Balloon valances are no longer your grandma’s dated window valances with calico floral fabric prints and ruffled headers. Just like most window valance styles, the balloon valance has kept up with design trends. But what is a balloon valance? A balloon valance is a stationary top window treatment that requires a lot of fabric to create volume. This gives it its distinct poufs that project away from the window after the folds stack up at its bottom. Because of this needed volume, most balloon valances are lined and some are interlined.
A Balloon Valance Can Be Gathered or Pleated
Generally, you’ll find two styles of balloon valances – gathered or pleated.
Gathered Style of Balloon Valances
Most of these valances are installed on a curtain rod. The valance is made a bit wider so that it can be gathered. Typically, the valance has a standard 3-inch rod pocket and is then installed on a drapery rod with a diameter of about 1 3/8 inches or so.
This faux silk balloon valance features three wide poufs. The valance was 80 inches wide, but it was gathered to fit a frame-mounted section of a double window that was about 68 inches wide. The balloon valance doesn’t require a lot more width to be gathered. As you can see, in this example, it was only 12 inches wider than the window opening, which is more than enough to give it enough gather on the curtain rod. Remember, the volume for a balloon valance comes more from having more length on the fabric, not from the width. As long as there is enough length, the poufs can be formed properly. In fact, this valance was originally cut 52 inches long in our workroom, but its final length was 21 inches once it was installed.
This valance we cut even longer than the previous one. As a result, this one has more pronounced poufs. Also note how the valance was installed on a curtain rod with side brackets. There are no decorative finials. Instead, the valance wraps around the sides towards the wall.
You can use fringe to embellish the bottom hem of the valance. But because the poufs have so many folds that stack up on top of each other, it’s best to have long fringe. If you select fringe that is less than 2 inches in length, it will be so far back on the valance that you may not even see it. A fringe of about 3 to 4 inches in length is best for this style if you choose to add it.
This balloon valance was mounted on a board. It needs no curtain rods. Thick piping was added to the top of the valance as a subtle detail. This type of balloon valance is called a tailed balloon valance – notice how the sides each have sections known as tails.
Pleated Style of Balloon Valances
The pleated style is a modern version of a balloon valance. It’s feminine enough to be a balloon valance, but it’s also tailored and clean enough to work in transitional and contemporary room designs. These valances don’t gather on the rod at all. However, their poufs are formed by creating inverted box pleats. A children’s room with a long balloon valance in pink. The valance has 5 total poufs and 6 total inverted pleats.
This style can have quite a few features that can be used to your advantage. Its flat poufs allow you to center a fabric pattern and display it prominently (like this rooster medallion toile print). It’s also common to use an entirely different fabric for the inverted box pleats. Here, we used a dark red upholstery weight fabric, for two reasons. First, the dark red made the poufs stand out since it was such a great contrast to the yellow in the main fabric. Second, by using an upholstery weight fabric for the pleats, the poufs were pushed out, giving them even more volume.
A board-mounted inverted box pleat balloon valance on a bay window above a kitchen sink.
Two Ways to Construct a Balloon Valance
A balloon valance can be constructed either by using individually sewn rings or shirring tape in the back. I won’t bore you with the technical details here, so let’s take a look at examples of these. All the examples you’ve seen above were made using individual Roman shade rings that were hand-sewn in the back of the fabric, so I encourage you to revisit those. The idea is that this method creates deeper folds that are more pronounced.
This example, on the other hand, used shirring tape, which creates smaller, more even folds at the bottom of the valance. The shirred method is commonly used for scrunchy valances. These valances have the look of a cloud-shaped valance at the bottom. Silks are a popular fabric choice for those since silk is able to provide that scrunchy, messy look.
The shirring is clearly visible on this peach-colored balloon valance.
What to Look For When Looking For a Good Quality Balloon Valance
Regardless of whether your valance is custom-made or ready-made, you can tell when a valance is poorly made. So when looking for the right kind of balloon valance, here are some things to look for to make sure you’re getting a good quality window treatment that will fit properly and last for years.
The whole idea of a balloon valance is that it has volume. If it doesn’t have enough volume, I’m sad to say it, but someone’s trying to sell you a swag for a balloon valance. There’s nothing wrong with that, but you need to know what you’re getting. Take a look at this tan and white balloon valance. It has volume once you look at it up close. This valance sticks out 8 inches from the wall, which is normal for a balloon valance.
Up close – how a good quality balloon valance is supposed to look.
Folds That Stack Up
More than likely, your balloon valance will be made with small Roman shade rings in the back. This allows the bottom of the valance to stack up. It should look something like this:
The only way to achieve that is by using plenty of rings and spacing them apart generously. If your hired workroom is trying to save on fabric, watch out for rings that aren’t spaced apart enough. Also, I’m afraid that only 3 or 4 rows of rings won’t be able to create enough volume. The picture above uses 7 rows of rings.
Full or Half Pleats On the Side
This recommendation only applies to valances with inverted box pleats, not the gathered balloon valances. When having yours custom-made, make sure that the valance looks nice when viewed from the side. This means that the valance has a half pleat or full pleat. It isn’t uncommon for some workrooms to create pleats only on the front of the valance. This compromises the construction of the valance, with the weight of the fabric pulling at the center of the valance. Not to mention, it just doesn’t look pleasing when viewed from the side.
A faux silk balloon valance with half pleats, as seen on the right side of the valance.
Balloon valances created with a full side pleat, which is visible on the left side of the left valance. This valance was constructed on a wooden board. The board was cut at an angle to accommodate the corners of the two windows.
Another example of a full pleat. This valance was left a bit longer. It covers half of a window for privacy. Notice the depth of each inverted pleat – this is an absolute must to create this kind of window valance. This valance was board-mounted on a wooden board with a 2-1/2 inch projection and mounted directly on the window frame.