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Window Top Treatments

Office with a glass desk, laptop and vase of flowers set in front of three windows with shades and valances.

The differences between a valance, cornice and swag.

Top treatments—valances, cornices and swags—can add a beautiful finishing touch to blinds or shades, while also hiding hardware. And while this trio is similar in that they all are designed to dress up windows, you’ll find distinct differences between them.

 

Valances

A valance is often crafted from soft fabric that hangs loosely from the top of the window—either attached to a board or installed on a rod. But you can also find valances that are made from wood or metal, or upholstered (without any loosely hanging fabric).

A valance can look either casual or formal, depending on your design aesthetic. You could also use a valance by itself if you’d prefer to forgo window treatments but still want to add some visual interest. 

Kitchen window above the sink with a sheer white valance. Kitchen window above the sink with a sheer white valance.

Cornices

The difference between a cornice and a valance is in how a cornice is constructed. Unlike a valance, which is soft and flowy, a cornice is hard. That’s because a cornice is created by upholstering fabric over an ornamental box, usually made of wood, without leaving any fabric loosely hanging. A cornice can also be made by covering the box with wallpaper or painting it.

Like a valance, you could also opt to use a cornice by itself to add a little something extra to a window. 

 

Swags

If you’d like a top treatment that offers less structure than a valance or cornice, then a swag’s for you. You can weave a swag loosely around a rod or drape it from tieback to tieback, either of which adds a soft feel to a room.

While you can certainly use a swag alone (especially if you’d like to showcase your window hardware), you can also pair a swag with blinds or shades.

Wood cornice atop a window. Cornices, like valances, can also be crafted from wood.
Window featuring a turquoise swag wrapped loosely around a rod. A swag adds a touch of softness to a window.

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