Valances are an acquired taste, and opinions amongst our signers were divided. They hide a multitude of sins and can make an extremely tall window more intimate, by visually drawing it down. Yet valances cut out light, and if you are using a patterned fabric, the complications mount as you relate the design of the valance to that of the fabric.

There are basically four types of valance. Hard valances are made of wood covered in fabric. Flat valances are made of fabric, sometimes lined with buckram, and may be box-pleated, but not gathered.

Fabric valances may be softly gathered, ruched or pencil-pleated; and lambrequins are stiff, shaped panels, arched in the middle, which may or may not be covered in fabric. Valances should never be shorter in depth than 50 cm, or they will appear out of proportion.
Equally, they should not obscure the top of the windows, because the best quality of light comes from above.

Swag draperies, with their carefully arranged folds, are generally seen today as a totally unnecessary complication that is less than fashionable. The effect can be quit striking if handled well, but it must be remembered that swags are essentially Victorian and Edwardian in style, and certainly not eighteenth-century, as many people would have you believe. Authentic eighteenth-century and early nineteenth-century curtains were actually quite sparing with fabric, and often thrown nonchalanty over a pole, as we might do today.


  1. A soft, shaped valance in the formal American Country House style. If you are going for a fancy valance shape, trim it boldly so the shape speaks for itself.
  2. A swaged valance. The swags — hanging pleats have to be carefully arranged from a fabric heavy enough to hold the shape.
  3. A simple gathered heading topped off with an antique giltwood valance board. It’s the classic way with a valance and the modern way with fabric that makes this treatment so successful.
  4. Hard, shaped valances give these tall windows an elegant flourish. With ceilings this high, flamboyance works perfectly.
  5. Pretty, shaped scalloped valance that is, in fact, very simple. It’s the fabric and the border that attract the attention, rather than any fancy pleating methods.
  6. Hard valance stiffened with buckram into a slightly bowed shape, conceived as part of the architecture of the room. The strong, straight lines of this type of valance are perfect with curtains that hang straight, unfastened by tiebacks.
  7. Pointed cape valance made in the same way as one with the curtain fabric flapped over the top. The points are tipped with tiny beads for added pizzazz.
  8. Traditional swaged valances look wonderful with traditional curtains. There’s a lovely rhythm to the restrained lines of the swag and the tiebacks.
  9. A valance that’s not really a valance at all. It’s a swag of fringed fabric thrown across the top of these curtains like a Flamenco dancer’s shawl.
  10. A pretty gathered valance is trimmed with fine silk rope. It works perfectly with the fill gathered curtains in a romantic and feminine bedroom.
  11. Another example of the dramatic shawl valance, cutting a dash over inverted pleat curtains in an arrangement that is not to be disturbed.