Boy, March really DID roar in like a lion yesterday, here in Boston and I guess the entire northeast.
I hope everyone is doing well. Spring is on its way! Hooray!
Today, I want to discuss window valances. Apparently, there’s some controversy over whether they are “in” or “out,” or what’s the deal?
First of all, what is a window valance?
Most of you know already, but basically, it’s a horizontal hanging treatment at the top of the window. They can be used alone or with a drapery treatment behind them.
Please check out this post from several years ago, where you can see some window valances that I did for clients in Larchmont, NY.
Speaking of blown away.
One of the most stylish examples is this stunning room featured in Domino Mag by Mary McDonald. And, I think it still looks just as fresh as it did when I was first drooling all over this image, at least 20 years ago.
However, there are other variations of window valances. And, by the way, these are all outlined in my guide – 333 (hard to find) Decorating Rules & Tips You Need to Know.
In addition to window valance, common terms and definitions are:
Cornice (see also Lambrequin, Pelmet, and Valance) – Any flat top treatment with a straight or shaped bottom. (or, see below)
Cornice Board – Faux wood, plaster, or wood usually make cornices, and this is another area where pelmets differ in that they are cloth covered. Additionally, pelmets do not form any part of the room’s moulding – it simply covers the window top or other structure.
Cornices differ in that they relate directly to the crown moulding as it interacts with the room’s window.
Lambrequin – This is similar to a Pelmet, but whereas a pelmet is usually just a rectangular padded, cloth-covered board, a lambrequin has a far more elaborate design; often with cascading and sinuous “tails” down the sides of the window. Miles Redd is known for his gorgeous lambrequins.
Pelmet – A valance at the upper end of a window decoration often used to conceal curtain fixtures. It differs from a cornice in that the layers of decorative molding and crown usually found in cornices are both missing in the pelmet. A pelmet can be made up of a flat layer of fabric over a wood frame over foam padding.
Valance — (or window valance, or pelmet in the UK) is a form of window treatment covering the uppermost part of the window and can be hung alone or paired with window blinds or curtains. Valances are also a great way to conceal drapery hardware. Or, conceal a too large space between the top of the window and the crown moulding.
Please note that these terms are often used interchangeably.
But, basically, anything that’s soft and hanging is a valance, and everything that’s upholstered onto a padded board is a cornice, pelmet, or lambrequin.
Unfortunately, valances have been given somewhat of a bad rap in recent years.
In fact, I read in my research that someone tried to get them and their source was no longer making them.
But, here’s why the bad, rap, in my opinion.
It’s because of the widely available down-market versions made of shiny polyester.
Okay, before I go any further since I just unavoidably insulted some of you.
I’m fine with whatever you put in your home. I really am. This is for people who want to know my perspective and how to get a more sophisticated, stylish look. If you like it, great, and if not, that’s okay too.
Most of these below, except for the floral in the middle, are a hard pill to swallow.
Above is what I’m talking about.
Laurel, you haven’t mentioned swags and swags and jabots.
Yes, you’re right. A swag could be considered a type of valance, I suppose. If you’d like to learn more about swags and more, then go here. There’s also an example of a cornice.
Now, I’m going to share many beautiful examples of window valances.
When I think of window valances and some of the top designers who favor them, the power couple of Mr. & Mrs. Howard, AKA – Phoebe and James Howard, Phoebe is an interior designer, and James Michael is both an architect and an interior designer.
Here are some other beautiful valance ideas that by Jim Howard and was featured in House Beautiful.
Love Jim and Phoebe’s work. If you’d like to see more of them, please check out their website:
Another fabulous image that I clipped out of a magazine maybe 30 years ago is of the wonderful office belonging to Charlotte Moss. I was fortunate to hear her speak a couple of years ago.
Let’s look at some recent window valances.
This is a fabulous company I discovered today; gorgeous interior design. And above is a wonderful example of a simple valance with corner pleats.
Laurel, why would someone do a valance instead of a decorative rod?
That’s a great question! 😉 Below are some reasons:
- If using a non-decorative traverse rod, it hides the mechanism, which isn’t too attractive.
- Window valances can help to line up uneven window heights if they’re not too extreme.
- Sometimes valances can help minimize a large gap between the top of the window casing and ceiling or crown moulding.
- If the windows are old and drafty, window valances can minimize cold or hot air coming through the window.
- The designer or home-owners prefer the look.
We’re going to see several of Miles’ lambrequins and pelmets in a bit, but first this wonderful valance with Miles’ trademark trim. The detailing on this window treatment is extraordinary.
