Valances and cornices are similar in that both are top window treatments. But the similarities stop there.

So what is the difference between a valance a cornice? A valance is a top window treatment that can be mounted on a curtain rod or a wooden board. The fabric hangs loosely from it and is often lined with cotton, thermal suede, or blackout lining. A cornice, on the other hand, is a fully upholstered top window treatment. A cornice is made by creating a wooden mold first, covering it with batting, and then pulling the decorative fabric taut over the cornice.

Let’s take a closer look at the two top treatment styles.



Valances can be rod-mounted or board-mounted.


A shaped valance with a 3-3/4-inch rod pocket mounted on a 2-1/2-inch continental rod. Valance has 4-inch returns on each side.


A faux Roman shade valance with a 2-1/2-inch rod pocket mounted on a 1-inch diameter brushed nickel decorative rod with bulb finials.


Box Pleat Valance over Sliding Glass Doors

A wide board-mounted valance over a sliding glass door. Other than a few angle brackets, this valance requires no hardware since it’s already mounted on a wooden board.


When using rods, valances can be mounted three ways, depending on their style:

  • outside-mounted –  valance hangs high up on a wall using continental rods or decorative rods.
  • inside-mounted – valance hangs in between the window casings and is secured using tension rods.
  • frame-mounted – valance hangs from the wooden window frame using discreet and small decorative rods.

Board-mounted valances are usually outside mounted, and hang high up on the wall rather than right above the window. They are usually too heavy to be an inside-mount and definitely aren’t suited for frame mounts.



Cornices always start out with a custom-cut wooden base. which then is covered with ample batting. The third, and final layer, is the decorative fabric that serves as its final covering.


This purple cornice board was carved to flute at the bottom. Its look was finished by two faux silk drapes.


Custom Window Cornice

This cornice is a bit simpler, but it was still interesting because it was finished with green ribbon trim on its inset edges.


Custom Window Cornice

The same cornice, viewed from the side. As you can tell, it has a rather large return from the window.



As you probably noticed, cornices are easy to tell apart from valances.

Cornices have a bulgy look as they are upholstered just like a headboard would be. You’ll often also see them finished off with piping on top or bottom. Not only is this a great way to hide imperfections by the fabricator, it’s also a welcome upgrade by most homeowners. Decorative upholstery tacks are also often used on cornices.

Valances are more lightweight since they hang from rods or have a wooden board on the top side only. Since valances are easier to sew and don’t have the risk of fabric bunching or imperfections (unless you hire an inexperienced fabricator), a valance often won’t need added piping or trims.

If you’re worried about light filtering through the fabric, you’ll worry less with a cornice since it has a wooden back.

With valances, the solution is blackout lining, just keep in mind that blackout lining works best on more modern and flat styles. Blackout lining won’t always be suitable on valances that require a certain shape, like swags or balloon valances.


Custom Valances

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