window look great when wrapped in fabric.



Now, here’s an excuse to use an excessive amount of fabric. Drapery panels are one of the few window treatments out there that isn’t limited by an exact to-the-inch width. In fact, the more a drapery can gather, the better it flows and the more luxurious it looks.


Custom Draperies on Gray Walls Draperies can be stationary or functional. Notice how in this neutral living room the same striped rod pocket draperies were used for different purposes. The drapery on the single window was swept to the left side and serves as a decorative window treatment only. Now, the two draperies on the double wide window behind the sofa are functional. In other words, they can be pulled shut to block out the sun as needed.

The beauty of draperies is that you have plenty of options to upgrade them. There are endless options when it comes to the style of header on a drapery. Take a look at this living room with its luxurious goblet pleated draperies.


Goblet Pleated Double Wide Custom Drapery Let’s take a look at two draperies that our workroom has created recently. They both happen to be silk draperies. Now, silk draperies have to be interlined. This is a felt-like material that floats in between the main fabric and the lining in the back. In essence, the drapery has three layers of fabric. Not only does this obviously block out the sun and protect sensitive silks from fading, but it also happens to give a drapery more volume.

Notice in the rouched drapery below how the attached valance takes on extra dimension and volume because of this extra layer of fabric between the red silk and lining.


Custom Rouched Drapery in Red Dupioni Silk The drapery below was also made of silk. In this case, we used a big plaid that was printed on silk taffeta fabric. The drapery clearly stands out because of its installation on drapery medallions (or holdbacks as they are commonly known).


Plaid Silk Drapery Installed on Medallion Knobs

Here’s a similar alternative to help you replicate this in your room:


Traditional Medallion Holdback in Black and Brushed Gold

Colette Designer Medallion Holdback Available in 5 finishes at Urbanest.


Besides the header, you can also add banding or trim to a drapery. Banding is simply a narrow strip or wider insert that typically is in a solid color that’s in high contrast to the main fabric chosen. Trim can come in various forms like tassel trim, brush trim, acrylic bead trim and many others. There really aren’t any rules on how or where to add those features.

I’ve seen all sorts of ideas, and to be frank, they were all beautiful. Here’s a close-up of tassel trim on a drapery. Notice how by deciding to continue the light blue and light gold color scheme, our client was able to pull together the design of these two elements.


Leading Edge Tassel Fringe on Drapery



I could go on for days about valances. After all, it’s what we do. But to simplify it, know that valances are just fabric treatments that are installed on the top of your window. Valances can be simple and flat like this arched rod pocket valance that was installed in the breakfast area of a kitchen:


Rooster Toile Valance in Black and White More intricate scalloped shapes are possible, like in this bird toile valance:


Scalloped Valance in Bird Print Valances can also be elaborate and full of volume like these crisscrossing swags. Most clients choose styles like these for what we call “staple rooms” to keep their decor traditional. Living rooms, dens and master bedrooms would be the spaces for these types of window treatments, for example.


Custom Swag Valance with Tassel Fringe


Layering Valances with Draperies

It’s a shame that most people think that window valances can only be installed over draperies and not the other way around. However, the growing trend on the custom side of the market nowadays is to try to layer valances under draperies. That’s right, to let a drapery cover that beautiful valance of yours! I’m sure you’ve heard of the term transitional design.

It’s a way of blending the traditional with the modern, or the masculine with the feminine.

This creates a clean look in a room that’s modern but still warm and inviting. Why am I telling you about transitional design? It’s because it can be applied to custom window treatments just by deciding how to layer them. So if you already have a valance that you think is a bit dated or has a fabric you think isn’t trendy enough, maybe using a modern drapery with it can be your solution.

And to create an even better balance between traditional and modern, you could try to layer the drapery over the valance rather than under it. Of course, every style is different, but here are a few ideas of how draperies and valances can be layered together differently:


Two Story Window Treatment with Custom Valance Our flat swag valance over a double-wide drapery. We used a bold paisley pattern here in a deep orange that was printed on a sage green fabric. Although not visible in this photo, the overall window treatment was created twice as mirror images to each other in order to frame a fireplace in a two-story living room.