Above and below, you may recognize the gorgeous work of the amazing Suzanne Kasler. I have met her a few times and she’s just as nice as she is talented.
Let’s move on to the exquisite lambrequins and pelmets of Miles Redd.
He is known for these glorious shaped window treatments. All of them have creatively applied trim in contrasting fabric. I don’t think he ever repeats the design of the contrasting trim.
Strictly speaking, this is a lambrequin, above. That is because the sides go down the window casing.
This exquisite example is from Miles’ own bedroom. I can assure you that the complementary shape of the bed canopy is no accident. He admits to obsessing over every detail. I dunno. He’s 48 years old and still looks like a teenager to me.
I noticed on Miles’ Insta feed that he is kind enough to put down the name of his workroom. However, it’s most likely a trade-only workroom and verrrrrrry expensive.
More gorgeous pelmets designed by Miles Redd
This pelmet is also from Miles’ home.
Miles Redd frequently collaborates with Gil Schafer. This is from their Mill House project. It’s actually a new home design by Gil and decor by Miles. And then, they sold it.
One last pelmet in a colorful bedroom by Miles Redd.
This charming pelmet is by @nikiardenstudio on Instagram.
Below are examples of rectangular pelmets.
I don’t know the designer in the above incredible room, belonging to Adrian Sassoon. It is from Architectural Digest. The fabrics are by Robert Kime, designer for the British Royal Family. The room definitely looks English.
And, I am ending with a charming pelmet in a boy’s bedroom.
In summation regarding window valances and the like. I think they are still very current. And even if they aren’t, if you like them and they are tasteful, then who cares?
If you are interested in looking at other window treatment posts, I created a post that links to all of them!
PS: Please check out the newly updated HOT SALES!
by Laurel Bern
I just had Smith and Noble come in for my powder room. Window coverings have not decreased in price, which is why my go to is Pottery Barn curtains and black iron curtain rods. I love the formality of lushness of some of these, and they soften a room, too, but I’m just trying to imagine what they cost. I ordered a relaxed Roman valance and woven blinds for ONE window, and it was over 1300 dollars.
I guess if you can afford Miled Redd or Mark D. Sikes, the cost of the window treatments is probably not a consideration!
Miles’s designs are a bit wild for my home, but they are gorgeous. I think these window treatments are rich, classic, and beautiful. My windows are bare and boring. One day . . .
Please excuse my incorrect spelling above. My old science mind kicked in for a few seconds. 😉
Has anyone picked up a copy of Veranda, Southern Home or Atlanta Homes and Gardens???? All include LOVELY valances that are not dated or granny looking!!! We all have different tastes but variety is what makes the design world so very interesting. If I walk in one more all white house I think I will scream!
P.S. I am surprised at many of the comments…. “old and dated”, “granny”, “hideous”. Hmmm…. makes me think we are not looking at the same photos!
Beautiful examples, Laurel! Thanks to you, my tastes continue to elevate and expand… I am so grateful!
Oh Laurel, these are beautiful.
Here you show us the difference between
off-the-rack and haute couture.
They all are the icing on the cake for the rooms they grace.
I like the Suzanne Kasler design as it seems like it could go in a formal or more casual room.
Like you, I still love the Mary McDonald piece. That photo almost takes my breath away!
I have nice views from my windows. I like to look beyond the windows, so I only use what is necessary to block the sun and, at night, any peeping Toms. But truth be told, I have only had deer staring in at me which ends up scaring both of us!
Now I see how the use of a valence with drapes would create the look of a frame of the outside as opposed to just drapes alone, looking like forlorn stepsisters and ruining the overall feeling of the inside and outside being one.
Once again we agree and I am still convinced we are twins from different origins! I really loved this, from your term explanation to the wonderful examples!
Most of all how you make it abundantly clear “to each his own,” BUT some things are not designed well even if an individual likes them! And that every window can have this type of treatment but it must be custom designed for that very window alone.
I run into so many clients that say they want no window treatments at all, only to discover that the “right” one not only enhances the view and the surrounding space… it completes the ambience in general.
Great post as always! p
I love well done valences, especially by the Howards or Miles. Redd. the one from nikiarden is awesome the way the pattern is matched. thanks for the great post! looking forward to seeing your new digs.
Laurel, I couldn’t find the room in Domino by Mary McDonald, but I have technological dyslexia. Can you point me in the right direction?
All the pelmets are beautiful.
Going back to that room by Meg Braff that you showed to Mrs. L., it’s just gorgeous, and to me, looks timeless.
