Valances are a crown to your window and a great finishing touch to the entire room design. But how do you get through all the noise and misinformation to pick the window valance that’s right for you?
Fancy a French country valance perhaps? Or maybe you just want something modern and edgy?
Should you buy a valance that matches your wall color? Should it be a solid ivory valance, or something else? And how do you decorate your room with valances anyway? Follow these 7 steps and you’ll do it like the pros.
Absolutely Know All Your Possibilities First
If you only see a small fraction of the picture, it’s impossible to put the entire picture together. The same goes for your overall room design. If you don’t know what’s out there and are only aware of a few choices, you’ll inevitably make the wrong one. Even if you buy storebought valances instead of having them made to order, it’s still good to know what’s out there. Then you’ll know what to type into the search bar when shopping online or what to look for once you’re in a physical store.
Go out there to your local stores and look through valances on display. Make an effort to go to your local home decor store like a JoAnn and Hobby Lobby, although you’ll probably have a better selection if you go to a family-owned store that only specializes in home decor fabrics and nothing else. Most cities have plenty of these kinds of stores. I live in Atlanta and can show you around at least 4 or 5 fabric superstores, and that’s just some that happen to be on the same street.
Bolts of fabric at my local home decor fabric store.
You may not buy anything, but you’ll see how fabrics and colors are put together by the designers on staff. You’ll realize that there are two types of fabrics – medium-weight fabrics (which is what you should use for valances) and upholstery weight fabrics. Touching the medium-weight fabrics will give you the experience necessary to know what NOT to buy.
That way, if someone tries to ship you a valance made of a light-weight fabric that’s intended for clothing and not home decor, you’ll know to return it and ask for your money back. At the store, you’ll see solid colors between large-scale patterns. You’ll see how stripes can be used with small flower prints, and how beautiful a smooth satin cotton looks next to a roughed up, textured linen. You’ll see how modern geometric and zebra prints look next to traditional rose patterns and French toiles. Local stores give away unlimited free fabric samples. Gather as many of those as you can and bring them home, even if you don’t plan on buying them.
So call up your best friend and have a therapeutic weekend visit to a local store to get your inspiration going.
Decide on a Cohesive Color Theme
Fabric samples in hand, you want to put them up against the wall in your room to see how they work in your space. Put together a consistent color theme that you’ll religiously stick to from now on. This is very important if you want your room to look polished and like a designer did it. You can’t change your mind – everything has to be planned and laid out first. Here are two rules I recommend that you follow.
First Rule: Pick two or three colors and stick with them.
You want to be consistent. When your room is finished, the four corners of it can’t look like they each belong to a different room. First, pick your main fabric. This is the fabric your valance should be made in. This is where you can go with a large-scale print, or a unique design you can put on display. Look at this fabric and draw out the colors that appear less frequently in it.
Pick one or two colors – these will be your accent colors. Use this for the lining or banding on the valance. It can either be an accent fabric to accentuate the colors that are already clearly visible in the main fabric, or it can be a contrasting, bold fabric to make the valance “pop” against the wall. Accent fabrics should be solid or small-scale patterns if you want to use them on the valance.
Reserve the oversized patterns for the main fabric only. It’s ok to have large-scale accent fabrics, but you’ll have to use them elsewhere like draperies, pillows, furniture, or other places.
The sections on a black valance can sometimes get lost when using this color. For that reason, a gold that was a few shades lighter than the gold on the main black fabric was chosen for the inserts of the trumpets here.
You want to make sure that the main color dominates. When you add up everything in the room that’s made of all the colors of the theme, the main color has to be seen in at least 50% of the pieces. The other accent fabric or two can be scattered throughout the room. Regardless of whether your valance is made in one fabric only or two, continue to use the colors in your room. Put them next to each other through table runners, throw pillows, painted vases, artwork, and any other decorative pieces.
Second Rule: Let the Colors of Your Design Theme Flow Together
You might have seen something called color families on our website. It’s a service we offer our clients to help them design their window treatments, but that’s not the point here. What matters is how we put our color families together. We always make sure that each of the suggested elements flows into the one that’s next to it. So, a red and blue fabric is placed next to a blue fabric, which is then placed next to a blue and orange fabric, which is then placed next to an orange fabric.
In other words, there’s a reason why a color is right next to another color. Follow this same rule in your home and be mindful of how design elements flow across the entire space. It can be a bit difficult to explain it, so let me show you some visuals of our color families.
Decide How You’ll Layer and Install Your Window Treatments
Next, before you even decide on what kind of valance you want, you have to decide how you’ll layer and install your window treatments. The reason why we do this is two-fold. First, by knowing how many total window treatments your window needs you’ll get a sense of how far your budget can stretch.
You’ll be able to splurge more on a valance than if you had to buy draperies and shades to go with it as well. Second, by deciding on how the window treatments will be installed, you focus more on what your room really needs. That way, you’ll be less likely to be swayed by a “pretty” valance that you absolutely fall in love with, but one that may not necessarily be the best choice for your room. Let’s break down these two decisions further.
First Decision: How to Layer Your Window Treatments
If you just want a valance on your window, your work is done here. But you may wish to dress your window with multiple window treatments. You may install a shade under the valance. You may also install a valance over or under a pair of draperies. A small part of your decision will be based on your design preference, but a major part of it should be based on functionality. If you’d like privacy or thermal-blocking functionality on your window, you’ll either need draperies or shades as well. Here are some ideas of how window treatments can be layered using valances.
Second Decision: What Size the Valance Needs to Be
Next, you’ll need to decide how wide the valance needs to be in order to work on your window. This is why we do this first before deciding on the actual valance. The valance has to accommodate your window, not the other way around. Your valance can be an inside, frame, or outside mount. This essentially means that it can be mounted inside the window frame, on it, or outside on the wall above the window.
Most people install their valances as an outside mount. If this is the case, your valance will be a tight fit around your window if you install it without any draperies. If you pair the valance with draperies, it can be 20 to 30 inches wider than usual to create the illusion of a larger window. Rather than get off-topic, check out this resource to help you make the right measurement for your valance.
Pick the Style of Valance and Go Shopping!
Only after you’ve done all the steps prior can you go buy the valance. This way, you go in determined and knowing what you need exactly. You can pick a traditional valance with swags and jabots, but you can also pick a contemporary valance that’s flat and tailored. Hopefully, I’ve helped you in the process. Shopping for valances to make your room beautiful can be fun, so go ahead and make your room a beautiful space!