Floral Valance and Dupioni Drapery Layered Treatment This colorful floral London valance is peaking from behind a classy dupioni silk drapery. It also happens to accentuate the beautiful view through the window and brings the outside in.


Pinch Pleated Drapery Over Striped Valance Here is another winning combo of pleated draperies and London valance. Heavy, extra wide pinch pleat draperies were used in a natural color. Notice how they had to be installed further out from the actual window. Not only does this expose the London valance and its beaded trim in vibrant red, but it also makes the window appear larger.

The actual window was only 36 inches wide in this case, but the three pieces of window treatments spanned a whopping 64 inches wide when combined together. Needless to say, when you have custom window treatments, why not flaunt them with a trick like this?

In this space, a scalloped valance stands out in a light-colored upholstery weight fabric against a red drapery with a simple header and red walls. In case you’re wondering, this look was created on two neighboring corner windows with the draperies installed in mirror image fashion to each other.

Red Custom Drapery Over Tan Custom Valance


Cuff Top Custom Valance in Living Room A cuff top valance plays with form and dimension while plaid draperies on each side of the window ground the traditional look in this living room. And yes, this project of ours is a perfect example of how you can use paisley and plaid together. You can use any combination of fabric patterns in essence as long as you can pull them together with a similar color scheme. You can find more examples of living room window treatments here.



Window shades are for those who like the idea of controlling a window treatment just like you’d control blinds. These window treatments are still made of fabric, but they have a pulley and cord mechanism in the back. This allows you to pull the shade up or down as needed. Because this requires sturdiness, you can’t exactly install a shade on a standard curtain rod with a rod pocket.

Good quality fabric shades are typically made on a wooden board. If not, the manufacturer typically has another similar solution that guarantees a sturdy, fully functioning shade. Sometimes, you may also have the option to buy a made-to-order shade with remote-controlled, motorized functionality built in.


Striped Roman Shade Over Freestanding Bathtub Simple, but absolutely stylish! This striped shade is used for privacy in a bathroom, above a large freestanding bathtub. You may notice that fabric shades are often installed as inside mounts. This simply means that they’re installed in between the two studs on each side of the window instead of the wall above the window.

Inside mounted shades are quite a popular choice. Here are a few features of an inside mount to keep in mind:

  • Looks more modern because it’s a way to use a minimal amount of fabric.
  • Exposes the trimwork around the window rather than hiding it.
  • No visible hardware or curtain rods.
  • Must be measured exactly.
  • Some light will always slip through a bit on each side, no matter what, so keep that in mind.

Now let’s take a look at outside-mounted shades. Notice how they still barely cover the window. This is the proper way to measure and install simple shades like these.


Modern Roman Shades in Beige and Brown Shades are great on windows with a spectacular view like this one! Simply pull up to enjoy the view and pull down to block out the sun and have privacy.


Faux Shades

Faux shades aren’t talked about a lot, but they’re bought very frequently. A faux shade is simply a stationary valance that mimics the look of a shade. There is no cord on the side to pull it up or down.

They’re popular because sometimes a homeowner is only after that popular look of a shade but can’t afford them. This way, they have a window treatment that appears similar to a window shade at a fraction of the cost. Although window shade manufacturers do their best to keep their products safe, many parents like the idea of a faux shade for children’s rooms since there are no cords that can dangle close to the floor.


Pink Balloon Shades on Arched Double Wide Windows in Girl's Room Faux balloon shades were used in a pink children’s room on softly arching double windows. These window treatments at first glance look like they’re functional shades. However, they’re stationary valances with plenty of volume, but it looks like they’re shades that have been pulled up high.


A bold red and white modern geometric print is used on this single width window. The window treatment may look like a Roman shade, but you’d be mistaken. It’s a faux shade that does a pretty good job at mimicking a window shade. You can shop more faux shade styles here.

To circle back to the idea of layering that I mentioned above, remember that your shades and faux shades can be layered with draperies using the same principles. The red valance above would look amazing with a single silk drapery in white that’s swept off to one side of the window.

Now that I’ve hopefully shown you plenty of examples of soft window treatments, which idea do you want to try out for your own home to soften up the space?

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