And you’re right… Miles looks ageless.
It’s the room with Mary sitting on the floor.
Hmmm… our second floor, where our children’s bedrooms are located, is technically a 1/2-story… the ceilings are at 6.5 ft (at the height of a door frame). Thankfully we’re all short. The windows up there are butted-up against the ceiling. I wonder if a pelmet could help create an illusion of actual space above the window/higher ceiling height??? I’ll have to fashion something makeshift out of posterboard or something like that to try it out! It might just be a lost cause and we have to embrace it as cozy 🙂
When we purchased our home 6 years ago, we also purchased all the furniture and decor. It was obvious that an interior designer was involved, but not everything was to our (my) taste. (I don’t think Hubby minded so much!) I sold some of the furniture and changed up some of the decor, pillow, artwork, etc. But the custom-made pelmets in our family room, breakfast nook, and master bedroom always bothered me. We lived with it for 6 years. A few months ago, while spending ALL our time in our home (hello, pandemic), my husband and I were talking about the pelmets. Me: How do you feel about these? Hubby: I don’t like them. Me: What? I don’t either! Can we get rid of them? Hubby gets out his tools and a ladder and starts ripping them down! It took me awhile to get used to the look, but I like these rooms so much better now with no window treatments at all. (All 3 areas have curved walls filled with windows that have views with no one living behind us. And there are built-in blinds between the window panes for light control when needed.) I don’t think I would have minded the pelmets as much if I liked the fabric that was on them. That said, we still have pelmets in our living room and dining room (with drapes) which I think look fine. In my opinion, most of the examples you show in your post are lovely, Laurel, but they wouldn’t suit my southwest desert home. Gotta’ do what fits the style of your home :] Thank you for the education regarding the terms, also. I tend to say “valence” for everything in this category!
Although the window treatments are beautiful, I wouldn’t use valances in my own home. However, in the right space they add elegance and a bit of formality.
Laurel is opening up the option of window valances as a reminder that they can look current, tasteful and add an element of softness to a room while hiding flaws. I say, “Thank you”!
How funny – I immediately thought I would NOT like any of the things you talk about in this post – and then I end up liking most of them :)!
My only issue is that you need curtains for this to work… We have a dog and 4 cats. Loose hair and dust are one of the reasons I chose not to have curtains at all in our living area. (The bedrooms do, in case you are wondering!)
Really liked the last picture: the combination of (bamboo?) roll-ups and a nice fabric pelmet. Need something to keep the sun out of my office, so thanks for the idea!
The matching pelmets in our living room and dining room that yes, were made 29 years ago, are in a gorgeous subtly-heathered ivory fabric and match the drapes beneath them. Because they are neither fussy nor flamboyant, they tend to add texture and compliment (complement?) the rest of the decor. My wife loves them and though they were not my style, I appreciate them for their high end construction and inherent beauty. We have changed the furniture, lamps, rugs and artwork but have retained the pelmets.
I love all of these. My pet peeve …curtain rods with grommets panels. Especially when the fabric panels are too narrow and have no drape to them, and when the grommets are a different colour from the rod and/or the wrong size grommets for the rod. I am all for gorgeous draperies and even simple valances for contemporary homes.
Your post really made me appreciate these fixtures. They are beautiful.
Love this post! I especially love a valance with a shower curtain! Great eye candy!
Even though we do a lot of simple treatments we still occasionally make valances and cornices. With the right fabric and shape, in the right room they can be stunning !
You know what Furlow would say: no drapes, just shutters.
GORGEOUS! So custom and high end. If Miles Redd is wrong, I don’t want to be right.
I agree about the hotel look people seem to be going for. I’ve been in all kinds of hotels from low end to exquisite. I would not want my home to look like a hotel–lobby, bathroom, suite or otherwise!
I have valances in our dining room, office and family room. I’ve removed valances in bedrooms and the kitchen. As I update each room I’m removing them and doing more, simpler window treatments.
I did enjoy the window treatments for a long time after we put them up, just ready for something more streamlined.
Interesting how window treatments seem to be such a polarizing subject, isn’t it? Sometimes I think it is a matter of exposure. If one has only seen awful stuff not appropriate to the home, then maybe one thinks it is all awful. The one thing we can all agree on, however? Do what works for you and your family in your own home and enjoy it. Personally, I love just about any style of window treatment, as long as it doesn’t “fight” with the room it is in.
I have a small custom drapery business and I completely agree with you Laurel. If top treatments are done correctly with a trendy fabric they can add a beautiful element & coziness to a room.
