Before you go out and splurge on home decor fabrics or commission a custom balloon valance or shade to be made by a workroom, I’d like to share with you a few tips. Hopefully, these tips will help you make sure your window is dressed properly in this popular style of window treatment.
Use a Coordinating Fabric with High Contrast
To make sure each pouf stands out, it’s a good idea to introduce a coordinating fabric with a high contrast in between each pouf. Now, if you just have a standard balloon valance, this might not be a possibility. But for balloon valances with more complex patterns, this is a great idea. Take a look at this French country toile valance in yellow.
Obviously, the aim here was to bring attention to the rooster medallion in the center of each pouf. To make sure this happens, a vibrant red was carefully selected for the fabric in between each of the poufs.
Think the fabric you want is too busy to pull this off? This Jacobean floral print has plenty of color and is quite busy. Our workroom added a black and tan gingham check in between to put emphasis on each pouf.
Here’s another example with the same identical gingham check fabric. Even though the gingham check has black in it, it also has some tan. This helps it coordinate with the brown and pink floral cotton.
Here, we see a balloon shade made with a dupioni silk that has a vibrant green color. The pleats, however, are rather unusual. A black and gray leopard print was used here as an accent fabric unexpectedly.
Use Plenty of Fabric
To be honest, this is one of my pet peeves. It’s saddening to see a balloon valance that’s so short, its poufs can’t even form properly. If you can’t form at minimum of 4 folds at the bottom of a balloon valance that are each deep and pronounced, then the valance is missing some fabric. Ideally, you want about 6 to 10 folds total for a rich valance of standard height.
That way, when the valance falls in place after hanging, it would look something like this up close:
The following picture isn’t the most flattering, but it gets the point across. If you were to sit on the floor and look up at a balloon valance from below, this is how its poufs are supposed to look from that angle:
This gathered custom valance leans more towards a traditional style with its gathered composition and fabric in solid beige. It may look very simple at first, but don’t let that fool you. It takes a lot of fabric to be able to create poufs that are as deep as the ones found on this window treatment. By the way, you can find more ideas of bathroom valances in this post. A final note on this idea – I understand that there are valances that are slightly gathered at the bottom hem, but I am talking about a true and authentic balloon valance here.
There are many types of balloon valance patterns, but for a standard valance that is supposed to be about 20 inches long, it needs to be about triple that in length when opened up and ironed. Anything less than that and the valance is missing volume, or will just become a balloon valance that has less volume and hangs more casually.
Choose Box Pleat Valances for a Modernized Look
You’ve seen this style already. Rather than have a balloon valance that’s excessively gathered on the rod, it’s possible to keep it clean and tailored. By doing the box pleat style, the top of the valance has a clean rod pocket (or is pulled taut on a board if a board mount valance is chosen). This gives it a structured look that’s more at home in spaces with transitional design.
Box pleat balloon valance – a bit more transitional. Notice how the fabric on the rod pocket is pulled across the curtain rod to give the valance a simple and tailored look. I also wanted to comment about the fabric choice here since it quite unusual. When it comes to choosing the main fabric and coordinating fabric for a custom window treatment, solids are typically reserved for the coordinating fabric.
Not so in this case.
Here, a cotton with a satin stripe in a solid black was chosen by a recent client for the main fabric. The contrast here came from the arabesque linen in black, dark red and olive green. This patterned fabric was used for the pleats in between each of the pleats. Check out more pictures of box pleat balloon valances.
Make Sure The Sides Have a Half Pleat or Full Pleat
This tip applies to the box pleat balloon valance only. A window treatment with inverted box pleats like this one typically has a pleat on each side. This achieves two things.
First, it makes it look nicer when viewed from the side, and second, it allows it to frame the window. It also keeps the side poufs in place so they don’t get pulled towards the weight of the center of the valance.
Silk valance with a half pleat.
Board-mounted balloon valance with a full pleat on each side. Notice the rope embroidery on a solid ivory fabric.
Don’t Be Afraid of Long Fringe
As you’ve seen in tip #2, a balloon valance has plenty of folds at its bottom. This also means that the bottom hem is pushed more towards the back, closer to the window. If you choose to add fringe, it also means that the fringe can hide behind all these folds. Choosing a short fringe that’s only 1 or 1 1/2 inches long might not be the best decision.
So, to truly make sure the fringe is visible, it’s best to go for fringe that’s at least 2 1/2 inches long.
The sand and sage colored tassel fringe on this balloon valance was 3 1/2 inches long.
A romantic balloon valance in a floral orange pink was used in a cozy guest bedroom here. Long onion ball fringe in pink and ivory adorned the bottom of the valance. This particular valance doesn’t have big folds. Rather, it’s shirred, which also requires a lot of fabric to achieve the effect.
Banding is very popular nowadays as an alternative to fringe. I don’t recommend banding on a balloon valance, but if you choose to add it, follow the same rule here. Make sure it’s wide enough to be visible enough as the valance folds back towards the window.
A general example of banding on a valance.
Get Lining and Interlining
Custom valances and shades should be lined by default. But to give a balloon valance even more volume, you may wish to consider adding interlining. Interlining is a felt-like material that’s sandwiched in between the main fabric of the valance and the lining in its back. Interlining has many beneficial properties. It mainly blocks out the sun and serves as a buffer to cold and heat.
But for the purposes of our discussion here, the real benefit here is that interlining adds to the much-needed volume of the balloon valance. If you’re looking to infuse a balloon valance with the most possible volume and depth, then interlining is a wise choice.
