The Curtain Design Directory, page 84
© Copyright Merrick & Day


• Soft treatment the lower edge of the valance can be serpentined
• Can utilise the dead wall space above a window
• Headings that do not draw back can be used

Valances give a soft finish to a window treatment and, depending on the choice of headings and trims used, are suitable for all types of room. A valance is a gathered or pleated pelmet which is hung from the front edge of the pelmet board. It conceals the track and curtain heading.

If there is dead wall space above the window, the pelmet board can be placed above the window frame to make the window appear taller and therefore more elegant. This will also allow more light into the room.

Arched-shaped valances look attractive on tall windows. As the deepest part of the valance falls over the curtain stack-back area, there should be no extra loss of light. For wide windows such as patio windows, the lower edge of the valance can be serpentined. This has the effect of softening the horizontal line of the window and adds extra interest to the design.

Valances offer a splendid opportunity to use the hand-sewn headings that do not draw back and so are often considered unsuitable for curtains. Gathered and smocked headings give a light pretty look, while French- and goblet-pleated headings give a smart tailored appearance.

The base of the pleats can be trimmed with knotted rope or button tufts. The design of the heading and the hem of the valance can be further defined with narrow contrast binding which is most effective, especially on arched and serpentined hem lines. An alternative treatment for the hem is a fringe. Bullion fringe will add visual weight to the hem line, while a block fringe has a lighter appearance and a fan edging creates a soft, subtle finish.

Fringe detailing is an opportunity to use a plain fabric for the window treatment and to incorporate the colours within the room in the fringe.

For a design variation, sew gathered or box-pleated valances onto a flat yoke.

For an elegant finish, valances can be hung from curved or scallop-shaped pelmet boards which give the curtain treatment an interesting three-dimensional look.

The proportions of a valance are vital to the success of the design. In a room with a low ceiling the finished length of a valance should be 1/6 th of the curtain length. However, in a room with a high ceiling, the finished length of a valance should be 1/5 th of the curtain length. A valance that is too short will look unbalanced in relation to the size of the window.

For an arched or serpentined valance, the shortest point should be no less than 1/6th of the curtain length. For tall windows the shortest point can be up to 1/6th of the curtain length.

For a soft serpentined shape, the difference between the longest and shortest points can be 10-15cm (4-6in). For a dramatic arched valance, the sides can be twice the length of the centre point.

For box-pleated and gathered valances which are attached to flat yokes at the top, the yokes should be 1/4 to 1/3 of the total finished length of the valance.

Fitting valances
The pelmet board from which the curtains and valance is hung, is cut from planed timber 19-22mm (1in) thick. It should be either painted or covered in lining or curtain fabric.

If possible the pelmet boards should be placed up to the coving or cornice in order to heighten the window treatment and to avoid an unattractive gap between the top of the valance and the coving.

Check that the proposed depth of the valance will cover the soffit or architrave at the top of the window and adjust the height of the pelmet board down if necessary.

Pelmet boards are usually 13-15cm (5-6in) wide with the track set 5-8cm (2-3m) back from the front edge of the board to allow the curtains free movement behind the valance. Pelmet boards can be up to 25cm (10in) wide in order to enable the curtains to clear radiators, for example, but if they are any wider they will look heavy and intrusive.

The pelmet board is secured to the wall using angle brackets, just like a shelf. For pelmet boards over 170cm (67in) in length, a centre bracket is required. This will prevent the wood from bowing and support the weight of the curtains and the valance.

The curtain track is then fitted to the underside of the pelmet board. If necessary use plastic or wood spacers between track and board to create a gap for angle brackets to be slotted through.

There are two methods of attaching valances to a pelmet board. Netting staples (into which the valance hooks can be placed) can be fixed every 10cm (4in) along the front edge of the board. Alternatively the teasel hook side of a strip of Velcro can be attached to the front edge of the board with a staple gun, and the opposite side of the Velcro strip can he sewn onto the valance heading. (Some heading tapes have a brushed surface that will adhere directly onto the teasel side of the Velcro). This method ensures that the valance is taut against the front edge of board to give a clean finish.

A curved or scallop-shaped pelmet board is a simple and effective way of enhancing the design of a valance, as on pages 102-5. Also see serpentine-shaped pelmet boards, pages 123-4. These pelmet boards can be cut from either planed timber or medium density fibreboard. The depth of the curve should be proportionate to the height of the window, for example, 25-30cm (10-12in) deep for an average window and up to 35cm (14in) deep for tall windows. As the pelmet board is quite deep in the centre it is a useful device to enable full length curtains to he hung in front of a deep radiator.