I think much depends on the architecture and period of the house. In my traditional house in PA, I had a large window in the master with blackout lining. With a traverse rod it needed a simple padded cornice. It was classic and attractive. But here in Colorado with a craftsman-ish new build, I use hunter Douglas silhouettes with remote control on all my very large windows. Simple linen panels on decorative rods look appropriate and add warmth and texture when the blind are completely open to the Mountain View’s. Fussy decor just would not work here.
I think another reason the heavily layered and detailed type of design in some of the photos has fallen out of favor with younger people is that custom anything is terribly expensive and doesn’t work for the minimalist style they often prefer.
They are all beautifully designed, however, for me putting these is a high ceiling historical home would be wonderful.
I think most people today and are yearning to to see the outside and less fuss.
A trip to Williamsburg , Virginia reflects the beautiful valances and decor of draperies which fit the generations.
On a funny note, if you watched the Carol Burnett show, when it was a synopsis of Gone With The Wind and Scarlett comes down the steps in a gown make from the red Scarlett draperies with pole across her shoulders.
Hilarious. BUT very innoventive.
One more thought: who cares if it is “in”. Make your home your own with your own unique style.
Laurel shows beautiful rooms and if you love the look presented today then just go for it! If like me you don’t love it then we can enjoy the photos and learn something too.
Thank you so much, Laurel, for this beautiful post! I needed a drool bib after all those gorgeous pelmets and lambrequins.
Also, thanks for the link to the shutter window treatments. This was an especially helpful post for some of my window treatment issues.
I’m afraid that it’s a “no” for me. I have no window treatments at all in my house except for mini-blinds for privacy at night and to regulate the amount of light during the day. i prefer the clean uncluttered look and how the blinds almost disappear when opened exactly horizontal. I often pull them completely up for maximum light and views of the outdoors.
Also less maintenance and cleaning is a plus (less to collect dust and pet hair).
Granted, the rooms are beautiful but look more like pricey hotels or historic homes with professional cleaning services rather than houses most people actually live in.
Love your blog, Laurel and your personality and sense of humor!
Valences depend on the style of the house. They would not work here at all. I like them in the appropriate settings. (I will say I don’t like the header valence AT ALL – but it isn’t entirely the valence, it is the entire boredom coloration of that entire room.) I do think valences work well in Victorian or similar settings. Simple ones can work in MCM homes, depending on the rest of the décor.
I think they require a traditional room with a taller ceiling height as you show in most of these examples. I think in my little house with 9′ ceilings the pelmets from Miles Redd might be a little much but I can appreciate them all the same.
I love this post. I enjoy both contemporary and traditional rooms, and feel that if the valances were removed from these rooms they would each feel a little less finished. I think great designers are like great writers – just the right words and punctuation. I do not like all of the rooms, but some of them come alive with the valances and makes me wonder if a detailed touch like that could make my own space more complete.
These are not for me. They seem woefully out of step with the 21st century. The word “foofaraw” comes to mind.
Beautiful? Yes. The ones Laurel shows us here are a true art. Are they dated? NO DOUBT IN MY MIND. Just like a gorgeous wig from 1776 the valance is just no longer relevant unless the whole house intentionally goes for that period look. I would made an exception in the last picture: here the valance serves a purpose to counterbalance the deep window recess and the choice of color is meant to blend in — so it is more of an architectural element here. I adore your blog, Laurel.
Team Valance here! I think they are timeless if done correctly and tastefully, but regardless of whether they’re ‘in style’, there will always be instances where a valance or similar is necessary.
Thank you for the gorgeous examples on this dreary Wednesday. I’m in the process of ordering something for my daughter’s bedroom inspired by the blush-colored Suzanne Kasler treatment above.
Having just helped my daughter move into a new apartment, where she is living alone for the first time, what caught my eye in the first image is not the valance but the fact that even though the chair and table jut out over the loveseat this is a charming, stylish and inviting room. We had to make a few compromises too but it all came together and really works. While I might wish for 5 more feet in M’s new living room, the glorious sunshine that fills the space (so crucial in these pandemic work from home days) makes up for it. My point: rules are really important, but breaking them sometimes works.
I think the pelmet in the boy’s room is rather cute!
My mother sewed draperies, curtains, slip covers and yes valances for our homes. I have always loved what a beautiful fabric, imagination and skill can do. Ceiling height might determine if a valance is the right choice. Now I am looking at my kitchen window with 12 foot ceiling.
