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The difference between a cornice and a valance

They may seem the same to the inexperienced eye, but the truth is that in the world of interior design, distinguishing each element is very important. One of the most confusing names is the top window decoration, which can be valances or cornices.

Although they both serve the same purpose, the way they do it is different. Think of it this way; In a chess game, it is important to know the difference between a bishop and a pawn, even though everyone is ultimately part of the game.

Confusing a valance and a window ledge is more common than you think. They have a distinct difference, but time has confused the concepts.

Both try to decorate the upper part of your window, where there are usually pipes or systems for blinds and curtains. They can be used individually or together, as one does not preclude the possibility of the other.

What is the difference between a cornice and a valance?

Let’s briefly consider the definition of valances and cornices before moving on to more tangible differences.

Valence definition: A piece of decorative curtain hung over a window to shield the curtain fittings.

Basically, a valance is nothing more than a short curtain that rests on top of the window so that it hangs. Since these are fabrics with moderate extensions, we can generally buy them from the curtain manufacturers.

Cornice definition: is a decorative framework made of wood or a composition, to which window curtains are attached by rods with rings or hooks

In contrast, a window sill is a rigid piece that covers the entire top of the window as if it were a drawer. This is mainly made of wood because of its decorative properties.

We have literally clarified the definitions of window foliage and cornices, and here are some of the most popular options when you use them.


Clyde-Hill-Estate-by-DME construction The difference between a cornice and a valance
Image source: DME construction

We started the list with the most flexible. The flounces are useful for almost any situation as we can create formal or casual environments depending on their placement. In addition, if we are not rigid, we can move them around when we need a clear view of the window.

At the time of use, there are certain points that we can adjust to our liking, e.g. B. the way the top tube is held and whether the ends hang freely. Depending on your needs, we can then divide them into the following types of valance:

If you’re looking for a quick decoration, use Simple Valances

It is usually a fabric apron that is simply attached to the top support with clamp rings. It will be enough to place it to create a casual and homely atmosphere.

A more permanent and formal solution is the pleated flounces

Mercer-House-by-BROWN-DAVIS-ARCHITECTURE-n-INTERIORS The difference between a cornice and a valanceImage source: BROWN DAVIS ARCHITECTURE & INTERIORS

These are pieces that are sewn to the top bars with an L shape. Because of their hanging, they are usually rectangular pieces of fabric that have a fold that is then sewn all the time, creating an opening through which the carrier runs.

These ruffles offer a more formal and simple touch for the windows, and they also hide the superior support among the benefits.

To put together our own folded valance we need to follow the next steps:

  1. Find the piece of fabric you want to use for the valance on a wide, flat surface that we can work on.
  2. Depending on our choice, we fully fold some of the fabric to sew and make like a tube, or we can install a series of rings at an approximate 4 inch distance between each.
  3. We will introduce the top support through our valance. If we choose the ring method, we need to locate it correctly and evenly so as not to create large panels of fabric that damage our design.

Create a luxurious atmosphere with a valance scarf

Reflecting on the Amelia-Bennett Scale The Difference Between a Cornice and a ValanceImage source: Amelia Bennett

This option is the most formal and extravagant of them all. A scarf valance creates the feeling of wrapping the stand slightly while you move freely over it. Usually they end in the shape of a waterfall with the ends falling through the window.

To assemble this valance, it is recommended that someone else help us. The steps for its preparation are the following:

  1. We stretch the valance along its horizontal on a flat surface.
  2. Next we will fold the fabric with lines going from right to left until we have something like an elongated accordion. We mark the center point with a pen or tape that we can use to center it on the carrier later.
  3. To maintain the accordion shape, we will create a number of berths together with the valance. With paper strips, we hold the ends and a central part with sufficient force, and we use adhesive tape on the paper rolls so that they do not come off.
  4. Now, with the help of another person, everyone grabs one end of the flounce to lift it up for support. Whether you are using stairs or chairs for this task, be careful not to get in the way of your work, or you could fall.
  5. With the fabric on the upper support of the window, we let the valance rest by zigzag or spiral movements. We need to pay attention to the location of the center point that we marked earlier and we need to leave enough fabric to create a tie on each side.
  6. Also, once the valance is in place, we can drop the ends.
  7. Now we remove the paper ties and just gently pull on the lower folds to create that ripple effect. Be careful not to use excessive force.
  8. Finally, as an additional safety mechanism, use small nylon strips to create transparent lashing straps at the ends so that our valance doesn’t move.

