Window Valances – Hopelessly Dated, Or A Cool Idea?

Hi Everyone,

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.


Domino - Mary McDonald - window valance


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.


tacky window valances


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:


Charlotte Moss Window Valances Draperies - Office early 2000s

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.


Digs Design Co Valance - bedroom

Digs Design Co.

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.


Miles Redd - chintz - trim - window valances

Miles Redd


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.


valances master bedroom

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.


Suzanne Kasler - valance - French doors - living room

via Architectural Digest


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.



Miles Redd - Window Valances - Lambrquin - bed canopy

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.


Miles Redd bedroom

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.

Miles Redd Lambrequin

More from Miles Redd

Miles Redd silk draperies - window valance - staircase

This pelmet is also from Miles’ home.




@nikiardenstudio on instagram - pelmet - valance

This charming pelmet is by @nikiardenstudio on Instagram.


Below are examples of rectangular pelmets.
 - boys bedroom - handsome cornice

M + M Interior Design


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!


Welcome To Laurel Home!


Hi, I’m Laurel, and Laurel Home is the website and blog for Laurel Bern Interiors.
I’ve been creating new-traditional interiors since 1988. The blog is where I share all.

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