A classic type of decorative treatment, valances bring color and pattern to plain windows. They draw attention to a view, are graceful capstones to a comprehensive window dressing, or simply cover up unsightly hardware. Here's a primer on their function and form.
Most often a valance is part of an overall window treatment, which might also include curtain panels, cafe curtains, blinds, or shutters. A valance can be used to cover up the functional head rail on blinds or hide a basic curtain rod for a set of curtains, providing a finished look. Often, it also functions as a unifying element, spanning multiple window sets, such as a three-window bay, and drawing together the dressings into one cohesive look.
Valances can also be the complete window treatment. Often, they act like accent marks, drawing attention to a view by topping a window with pattern and color. Sometimes, as with kitchen and bathroom windows, a single valance is a way to introduce an element of softness in a no-fuss, easy-to-keep-clean way. For a space that has different types of windows -- an open-plan kitchen with a garden window, double-hung windows, and a sliding door, for example -- simple valances bring harmony to the various styles.
Many valances elegantly showcase their colorful or patterned fabric with a flat presentation. Sometimes they are are stapled to a board, or they might hang from a rod without cinching or gathering. For interest, there might be a scalloped hem, a band of contrasting fabric, or eye-catching trims added to the bottom edge. Many flat valances also feature vertical pleats, called box pleats, which fall at the corners or divide the valance into segments.
Valances are often artfully draped across the tops of windows. The valance might be pinched at the corners, with a loose scoop of fabric hanging down in the middle, or there might be several pinched sections, so the bottom of the valance looks scalloped. Other valances hang from knobs installed across the top of the window, so the fabric drapes in loose cascades. Depending on the fabric and presentation, swagged valances can be sundress casual, with cotton geometric prints hanging in flat folds. By contrast, a custom-made silk valance with tight, pinched pleats and satin fringe trim feels ball-gown formal.