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An inviting living room features drapery with a cornice to show the difference between cornice vs valance
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July 5, 2023

Cornice vs Valance: What’s the Difference?

If you’re considering new window treatments for your home, you’ve likely come across cornices and valances as finishing touches for your design. But what is a cornice and a valance? And when comparing a cornice vs valance, which is the better one to choose?

Cornices and valances are traditionally used on drapery, and so comparing them as they relate to drapery will give you the clearest differentiators. In short, the primary difference between a curtain valance and a cornice is that valances are made with loose drapery or fabric, while cornices are typically made out of wood with fabric attached fully to the wood.

However, a more in-depth comparison of a cornice vs valance reveals more nuanced differences.

A living room painted turquoise features drapery with a cornice, showing the difference between cornice vs valance

Pictured: Inner Layer: Roller Shade, Sheila Bridges Houndstooth in Verdigris and Outer Layer: Pinch Pleat Drapery with Cornice, Sheila Bridges Pin Wheel in Lagoon

What Is a Cornice?

A cornice is an ornamental box typically made of wood with fabric attached to the frame that’s installed at the top of your drapery, shades or blinds.

An outdoor overhang features drapery for privacy along with a soft valance showing the difference between cornice vs valance

Pictured: Outer Layer: Tailored Pleat Drapery with Soft Valance, Tatton Stripe in Alabaster, designed by Anna Braund at the 2021 Kips Bay Palm Beach Showhouse

What Is a Valance?

A valance is typically a soft fabric panel that hangs loosely from a board installed at the top of your window treatment. However, there are also upholstered, wood and metal valance options for drapery, blinds and shades. These differ from cornices by their construction which is less solid and they are often shorter in height and shallower in depth.

Considering Other Window Treatments?

Learn the differences between all the main types of window coverings including Drapery, Shades and Blinds in our comprehensive guide. READ THE GUIDE

Cornice vs Valance: Comparing Functionality

When it comes to comparing the functionality of a cornice vs valance, you’ll find that they both serve similar functions, including:

  • Hiding your window treatment hardware
  • Helping to block more light from the top of your window, ideal for pairing with blackout window treatments
  • Giving you a clean, polished aesthetic for your windows

So, when it comes time to choose one over the other, it primarily comes down to preference.

Now that you know the basic differences between a cornice vs valance, you’re ready to explore your options for both these types of window treatments to decide which is right for your space.

Different Types of Cornices

As you’ve learned, when it comes to a cornice vs valance, cornices are ornamental pieces of wood with a crisp, boxy shape that are installed at the top of your window treatment. All different types of cornices feature the same general construction and can be used with any type of window treatment in either an inside or outside mount application. The main differences are simply aesthetic.

A product image of a plain upholstered cornice helps to illustrate the difference between a cornice vs valance

Plain Cornice

A plain cornice features a simple, clean aesthetic without any detailing on the face of the cornice box.

A product image of a cornice with a welts helps to illustrate the difference between a cornice vs valance

Cornice with Welt

A cornice with a welt features piping along the top and bottom of the face of the cornice. Piping can either match the fabric of the cornice for subtle detailing or be a different material for bolder definition.

A product image of a cornice with decorative nail heads illustrates the difference between a cornice vs valance

Cornice with Nail Heads

A cornice with nail heads features decorative nail heads at the top and bottom of the cornice face for a highly polished aesthetic.  

Different Types of Valances

When it comes to a valance vs cornice, valances have several options based on the type of window treatment you’re pairing them with. Valances are available for most types of window treatments but each window treatment has its own valance options.

Explore the different types of valances based on window treatments.

Roller & Solar Shade Valances

A room painted turquoise features sleek Roller Shades with a hard valance showing the difference between a cornice vs valance

Roller and Solar Shades are sleek, functional window treatments that operate with a tube mechanism that allows you to raise and lower the shades. Valances for these types of window treatments help to cover the tube and brackets for a clean, streamlined look.

A product image of a metal valance for roller shades shows how similar a cornice vs valance can be

Metal Valance

Metal valances come in five finishes, and you have the option to include a fabric insert to match the material of your shade. Inside-mount (pictured) and outside-mount options are available.

A product image of an upholstered valance for roller shades shows how similar a cornice vs valance can be

Upholstered Valance

A 4-inch wooden valance, this valance is handmade and fully upholstered in the same material as your shade. Inside-mount (pictured) and outside-mount options are available.

Roman Shade & Woven Wood Shade Valances

A modern farmhouse kitchen features woven wood shades with a soft valance showing the difference between a cornice vs valance

Roman Shades and Woven Wood Shades both feature styles where the material folds into itself when raised and unfolds in a beautiful cascading motion when lowered. Both feature upholstered valance options, but Woven Wood Shades also feature a “soft valance” option for certain collections. Valances for these types of shades are ideal for hiding the headboard on Standard Roman or Woven Wood Shades, where the material falls off the back of the headrail. For shades where the material falls off the front of the headrail, valances can still be useful in hiding any gaps created with a non-flush inside-mount or outside mount application.

A product image of an upholstered valance for Roman Shades shows how similar a cornice vs valance can be

Upholstered Valance

A 4-inch wooden valance is available for both Roman and certain collections of Woven Wood Shades. It is handmade and fully upholstered in the same material as the shade for a clean, finished look. Inside-mount and outside-mount options are available.

An upholstered valance for Woven Wood Shades is only available for the Naturals Collection.

A product image of a soft valance for Woven Wood Shades shows the difference between a cornice vs valance

Woven Wood Shade Soft Valance

The 6-inch soft valance is a piece of fabric that hangs from the headboard and matches the shade material. Soft valances are available for the Woven Wood Shades Artisan Weaves and Bamboo + Grass Collections only. Inside-mount and outside-mount options are available.

Wood & Metal Blinds Valances

A mid-century modern dining room features Wood Blinds and valance made of 2-inch Exotic Zebrano for a striking look

Wood and Metal Blinds both feature the same general construction and functionality. Valances for blinds vary depending on the style of blind and material you’ve chosen. For blinds, valances help to hide the control mechanism for a clean, finished look.

A product image of a simple straight valance for wood blinds that covers the headrail and lift mechanism

Straight Valance (Wood)

A straight valance is available for real Wood Blinds only and features a sleek, simple design that matches your blind color and finish.  

A product image of a beveled valance for Faux Wood Blinds adds a touch of sophistication to the blinds headrail

Beveled Valance (Faux Wood)

A beveled valance features a subtle curve that adds sophisticated detailing to your blinds design. Beveled valances are only available for Faux Wood Blinds.

A product image of a metal valance for Metal Blinds offers a sleek, modern look for the blinds headrail

Metal Valance (Metal Only)

Metal valances features a sleek, metal finish that matches the color and finish of your blinds. Metal valances are only available for Metal Blinds.

Valance vs Cornice: Inspiration

Now that you know what a valance vs cornice is, as well as your options for each, you’re ready to get inspiration for your own design. See curated window treatments featuring valances and cornices to spark your creativity and get a sense for which would look best in your space.  

Dive Deeper into Your Cornice & Valance Options

With the knowledge you need to understand the differences between a valance vs cornice, you’re ready to explore your options further. Visit a local showroom to see examples of all the valance and cornice options above to solidify your decision between a cornice vs valance for your own design.

A round white table with cream chairs sits in a custom window treatment showroom with drapery, shades and blinds displayed.

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