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What is a Valance and How is it Different Than a Cornice?

What is a Valance and How is it Different Than a Cornice?

If you are confused about the different types of top treatments used on windows, you aren’t alone.  While there are numerous styles of top treatments, they can be grouped into two main types:  Valances and Cornices.  Although the terms are sometimes used interchangeably, the two window treatments are made differently.

Navy blue Valance

This valance features both pinch pleats and flat swags; it is mounted on a board and installed with brackets.

A Valance is a relatively short window treatment (as compared to a curtain or drapery panel), hung at the top of the window.  It is either installed with a curtain or a drapery rod, or stapled to a wood board and installed to the wall with brackets.  The bottom of a Valance hangs loose from the board or rod, giving it a soft appearance.  Valances can be pleated, shirred, flat, ruffled or trimmed with beads; there are hundreds of options.


French Pick-up Valance

This board-mounted valance features swags and cascades.






Shirred valance

This valance was shirred on a drapery rod for installation.









Scarf Valance

This unstructured top treatment is called a "scarf valance." It is installed with brackets or scarf holders instead of a rod or board.














A Cornice, on the other hand, is a hard top treatment, often created by upholstering a shaped board.  The fabric on a cornice is pulled taut, and not allowed to hang loose at the bottom of the treatment.  Cornices can be made in any shape and size; many are created with two or more fabrics and some have a contrasting welt trim.  Some cornices are not upholstered; instead, they are made completely of wood.  Wood cornices generally feature various applied trims, crown molding and other decorative details.

Faux Silk Cornice

This cornice features 2 embroidered faux silk fabrics and welt trim; it is paired with drapery panels to complete the look.

Upholstered Cornice

This arched upholstered cornice features one fabric with a contrasting welt trim.

Wood cornice

This wall of windows features a two-tiered wood cornice that hides the headrails on the shades.


















Now you know!



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4 Responses to What is a Valance and How is it Different Than a Cornice?

  1. […] rods are actually still available and are the most affordable type.  And, you can always install a cornice or valance above the drapery to conceal the rod.  But, also take a look at some of the other traverse rods […]

  2. […] but people are often confused as to the difference between a valance and a cornice. The blog A Little Design Help has a great post outlining the differences, but the basic difference is this: The fabric of a […]

  3. Debra Martin says:

    Can you please tell me if there is a pattern for the French pickup valance you used in the Stillwell kitchen?


    • Teri says:

      Hello! Are you referring to a sewing pattern? I didn’t make it, but had a fabricator make it for me…I do believe there are sewing patterns for this type of treatment, but I can’t direct you to anything specific. Good luck!

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