Choose a Silk or Faux Silk
Another trick to add volume to a balloon valance is to choose silk for its main fabric. Faux silk is typically a polyester fabric that has the comparable sheen and texture seen in 100% silk fabrics. These fabrics have a crispness that allows the fabric to stay put when draped. So, once the poufs are adjusted on a balloon valance, they protrude from the window naturally.
Not only that, but silks and faux silks also have a high sheen that makes each of the folds on the valance stand out depending on how the light hits the fabric. If 100% silks are chosen, make sure to add interlining as well. Silks are sensitive to heat. Interlining is a must to make sure the silk doesn’t fade and can last for many, many years. An embroidered faux silk custom valance is an interesting selection for a simple, craftsman-style living room.
Another embroidered faux silk valance. This one was created for a combined study and dining room space.
Make Sure You Have Plenty of Space
I’ve mentioned it so many times already, but you already know what makes balloon valances special. They project out from the window. For that reason, you’ll have to make sure there’s plenty of space in front of the window where these window treatments are to be installed.
Have Patience to Dress Balloon Shades
In case you decide on a fully functioning balloon shade, you’ll have to know that they need to be dressed each time. Let me clarify this a bit more. First of all, a fully functioning shade can be raised or lowered to control for light and privacy. But a balloon shade can’t exactly be compared to your lightweight roller shade that casually hangs on a window. The folds at the bottom of a balloon shade require attention.
Each time you raise or lower the shade, these folds will need to be set in place again (also known as dressing a window treatment in place). It takes less than a minute to do, but it does require attention and care each time.
Make Sure Your Cord and Pulley Can Support It
Because of its weight, a balloon shade needs proper support. Adding a cheap cord and pulley won’t cut it here. Going for cheap materials might work at first, but sooner or later the cord will snap and the cord system will break one way or another. The average custom window treatment is kept on a window for 7 years, so I’m sure you’d like your balloon shade to last.
If you decide to make this a DIY endeavor, then obviously you get to choose the hardware. But if you hire a workroom to create the shade for you, make sure to ask about how sturdy the cord and pulley are and whether they will be able to support a shade with this much fabric.
Use Balloon Valances over Master Bath Tubs
In case you have a large garden tub in your master bathroom, then you may want to consider a balloon valance or shade. These window treatments are a common choice for master bathrooms in model homes and show homes alike.
Aqua blues and spa blues are common color choices in modern master baths. Check out my blog post for more ideas for valances over bath tubs.
Pull Them Up More in the Center
Once the balloon valance gets past 3 or 4 poufs, you have the option of pulling the center pouf(s) up higher if desired. This creates a unique, softly arching shape. It allows for more light to come through the window in the center. At the same time, by leaving the sides longer, the valance does a better job framing the window.
A dramatic look is achieved with a lot of fabric and extra long chainette fringe. As far as this master bathroom is concerned, this valance also provides plenty of privacy.
Use Them in Whimsical Children’s Rooms
Balloon valances can be very playful and dreamy by design, so they’re commonly used in a themed children’s room or nursery.
This playful nook in a children’s room needed to be infused with a bit of imagination, so both the single and double window were dressed appropriately.
The yellow toile fabric used was a colorful toile printed on a buttery yellow. The top of the valance was crowned by thick twist cord and ruffled trim in a solid wine. The bottom of the valance balanced out the red by using large tassel fringe.
A princess-themed little girl’s bedroom needed a window treatment to continue the theme. This balloon valance fits perfectly with its whimsical princess print. The valance was gathered a bit less to leave it longer and show off the design of the fabric.
This bedroom might be a bit eclectic. Its shabby chic daybed dressed with cabbage rose, polka dots and lace on the pillows is quite the mix. On top of that, the walls featured a fairy themed mural. But there is one consistent idea in this room and that’s the continuation of pink and green. The balloon valance continued this color palette.
Use Them as Inside Mounts to Layered Window Treatments
When it comes to using balloon valances or shades as part of a layered window treatment ensemble, they typically are used as the bottom layer. Balloon valances are rarely used over draperies. Instead, they peek from behind as an accent piece. Since a balloon valance protrudes out, some space needs to be created between it and the drapery that’s layered over it.
This space can be created in two ways. First, the balloon valance can be installed as an inside mount (in between the studs of the window). Second, the drapery rod over it can project at least 5 inches from the wall. That way, when the draperies are installed, they have plenty of room to drape freely over the window.
Triple-layered window treatment in formal dining room.
Bottom layer: inside-mounted balloon shade in antique gold silk fabric, finished with onion ball fringe at the bottom.
Middle layer: single width draperies in sand diamond check fabric.
Top layer: Single swag valance with jabots in floral scroll fabric that matches the drapery fabric in color, finished with wide banding in dark gold and onion ball fringe at the bottom.
Use Them Above Kitchen Sinks
Balloon valances are great above kitchen sinks. There’s just something about being able to admire the volume of a balloon valance up close. It typically is used for French country decor, but the following two examples show how a balloon valance can be used in white transitional kitchens.
A board-mounted balloon valance in red, yellow and white stripes was used above a kitchen sink bay window.
In this kitchen, a colorful Jacobean floral print fabric and blue fringe were combined to create a balloon valance on a standard width window. This creates a bit of color to a white kitchen with black countertops. Balloon valances are such a unique window treatment, there’s plenty more to share about them.
For now, I hope that these 15 tips will guide you when it comes to finding the perfect treatment for your window. Obviously, these tips apply more to custom valances and DIY projects since the valance would be more of an investment in your home rather than just a quick purchase off a store shelf. Regardless, some of these tips still stand, even if you’re just going with store-bought balloon valances.