Show freedom with a light fabric apron

Fabric-Valance-Top-Treatments-for-Windows-by-Trendy-Blinds-Inc The difference between a cornice and a valanceImage source: Trendy Blinds Inc.

This last option does not require the use of large tubular supports with our window. On the contrary, a pair of hooks on the corner of the window (or a handful depending on the length) are sufficient. The steps are very simple:

  1. Install a wall hook in each top corner of the window.
  2. As if we were making a scarf valance, we fold the fabric in an accordion shape.
  3. Now all you have to do is secure each end of the fabric to the hooks so that there is a large central fold that we can stretch to create some kind of bridge or waviness.

If we want we can instead keep the center piece straight to get extra fabric on the ends.


Tutor-Renovation-by-Patricia-Knox-Designs The difference between a cornice and a valanceImage source: Patricia Knox Designs

After the stage of the ruffles and looking for a more rigid solution, the window cornices arrive. If it’s made of plastic, it is usually upholstered with fabric. However, the real allure of them is that we can shape them however we want, so some of them, like wood, don’t use tapestries.

In wood, we can get them in many shapes and materials, from bamboo or oak to those with stunning moldings that break the classic rectangular design.

And that is exactly what a cornice does not have to follow the strict meaning of the word. It’s a good thing it’s a table, but it can have different shapes and styles, so most colonial or neoclassical figures are similar, similar to antique furniture.

Usually the cornice boards are carved in the lower part, since the upper part serves more of a functional purpose.

Another big difference between flounces and cornices is that we will most likely need an expert hand to make the latter, as it is not just a piece of fabric, but a complete piece of craftsmanship.

If you can’t find the cornice box you want, we recommend that you hire a carpenter. All you have to do is use the design you want. Also keep in mind that names change between manufacturers, so it’s always good to have a picture on hand.

Here are some of the most popular designs used in cornices around the world

Curved lines can create multiple shapes

Window-treatment-with-lighting-Burr-Ridge-IL-by-Gailani-Designs-Inc The difference between a cornice and a valanceImage source: Gailani Designs Inc.

By using only curves, we can create elegant shapes and patterns. In this case, by simply carving a rectangular piece of wood with a round cardboard template, we can create very strange internal patterns.

An example is if we make a cut that goes from the lower right end of the cornice to the upper middle section and back to the lower left corner, the end result is something of a bridge.

If we do the same thing now, but in reverse (top corner, bottom center, top corner), we have created a kind of eye with rounded triangles on the edges.

Notches and openings with triangles

Contemporary basement-by-hanging-in-style designs The difference between a cornice and a valanceImage source: Hang in style designs

Have you heard of the sawtooth pattern? It is simply a zigzag line that resembles the cutting part of a saw. It’s a pattern of triangles that go up and down.

It is very common to see it in cornices. All we have to do is cut out a triangular template that measures a little less than ¼ of the total height of the cornice.

After our template is created, we will highlight it throughout the bottom section. Another option, if you don’t want the sawtooth design, is to lower the stencil a little further so it exceeds the wood a few inches. If we draw the template this way, the end result is a kind of notch.

You can try different patterns that are similar to classic furniture designs. Combine the use of triangles with curves for more eye-catching results.

A step pyramid for the most symmetrical

VILLA-EL-SUENO-by-OSCAR-E.-FLORES-DESIGN-STUDIO-LLC The difference between a cornice and a valanceImage source: OSCAR E. FLORES DESIGN STUDIO, LLC

The tiered pyramid design will test our pulse. We start by drawing a horizontal line from both ends of the cornice. It won’t be very big, at most an inch or two.

Later we will make a similar cut, but in the vertical direction, starting where we end the horizontal line. In the end, we return to horizontal carving and repeat the process as many times as we want.

The difficulty with this style is that it is generally performed symmetrically. That is, everything we do in one half, we have to repeat in the other.

The choice is up to us, but we already know what their names are

It doesn’t matter if we are people with cornices or valances, we both try to decorate the top of our window. Now that we know the differences between them, we can make better decisions about whether to go for a freer and casual style or something more traditional and rigid.

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