London window valances are simple window treatments that are extremely versatile. Sometimes they’re referred to as butterfly valances as well. Regardless, this style of valance works on almost any window (even those you’d think that won’t). All it takes is a bit of creativity and a guiding hand from a designer.
A London valance is simply a valance that’s gathered up from the bottom by rings in the back, which give it a center pouf with plenty of volume and a tail on each side of it.
It can also be made into a fully functional shade that can be raised or lowered to control for light, temperature, or privacy. At that point, it becomes a London shade. But for the sake of coherence, this post will focus on the London valance.
In case you’re asking, “Will a London valance work on my window,” the answer more than likely is yes, regardless of how irregular or difficult your window is. The secret is in how you hang London valances. There are endless ways that London valances can be used. Case in point is this list, which is by no means complete. In today’s post, we’ll focus on the first two options:
- Over single windows, using a rod pocket that slides through a decorative pole to expose a beautiful finial on each end.
- Over single windows, using a rod pocket that slides through a continental rod that gives the valance a generous return when viewed from the side.
- As inside mounts on single or multiple windows, using a tension rod. And yes, this works on corner windows, bay windows, bow windows, arched windows and even palladian windows.
- And since we’re on the topic of inside mounts, these valances will easily work on patio and French doors too. Here, you’d use a simple curtain rod (to tone down to the scale of the window treatment) and have the valance only barely cover the window pane section. Note that for steel doors you may need a magnetic curtain pole.
If you noted a few words above that you didn’t quite understand, not to worry, we will define and explain them in detail.
Rod Pocket Valances on a Decorative Pole
We call them decorative poles because we want to make sure to distinguish them from plain ol’ $10 curtain rods (you know, those cheap ones that crater in the center once you try to make them really wide). What we’re talking about are these:
Left: Flower Decorative Rod in Gold Leaf by Etsy seller GuzziDesign (how beautiful is this rosette flower finial?!). Right: Ballard Designs Oak Drapery Hardware (plain, simple, and you just can’t get it wrong with this one). Of course, these are just a few examples. Nowadays, there are so many choices when it comes to curtain hardware that it’s impossible to list them all.
The thickness of the pole depends on the rod pocket of the London valance (the part of the valance that the pole slides through). Most rod pockets are 3 inches wide. To fill out the rod pocket generally, a decorative pole about 1 3/8 to 1 5/8 inches thick is needed. Thin, flimsy curtain rods will leave a gap with a 3-inch rod pocket and will probably leave you disappointed as well.
Most of our London valances are offered with a rod pocket. In case you found that perfectly whimsical finial and pole to match, here’s how that would look, using our London valance with hand-formed bows you can detach to model it:
Rod Pocket Valances on a Continental Rod
Typically, continental rods are flat and 2 1/2 inches wide. This makes them perfect for 3-inch rod pockets.
Above: Bali Dauphine Rod available at JC Penney. We usually recommend this option versus the decorative pole option above. Although both are beautiful, we find that the return that a continental rod provides allows the fabric of the London valance to wrap around the rod, making for better-shaped tails. The return is the part of the continental rod that projects from the wall to the front of the valance. That was quite an explanation, wasn’t it? We’ll elaborate here.
So, it’s entirely up to you whether a decorative pole or continental rod installation is better. The first is great if you have that special finial that’s a perfect match for your room, but it will give you a more casual look.
The second choice is great if you’d like the folds on the window treatment to stack up better, or if the valance will be placed in a busy area in your home where it will be viewed from the side often.
Next, we want to address the idea of how long a valance should be, in this case, the London valance. Before we get into that, we’d like to tell you a secret or two of the trade that you won’t like. Fabrics, of course, are sold by the yard, or 36 inches to be exact. Second, fabrics with patterns have a vertical repeat.
In other words, how many inches must pass before the same pattern shows up again. Here’s an illustration, using a beautiful deep blue and white fabric by P Kaufmann.
If you’d like this beautiful Jacobean flower to be centered onto the valance, your valance will need plenty of fabric to make that happen just because of the repeats. And even if you choose a solid fabric or small-scale fabric without much of a vertical repeat, you’d probably want the close-up of your London valance to look something like this…
…or like this:
This can only happen if the bottom of the valance has plenty of fabric to fold. So, what we’re really trying to say is that it’s not necessarily the length that’s advertised that’s important. London valances should have rings in the back that can be tightened or loosened to give you the final length that you need.
What really matters is the amount of fabric you have to work with.
If the shop you buy your London valance from skimped on fabrics and doesn’t use a generous amount of fabric, you’ll have a hard time achieving the look that a London valance is supposed to have. Don’t be shy to research how much fabric was used in making the London valance you’d like to buy, or how thick it is.
It will tell you everything you need to know about the length and shape before you even buy it. Want more information on London valances? Read my blog post on London valances here (this one has more picture inspiration, too).