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What is a Valance?

Are you looking for a way to conceal unsightly window hardware? Window Valances may beautify your house by concealing unattractive blinds and shade hardware.

Bathroom with a large shower and stand alone tub, 2 windows with valance across the top, blinds  open letting in sunlight

Do images of short frilly ruffled half-curtains come to mind when you think of window valances? Valances were standard window treatments with memorable details like ruffles and bows in the ’80s and ’90s. While those particular looks are certainly a trend that has come and gone, they have remained a staple in home decor and design. The window valance serves an essential function and is still commonly used today.

A valance, often called swag or a pelmet, is a short curtain or drape that hangs across the top of a window to hide the shade or blind hardware on the upper portion of the windows. Hiding the hardware is the primary purpose of valances. They are also used as a decorative element for window treatments and come in various styles and shapes.

Window treatments would be incomplete without valances. They add a touch of decor that can help bring the room together. All rooms can benefit from a valance because of the character and flair it adds to the space and their important use of disguising ugly brackets and curtain rods.

You’ve come to the perfect spot if you want to see some examples of valance window treatments in the most popular styles. Keep reading to learn more about using this window treatment in your well-decorated home!

What is the Purpose of a Valance Window Treatment?

Have you found the perfect fabric in color combinations to match your room? Or maybe you are tired of looking at the metal brackets that attach your blinds and shades? If so, adding window valances might be an excellent solution. Because valances only cover about 1/4 of the window’s length, they don’t offer much privacy. Don’t use them in the bathroom or bedroom if you want privacy from outside. However, in these spaces, you can use them with curtains, shutters, blinds, or shades.

Decorative Valances

Kitchen with stainless steel sink and gray and brown granite counters, old wood cabinets and a white lace valance across top of window above sink

A valance covers only the upper portion of windows, somewhat like a very short curtain panel. Whether hung from a curtain rod or a drapery rod or simply attached to a backboard, it always has a gentle and soft look that can either be informal or formal. Valances are a great way to add visual interest to your windows.

If you have a great view or picture windows, you won’t want the windows covered up or the natural light blocked with a heavy or formal window treatment. A valance will do the trick when you only want to soften the window’s appearance and not obscure the view.

Simple Valance

Kicthen with dark cainets and countertops, yellwo walls, stainless steel appliances and a yellow red and white striped valances on window

It can be used alone at the top of the window for a simple look, like in farmhouse style or modern and contemporary design. It is hung on the curtain rod from a rod pocket sewn onto the back. It slides onto a curtain rod that hangs from brackets. Interior design that calls for a more casual look will use rings or clips to attach it to the rod.

Layered Valance

A valance is also used as a window covering with other drapes and curtains to make a layered window treatment. It is always the top layer to create a complete and finished look when combined with other window treatments, like rod pocket curtains. It is a much more traditional look, usually custom-made, making it quite expensive.

Functional Valances

Dining area with small round white and dark wood table and chair set, light blue painted walls, white tile floors, 4 tall vertical windows with white blinds and orange and white valance across each

You will also want to use a valance for an additional window treatment with exposed mounting hardware. For example, blinds or shades attach to the window frame with special brackets. They are unsightly and take away from the decorative elements in the room. So a window valance is a perfect solution to cover the top of the window frame.

A valance is also the perfect finishing touch to drapery to disguise the curtain rod and drapery hardware exposed over the middle of the window. Valances can be used with curtains and draperies to create a more traditional window treatment style. They also do the job of hiding the curtain rod.

If you use a roller blind, you will always want to use a valance to cover the top where it mounts. If you use the roller blind to darken the room, the valance will block out any remaining light at the top.

What are the Different Types of Window Valances?

You might want to hang a valance at the top of the window to disguise the mounting brackets for drapery curtain rods, shades, or blinds. Or maybe you want a valance for aesthetic reasons and add pattern and color to your room. There are endless choices of fabrics, materials, and designs for valances. Here are some of the most popular valance window treatments.

Cornice Board

Many people interchange the terms cornice and valance, but some differences exist. The construction methods and shape set a cornice apart from a valance. Cornices are hard-top window treatments manufactured from a hard material like wood or rigid plastic.

First, upholster the cornice in fabric and coordinate trims that tie into the room. Then it’s attached securely to the wall. Cornice styles are also carved from wood, and stain or paint is applied instead of fabric.


A balloon valance is a traditional style. This type is flat at the top, like a curtain, but the bottom puffs out into a round “balloon” shape. Sometimes filler is inserted into the puffy bottom to help it hold shape.


A scarf valance is a simple valance that is easy and budget-friendly. It is simply a piece of fabric that drapes across the middle and down each side. Usually, it is used along with floor-length draperies and just drapes across the existing curtain rod for installation.

Pleated Valance

In a pleated valance, the fabric has folds sewn in. The fold widths can vary to make a tight or wider pleat. Similar to draperies, it can be a heavier and more traditional look. Or, with wider box pleats, like shown in the picture above, it can be a crisp and modern design.



A swag valance is made of fabric and is a semicircular shape. The fabric is pleated, and the middle of the semicircle is lower or sags, creating a swag.


The jabot valance has cloth panels that hang down the sides of the wall or in between two or more swags. The jabot is sometimes known as a waterfall valance because it cascades down the sides. The edge is often lined or fringed with a coordinating fabric.

Window Frame Valance

To create a more modern look, try switching it up and using an inside mount or window frame valance instead of using an outside mount valance. An inside mount changes how the valance hangs and creates a more modern look and feel to the room.

On an inside mount, valances hang on a curtain or drapery rod. This rod tucks inside the frame, similar to shades or blinds. They can also mount to a board attached to the window frame like roman shades.

Are There Standard Sizes for Valance Window Treatments?

Blonde woman in a white shirt and red pants using a yellow measuring tape to measure the tops of some windows, sheer curtains tied to the side, light blue walls

All sorts of sizes and types of valances exist. There are standard sizes for a window valance if you purchase one ready-made. If you live in a vintage 1960s or older home, your windows may not be updated with modern, standard sizing. If they aren’t the standard size, you might need to have them altered or custom-made.

If you have custom toppers made or are sewing them yourself, this handy chart makes it easy to plug in your measurements to give you some guidelines.

Ready-to-hang valances often come in a single standard size. The most popular option is a 50 inches width. However, any size is possible when working with a custom workroom.

The length of a straight valance is usually 1/4 the length of the window plus one additional inch. Some designs, like scarves, will be longer, and others, like swags and jabots, will have varying lengths.