They’re not as common as they once were, but that’s what makes them even more special. But what is a valance anyway? A valance is a type of window treatment that is installed at the top of the window. The term topper or top treatment are sometimes used interchangeably to refer to a valance as well. Valances can be used alone on a window or they can be combined with draperies, shades, or blinds as part of a layered window treatment.
An arched valance on a double wide window.
What Are the Most Common Types of Valances Found?
Valances come in all shapes and sizes literally, but you’ll most often see them in the form of a straight gathered valance across homes. These valances are budget-friendly, so there are plenty of them to choose from. But don’t let the simplicity of these valances fool you. They require a lot of fabric to look rich on your window and you’ll oftentimes have to buy two or even three 50-inch wide valances like this to cover a standard 36-inch window properly.
You’ll often also come across valances that are rod pocket valances. This simply means that the valance has a pocket that spans across the entire top to allow for a curtain rod to slide through. Homeowners often make a mistake of buying a valance with a 3-inch rod pocket and then only using a curtain rod that’s 1 inch in diameter or less. Make sure that the rod pocket is snug around the curtain rod, or else the gaping space will make the valance look cheap and ill-fitted.
This faux shade valance has a 3-inch rod pocket. The brushed gold curtain rod is 1-5/8 inches in diameter, creating a snug, tailored fit on the valance.
How Are Valances Usually Installed?
As I mentioned, valances are most commonly installed using a rod pocket. A decorative curtain rod (as in the red valance above) would usually be about half the size of the diameter or slightly less. In other words, if the rod pocket is 3 inches, then the diameter of the curtain rod would ideally be up to 1-5/8 inches in diameter, but no less than 1 inch. Usually, once the curtain rod is this kind of thickness, it’s more frequently called a drapery pole or drapery rod.
It’s not just for draperies despite its name and is perfect for valances, too. Other rod pocket valances “hide” the drapery hardware. With these valances, you’ll typically use a white, flat curtain rod that has brackets on the side. These curtain rods are often called continental rods.
Here’s how a valance that’s installed on a continental rod looks. You can’t see any of the hardware. And because the valance wraps around the brackets, it looks quite attractive from the side as well.
How Are Valances Usually Layered?
Valances can be used as the only type of window treatment, or they can be used together with draperies, shades, or blinds as one of the layers. But before even considering this, you should first think about whether you’d like your valance to be an outside mount or inside mount. In other words, will you install it on the wall above the window, or will you install it in between the studs inside the window frame?
The majority of valances are outside-mounted, especially the more elaborate, board-mounted ones. Inside-mounted valances tend to be simpler and require less fabric. If you’d like to create a room with a modern design, consider switching your outside-mounted valance to an inside mount if possible. Mounting a window treatment inside the window is an instantaneous way to make a window more modern. To help you determine how you’d like to layer and install your own window treatment, here are a few examples.
A shaped valance is installed near the ceiling to make a room appear taller. Two matching extra wide draperies were part of the treatment, too.
A tailed balloon valance and extra long draperies were made in a whimsical Chinoiserie toile fabric.
This window was dressed in three layers of coordinating window treatments. First, a silk balloon valance was made to cover about a third of this French door. Next, single width draperies framed the sides, while a board-mounted swag valance with jabots was used as the top treatment.
Some valances can be installed underneath draperies like this relaxed Roman valance.
Other window treatments can span across several windows. This drapery had to be extra long to be able to span across the two windows in this two-story living room (it was a few inches shy of 200 inches to be detailed here). A flat swag valance topped off the top window.
A scalloped rod pocket valance peeks from behind a red custom drapery.
Valances work great over woven shades, too. Here, the careful selection of fabrics and materials allowed all the color combinations to come together on the window.
Liked these examples? Check out more custom valance ideas.