I could see doing a tailored riff on some of these ideas could result in a very attractive window finish, especially if you live in a MCM home and want to hew to the esthetic while still being stylish.
I now know the difference between all the terms. Another example of a cornice I could appreciate is here:
This post has made my day. Besides their beauty, the function of a valance hiding the traverse rod makes opening and closing so much easier and helps keep the shape of the panels. No more fluffing every time I shove my curtains open with that stupid wand or worse, staining the fabric after the day in and day out “grabbing the leading edges and closing them”
As with all things, valances will come and go just as mini dresses come and go!
In my 64 year old opinion, a valance done correctly (using the proper design for the particular fabric and correct scale in proportion to the window) is a timeless look.
LOVE YOUR POSTS!!!
The house we bought in 1996 had carpet everywhere, including the garage, kitchen, and bathroom, but the first thing to go was the puffy white valance over the large living room window. It was stuffed with tissue paper(!) and when taken down must have been 30 feet long. I’m still using that fabric for other projects. Anyway, fast forward, and I’ve added tailored valances in a new-build house for practical and aesthetic reasons. A valance over a sliding patio door adds color without getting in the way of the view or the function of the door. A valance over a kitchen window won’t get splashed if there’s a sink below, and for those of us on an IKEA budget, a valance will hide the top of their pleated shades, which don’t have a nice cover like expensive ones do. I selected modern, happy fabrics, to go with the lighthearted vibe we wanted, as well as a simple design to compliment my mostly-mid-century style. For this house, valances were the perfect choice.
And even if they aren’t, if you like them and they are tasteful, then who cares?
This is why I love reading your blog so much. I learn a lot, and I appreciate that I can be myself. Thank you.
Another great post, thank you Laurel! We are highly allergic to dust mites at my house so I did a lovely shaped pelmet above our windows and no curtains. That way I could bring in some color and softness and minimize the dust that could collect. I love it!
Hello Laurel, Generally I am a fan of simpler window treatments, and if cornices, etc. are included, the simpler and more tailored the better. Of course certain historic homes look better with treatments fitting their period, but even them some people go overboard with complicated window treatments for old houses. For the well-designed valances such as you show, I agree with your statement above–I like to see them out and about, but they are not my own personal style for my own house. Above all, the window treatments have to fit into the general decorative scheme.
Sometimes a pelmet is the only choice, because of the architecture! When the window embrasure goes right up to the ceiling, there isn’t much choice. I think the ones you show look elegant and modern.
I need a pelmet in one bedroom, for that reason. Your examples give lots of ideas, but I prefer the plainer versions, so I’m going for a tailored style with contrasting trim, a bit like the Digs Design pic, a decision taken recently after seeing something similar but even plainer, by Veere Grenney — who also does the chinoiserie curly-end style with great success. All I have to do is set in and make it!
I probably should have added that they all look like Granny rooms and make the rooms look dated.
I personally find these all hideous, but that is just my opinion.
I am adding yes yes yes! I think they elevate the design above mass market style, and are exceptionally beautiful for classic rooms. For me, too many rooms are looking like hotel chains lately and these treatments help to overcome that.
I love valances – especially the gorgeous examples you’ve shown.
I think, overall, they can lend themselves to more traditional looks. But the square box pleat valance can look pretty tailored.
They add warmth and they finish the room.
Thank you for the education on key terms and definitions!
Interesting subject! I think valances can be very elegant. I definitely prefer something more tailored. And I am certain I’ll never again choose to make a large, ruffled valance out of a floral chintz like I did in my family room back in 1990. Although it was a beautiful fabric… crap, I just realized that was over 30 years ago! 😳
Yes, they all look dated to me, sorry.
This post is extremely timely for me, as I’m in the early stages of planning new window treatments for our dining room makeover. Thank you for including so many examples! They really helped me articulate what I would like.
I agree with Lauren, they just scream yester year to me! They look old and dated!
All of them? The ones in my graphic certainly looked old and dated. Miles’ valances/pelmets are innovative. The only person doing anything remotely like that, was the iconic, designer, Dorothy Draper. Of course, you don’t have to like that style. Personally, I wouldn’t do it for myself. However, I can appreciate their beauty as I love lots of different things.
THANK YOU for this post. I have been trying to decide if valances are current as I would like to replace my 26 year old valances and draperies.
Laurel, I take your wonderful advice seriously. I love what I learn from you. But in this case, no. I dislike these however they are shaped, whatever they are made of, and regardless of how much praise is heaped upon them. No, just no, for me.